Sunset at the Wigwam Motel, San Bernadino, California


Sunset at the Wigwam Motel, San Bernadino, California

We started our Route 66 journey 10 days before in Holbrook, Arizona at the Wigwam Motel – and ended it at the Wigwam Motel in San Bernadino, California. Earlier that day we went to the true end of #66 by walking to the end of the Santa Monica Pier! Fabulous! Then we had planned to drive the length of Route 66 from Los Angeles to San Bernadino to really appreciate anything that was left from the “good ole days” – however – time got away from us – too much fun hangin’ on the pier! And by that time it was mid-afternoon and I could see we were losing our light! I assumed it would take us an hour or so to get there on the freeway, however we naive northeasterners did not take into account that it was Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles, and evidently LOTS of people were going places! Freeway #10 going east was a slowly moving parking lot the better part of the way. We might have made better time on The Mother Road!

I was cursing as we watched the most gorgeous sunset behind us in the rear view mirror – all I could think about was how great that sky would have looked as a backdrop for the wigwams! With the light fading fast, we got off at the proper exit and found the western-most version of the remaining Wigwam Motels in short order. I jumped out of the car, camera in hand, ready to dash around the place and get as many images as I could before the light was totally gone. And we were met by the most delightful gentleman, Kumar Patel, the proprietor! Inquiring about us and what we were up to – in the most inviting way! We told him of our roadside quests and he smiled and asked if we’d like a tour of the place! What a hospitable fellow!

He strolled with us around the place, opening the door of one of the wigwams so we could inspect the impeccable, clean interior! This place had the look of a very well run operation, indeed. The grounds were groomed, the wigwams freshly painted, there were palm trees swaying and an inviting swimming pool in the center of the teepees. I would definitely stay here on my next trip out west. He told us all about the history of the place and how his family had owned it for many years and brought it back from the brink of being torn down! Again kudos to these dear souls intent on preserving these beacons of roadside America! He said that his business is thriving thanks to folks just like us that are fans of The Mother Road, and make similar pilgrimages to appreciate what’s left of our great culture of the past. Before we left he took us into his office and showed us all the great Route 66 stuff he had for sale. We got some postcards and I promised that one day in the not too distant future – I would be painting one of his wigwams and make some prints for him to sell in his office too!

If you’re going out to LA – be sure to stop in and say hello to Kumar and spend a night at his wonderful Wigwam Motel!

From the Wigwam’s website:

“The California Wigwam Motel was built within the city limits of San Bernardino in 1949, a period when citrus groves flourished. … This location would mark the final of 7 Wigwam Motels that were constructed. The motel’s village-style arrangement of nineteen 30-foot-tall tepees made from wood framing, concrete and stucco draws much admiration from all generations.
Frank Redford turned his interest in Native American history into a business in 1933 when he built a teepee-shaped building near Horse City, Kentucky, to display his collection of relics. The following year he added a group of teepee-shaped cabins to entice visitors to stay the night and named it “Wigwam Village.” Redford obtained a patent for his innovative building design in 1937, and that same year he constructed a second village in the northern outskirts of Cave City, Kentucky, near Mammoth Cave National Park. By the early 1950s, seven wigwam villages had been built in the south and southwestern United States.

The typical wigwam village consisted of individual teepee cabins placed around a larger teepee which served as an office and lobby. The 18 steel-and-concrete tepees of Cave City’s Wigwam Village No. 2 vary only in size and number of windows. At 52 feet tall and approximately 35 feet in diameter, the gift shop and office is the largest. Each of the 15 sleeping units is approximately 25 feet in diameter and has two windows. The exterior walls are painted white accented with a bright red jagged lower edge at the top of the cone, a bold zig-zag band encircling the building halfway up the wall, and a narrow zig-zag band with small triangles along the inner edge of the window openings and marks similar to exclamation points at the corners. In the narrow bathrooms created by a partition at the rear of the sleeping units, the floor is covered with red-and-white tiles and the walls and stall shower repeat the zig-zag motif. Four slender metal poles project from the top in imitation of branches of wood.”


Oil on canvas, 48×36″

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