The Wigwam Village No. 2, located in Cave City Kentucky, beckons those passing by to pause. Its unique character and charm date back to the 1930s and the explosive days of motor traffic across America. Plus, this is the place where you can "sleep in a wigwam."
How cool is that?
In response to that growth, small motels popped up across the landscape in the first half of the 20th century. Today, the word 'motel' conjures up the classic, sprawling mid-century motor inn with exterior entrances along either one or two levels. And although we might connect these places with seedier elements of society today, even the mid-century motel is making it onto historic radars and into the National Register. The 1988 application of the Wigwam Village to the National Register notes how the standardized room also led to the demise of institutions like Wigwam Village:
The 1960s boom in chain motor inns, characterized by standardized units, an emphasis on family values, and the financial resources of franchising, accompanied state and national highway programs and soon rendered most of the classic motels obsolete.But before these 'classic' motels dotted the landscape, unique 'small mom and pop' motor courts providing lodging and other amenities for those on the road.
Wigwam Village No. 2 certainly fits the bill as one of Kentucky's most unique motor courts. With its 18 conical stone and concrete teepees, the Wigwam Village remains a beautiful and iconic site along US Highway 31W. The beauty comes, in part, from the sites symmetry. Again, per that National Register application:
All of the wigwams are identical in their conical shapes and proportions. Their structural systems consist of steel angle irons on which metal bands spaced one foot apart are wrapped horizontally and "on the bias" and welded. The frames are covered in a concrete-like stucco which is molded at the entrances into rounded forms intended to simulate open flaps. Wooden doors holding tall jalousie windows are recessed, as are the small square jalousie windows. On the surface of the cone, the window frames also are square but they are turned 45 degrees so that they "rest" on a corner. White paint covers the walls, accented in bright red at the top of the cone with a jagged lower edge; about halfway up the wall in a bold zig-zag band encircling the building; around the window openings in a narrow zig-zag band with small triangles along the inner edge and marks similar to exclamation points at the corners. The sleeping room numbers above the doors and on the sides next to the respective parking spaces also are red. Four slender metal poles in imitation of the ends of branches project from the top of each wigwam. Two Art Deco-inspired tubular metal and plywood chairs sit at the edge of the lawn opposite the door to each sleeping unit. Pole-mounted floodlights are locateThe Smithsonian Magazine described the Wigwams as the "most famous of the old protomotels." And fortunately, this Cave City institution is still operational. It is worth noting that the earlier Wigwam Village No. 1, also in Cave City, was built in 1933 by Frank Redford.
|Wigwam Village No. 1. UK Libraries.|
Customers to Frank Redford's ice cream stand needed a place to stay and Redford saw his opportunity. He built more teepees near his ice cream stand which resulted in Wigwam Village No. 1. People loved Redford's roadside inn and he patented his concept in 1936 with Wigwam Village No. 2 being built a short distance from the original.
In time, Redford capitalized on his brand with seven Wigwam Villages across the country. Some are quite recognizable and have been been incorporated into film, most notably the Cozy Cone Hotel in Pixar's Cars.
Of the seven Wigwam Villages, only three remain operational including the No. 2. in Horse Cave. Check out this unique piece of Americana right here in Kentucky!