On our Kentucky visit last week, we intentionally drove some of the two-lane highways when traveling between the sites we visited, and the rural Kentucky scenery made the longer drive times very worthwhile. After our Mammoth Cave tour we had dinner in Cave City, KY, then drove Highway 31W back to Elizabethtown. Not too far down the road we happened across a very special sight, the Wigwam Village Inn.
The sign welcomes visitors to stop and “Sleep in a Wigwam”, and offers fifteen teepee-shaped rooms, complete with modern amenities, arranged in a semicircle around the main teepee in the center. The name of the place confused me a little, as the term ‘wigwam‘ is usually associated with a dome-shaped hut used by Native Americans, while the structures in the Wigwam Village were more like tipis… I won’t argue semantics with them though; wigwam or tipi, they are definitely cool!
The history of the Wigwam Village Inn is interesting; turns out that the one we saw is one of seven that were built some 70 years ago, and they even have a tie to South Dakota!
Wigwam Village Inn No. 2 began as a dream of Frank A. Redford in the early 1900s. Frank’s inspirations in this dream were a popular ice cream shop shaped like an upside down cone and authentic teepees he’d seen on a Sioux reservation in South Dakota. His dream became reality in 1935 when construction on Wigwam Village #1 was completed in Horse Cave, Kentucky. Realizing he’d hit upon a popular idea, Frank patented the design with the US patent office in 1936.
Wigwam Village Inn #2 was completed in 1937 in Cave City, and five more were built over time in Alabama, Florida, New Orleans, California, and Arizona… Of the seven original Wigwam Villages, only three remain: #2 in Cave City, Kentucky, #6 in Holbrook, Arizona. and #7 in Riallto, California. Wigwam Village #2 is an impressive sight and is truly a monument to one man’s American dream that came true.
When we saw it, my first thought was, “This is where they came up with the idea for the Cozy Cone Motel in Pixar’s Cars!” Sure enough, the website for the California Wigwam Village confirms that thought. And it fits right in with the Route 66 theme in Cars, because that Village is located right on the real Route 66.
When we drove by the Village in Cave City, I knew it was pretty cool, and I’m glad I at least stopped to take pictures. But had I known that the place was this old and unique, I definitely would’ve at least stopped in the gift shop. Next time I’m in Kentucky…