Architecture / History / Kentucky / Slice of Americana

Roadside Americana: Sleep in A Wigwam!

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While we love international travel, living in the US provides the opportunity to explore 3.8 million square miles and an amazing array of destinations. In addition to the famous spots and landmarks, we’ve also discovered some truly offbeat attractions along the way. And after visiting all 50 states, the Wigwam Village in Cave City, Kentucky is still one of my favorites.

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Actually, the correct name of this wacky motel is the Wigwam Village Inn #2. This motel is 1 of 7 built in the 1930s (hence the #2) and unfortunately, only 2 others remain – #6 in Holbrook, Arizona. and #7 in Riallto, California. What a marvelous piece of Americana. These whimsical wigwams were built when travel wasn’t just about the destination, but also about the journey (there’s a lesson here). Motor courts, as they were called, had to offer more than a bed to entice weary travelers, and the a Wigwam Village easily fills the bill.

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According to the Wigwam Village website,

“The Wigwam Village Inn #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.”

I grew up near Cave City, and because my family is nearby, I’ve never had the pleasure of staying in the Wigwam Village, but it’s only a matter of time. So if you get a chance, drive a few miles off I-65 and see this unique place.

Happy Trails,
James

This post was last published April 13, 2013.

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33 thoughts on “Roadside Americana: Sleep in A Wigwam!

    • An interesting question Sue. I’d never really considered what could be patented, so I checked it out. According to LegalZoom:
      “Under U.S. patent law, any person who “invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent.” In general, this means you must satisfy the following four requirements to qualify for a patent:
      The subject matter must be patentable.
      The invention must be novel.
      The invention must have some utility or usefulness.
      The invention must not be obvious.”

      The Wigwams are novel, useful, and certainly not an obvious as motel. Ding, ding, ding … they qualify! ~James

    • As I said Laura, I grew up near the Wigwams, and somehow didn’t really think they were a strange or funny sight. Their physical state has gone up and down over the years, and luckily, the new owners have fixed them up nicely. As to patents, check out the comment I made to Sue Slaght above in case you have a patent idea. ~James

    • Sorry, Lulu, the Florida Wigwams are gone. This motel is 1 of 7 built in the 1930s and unfortunately, only 2 others remain – #6 in Holbrook, Arizona. and #7 in Riallto, California. ~James

    • It’s always gratifying to see an old Mom n’ Pop place that’s been well-cared for or renovated to its original charm. Usually, the best place to find these nostalgic motels is on the old highway that parallels the interstate. There are bunches of these places in Florida, and we’ve seen some cool ones in the Southwest US as well. ~James

  1. ‘Travel is not just about the destination, but also about the journey.’ I believe that is the key message here. You help us recall a time when American vacations often involved long drives that took in sights that we now nostalgically refer to as Americana. You do a masterful job documenting many of these amazing sights along the way on your journeys, and I am grateful for your efforts. – Mike

    • Thanks much Mike. I don’t know about your childhood, but when I was a kid, we didn’t travel that much, and when we did it was a big deal. My siblings and I had a hard time containing our excitement and being on our best behavior – especially while squirming around in our best Sunday clothes. I don’t long for those days again, but there are lots of good memories there. ~James

    • I haven’t seen the Arizona Wigwams Joyce, but the ones in Cave City are much nicer since the new owners whizzed them up. I think it’s great that they’re still in business. Love, JH

    • Peggy, IMHO, attractions like this add the spice to long road trips. Imagine what a fun, uplifting place this must have been at the end of the Great Depression. People could once again do a bit of traveling, and stopping at a unique place like The Wigwams must have been wonderful. ~James

    • This would make a fun getaway Juliann. Mammoth Cave National Park is a few miles away, and for something a bit different, Dinosaur World is also in Cave City. It would be a hoot. ~James

  2. This looks like so much fun! How big are they compared to regular motel rooms? I come from a rather large family and we’d take the occasional roadtrip through the Southwest. I’m sure this would have been a fun experience for everyone–if only we could fit!

  3. Haha, we should gather all the different places to sleep in while on the road! That would be an experience, I wouldn’t mind trying them out if I’d be over there!

    • Vilma, I’d like to think that these fairy tale places are still being built, but I don’t think so. Hopefully, this post will drive a bit of business their way to keep them afloat. I’d hate to see this nostalgic motel go under. ~James

  4. Growing up in Lexington and visiting my friends in Bowling Green as a late teen, I guess I missed this place. Very cool. If I ever get back up to KY, I’ve got to check it out. Love it! 🙂

    • Linda, there’s a good chance that you stopped in Cave City for gas or a snack just off the I-65, but you wouldn’t have seen the Wigwams. Like most of these nice, old motels, the Wigwams are located on the OLD main road, not the interstate. It really is pretty cool and worth a quick stop. BTW, Terri and I went to UK, and have family in Lexington. It’s our favorite KY town. ~James

    • I’ve always wanted to stay here Marie, but because my family is only 10 miles away, they won’t hear of me staying anywhere but home. I’ll have to sneak in at some point and sleep in a wigwam. ~James

  5. We stayed in the WigWams on Route 66 almost 20 years ago. I guess that was Holbrook (would have to look up the old picture album). It was a pretty unique place. We were traveling with our teenaged son and we got him his own WigWam. He was kind of obsessed with them for a while and insisted that he was going to build one of his own. (He hasn’t so far.)

    • I love these places Vickie, and I can imagine they’d be special for a kid, especially if he had his OWN wigwam. It’s funny that I grew up 10 miles from the WigWams in Cave City, and as a kid, they were no big deal. You know what they say about things in your own back yard. ~James

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