The Arizona Republic newspaper recently published several articles about the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, and revealed details about the Route 66 landmark even longtime roadies may not know.
It’s worth reading the articles in full, starting here. But a few things stood out, plus a couple of observations from me:
— The motel closed for almost seven years. Longtime owner Chester Lewis, tired of taking care of the property, closed it in 1980, and weeds began taking root in the parking lot. Clifton Lewis, who’d grown up at the motel, regretted how a part of his childhood had deteriorated. He and other family members took over the property, renovated it and reopened it in 1987 as a tribute to his father.
— The Wigwam Motel struggled financially for months after initially opening in 1950. Clifton Lewis said many travelers drove by their tepee-shaped rooms because Holbrook contained plenty of other motels, including one with a seashell theme. Overnight travelers finally started to fill the Wigwam when summer break brought a flood of traffic.
— The Wigwam Motel has a heir-apparent caretaker. Karina Lewis Pack, 35, the daughter of 78-year-old Clifton Lewis, is running almost all of the motel’s day-to-day operations. Like her father, she spent much of her childhood helping her parents care for the motel. Two years ago, she returned to the property with her family in tow.
— Lewis said he’s certain the movie “Cars” lifted its Cozy Cone Motel design from his place. He never has seen the movie, and he said no one at Pixar Animation Studios has thanked him for allegedly copying part of the motel’s look, nor is it in the film’s acknowledgements. He’s not bothered by the perceived snub, and he admits the apparent close resemblance to the fabled Cozy Cone helped boost his business. (Admittedly, Pixar also could have been inspired by the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino, California.)
— Don’t despair if all the tepees are booked. Take a chance at one of the standard motel rooms in the back of the property if they’re available. They’re decorated in a Native American theme, clean, spacious and a good value.
— It’s nice to see the Arizona Wigwam Motel get a bit more attention. The Wigwam Motel in San Bern gets a lot of publicity because it’s in the Los Angeles metro area, and the Patel family rightfully is praised for its restoration of the once-disreputable property. Sometimes the Arizona Wigwam gets overlooked because it’s in less-populated region.
(Image of the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, by Thomas Hawk via Flickr)