What You What you need to know Need about To Know wigwam village no. 2 About...
What you need to know about WIGWAM VILLAGE NO. 2
By keith stone and megan smith, owners 601 N. Dixie Highway Cave City, Kentucky www.historicwigwamvillage.com 2022
dedicated to the memory and genius of frank a. redford and our guests for helping to restore and preserve wigwam village no. 2
YOU DID WHAT?:
Why we bought Wigwam Village No. 2.
A FEW FACTS:
Why people stay here and where they are from.
A LONG, SHORT HISTORY:
You are sleeping in a national treasure with a rich, fascinating past.
FRANK A. REDFORD
The man (and woman!) behind the motel.
NOW FOR SOME TRUTH:
Native Americans in Kentucky didn’t sleep in teepees and answers to many more important questions.
This booklet could not have been written without the research and cooperation of historian Keith A. Sculle, who wrote the definitive works on the Wigwam Village motels. They include Ò Frank Redford’s Wigwam Village Chain: A Link in the Modernization of the American Roadside,Ó published in Ò Roadside America: The Automobile in Design and Culture.Ó Another is: Ò Oral History: A Key to Writing the History of American Roadside Architecture.Ó His research centered on interviews during the 1980s with Redford’s wife, Vetra, and others who owned the other motels and who worked there. There are no corporate archives to draw from, and many of the people associated with the motels are now gone, so his chronicles are all that remain. Sculle set out to explain the Wigwam Village franchise/chain’s Ò link in the modernization of the American roadside,Ó but he also concluded that its Ò anti-modernÓ approach was core to its allure for guests Ñ Ò An advantage apparent only after taking a cabin for the night was to be experienced in the open, grassy space enclosed between the lunchroom-office and gas pumps on the highway and the cabins in the lot behind them arranged in a semicircle. Here was a suggested community area with an architectural invitation to sit out back and talk with your fellow travelers.Ó Ultimately Ñ and ironically Ñ it was the modernization of the motel industry that led to the Wigwam Villages’ near demise: Ò Huge corporate chains with resort-motels supplanted smallscale operations with anti modern settings like Redford's. ... To increase their earnings, motels sought travelers who expected modernization's latest indoor comforts, including plush suites, air conditioning, free TV, and swimming pools. They were not content to fraternize with fellow travelers before a night’s rest in a teepee.Ó
QUIT YOUR JOB, BUY AN OLD WIGWAM MOTEL! We — Megan Smith and Keith Stone — bought Wigwam Village No. 2 in November 2020. "Why did you buy Wigwam Village?" is the inevitable but not unreasonable question our guests ask. Megan always has a quick answer: "Who wouldn't want to own Wigwam Village?” Keith’s And it is true. Keith s reply is a bit like a dad joke: “What else do you do during a pan pandemic but quit your job and buy an old, historic, wigwam motel?” It has all been good, largely because of our guests — you! W We had no idea how much people love this place, and that they are as enthusiastic about it as much as we are, if not more. Y You see, we were initially interested in restoring the motel because we have architecture backgrounds. Our goal is to return Wigwam Village No. 2 to its 1937 glory for generations of travelers to come. So, thank you for staying here! You are helping to pay for that preservation. Please come back next year to see how we are doing. We figure it is at least a five-year project. Our first restoration target was the neon sign. It was not working and almost falling off fff its pole. Not many people are left who can repair neon signs. But Bob Rueff Rue of Rueff Signs in Louisville agreed to do it. When he brought it back better than new, ne we threw a party in the parking lot to celebrate, bringing about 100 super fans of Wigwam Village No. 2. One was a 95-year-old woman who had honeymooned here in 1940, just three years after it opened. Another woman had stayed in all 15 teepees over the years and had many stories to tell! We e hope you also make great you need anything. In the meanillage fans. Wigwam Village
memories on your stay. Please do not hesitate to ask if time, here is a little history and ephemera for all of you
it’s really all about you! Top Five Reasons People Stay at Wigwam Village No. 2
1. They are visiting Mammoth Cave National Park and want to sleep in something cool. By far, this accounts for the largest number of guests. Wigwam Village No. 2’s location next to Mammoth Cave likely saved it from being torn down like the other four were.
2. They drove by with their parents as a child and were not allowed to stay there. We hear this at least once a week. One guest was so pleased he could satisfy his childhood wigwam itch that they got a teepee tattoo after checking in! 3. They are marking a marriage anniversary or are honeymooning. We’ve hosted newlyweds still in their wedding finery, straight here from their receptions. And we’ve had honeymooners return to celebrate their 50th anniversary and stay in the same teepee. 4. We are on their Bucket List for sleeping in unusual places. Some people just like to sleep outside of the box!
5. They love all things Americana. Many guests tell us they have slept in Wigwam Village Nos. 6 and 7, the two other remaining Wigwam Villages, which are on Route 66, and they just had to complete the trio.
Where all y’all came from in 2021!
Not just a motel
Wigwam Village No. 2 SLEEP BACK IN TIME
“When was Wigwam Village No. 2 built?” The little girl pondered the question for a moment. "In April,” she said. Wigwam Village No. 2 was built in 1937. It was part of a small chain and franchise. Seven were built between 1935 and 1950, and only Wigwam Village No. 2 and two others remain open and operating. Those other two, Nos. 6 and 7, are on Route 66 in Holbrook, Arizona, and San Bernardino, California. Have you seen the Disney movie "Cars”? Does Wigwam Village look familiar? If it does, that is because Wigwam Villages Nos. 6 and 7 were the inspiration for Cozy Cone Motel in the movie. Writers and artists even stayed at No. 6 before making the film. So, you will sleep in a bit of movie history tonight! Wigwam Village No. 1 was built in Horse Cave, Kentucky in 1935, just seven miles from No. 2. No. 3 was in New Orleans, No. 4 was in Orlando, Florida, No. 5 was in Bessemer, Alabama, near Montgomery. Alas, all of those have since been demolished. Wigwam Village No. 1 was torn down in 1982, leaving Wigwam Village No. 2 as the oldest surviving one, the model for the rest of the franchise. No. 2 also is a significant piece of Americana or American history, not like the Liberty Bell or Declaration of Independence, but academic scholarship has been published on the role of the 1899
Frank Redford born
Louisville Ford plant makes first Model T
Congress accepts land for Mammoth Cave National Park
Photo by Marion Post Wolcott, Library of Congress, 1940
Wigwam Village franchise in modernizing American road travel... and also for its appropriation of Native American culture for commercial purposes. But more on that later. First, let’s examine why the Wigwam Village franchise was an important part of America’s newborn car culture. It makes sense that it was, because Wigwam Village No. 1 was built in 1935 and No. 2 in '37, just as people were beginning to be able to afford cars and as cars became more reliable. Also, roads were being paved under the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. So, suddenly you could go places! Having a car changed everything. Especially about how people traveled and vacationed. In the days before you had a car, if you wanted to travel, you either traveled with other people, like on a train or a stagecoach, or you stayed close to home. So, most people stayed close to home. Travel was a luxury. Once cars 1931
31 West paved in Kentucky
Frank Redford is inspired by California BBQ stand
He builds a teepee-shaped lunch counter and adds six teepee rooms
Redford wins patent, for building ornamentation
became readily available, and roads were being built and paved, it was like someone took a soda bottle, shook it up and took off the cap — tens of thousands of people took the road. It was the dawn of The Great American Road Trip. Whatever we may think, we move for no better reason than for the plain unvarnished hell of it. And there is no better reason. So God made the American restive. The American in turn and in due time got into the automobile and found it good. The automobile became a hypnosis, the opium of the American people. After the autoist had driven round and round for a while, it became high time that people should catch on to the fact that as he rides there are a thousand and ten thousand little ways you can cash in on him en route. Within the past few years, the time ripened and burst. And along the Great 1960s American Road, the Great American
Roadside sprang up prodigally as morning mushrooms, and completed a circle that will whirl for pleasure and for profit as long as the American blood and the American car are so happily married.” — Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Agee, “The Great American Roadside” in Fortune, 1934. Frank A. Redford, who designed and invented Wigwam Village, was a pioneer in shaping the Great American Roadside — figuring out how to get people out of their cars and into motel rooms. Of course, one way he did it was through architecture. These look like teepees. This is called mimetic or programmatic architecture — things
Wigwam Village No. 3 is built in New Orleans
Wigwam Village No. 5 is built near Mammoth Cave Birmingham, Alabama is named a national park
Wigwam Village No. 4 is built in Orlando, Florida
that look like things. Doughnut shops that look like doughnuts. Motel rooms that look like teepees. It was a popular architectural style until about World War II to get motorists’ attention. Most of those buildings are long gone. But Wigwam Village No. 2 is a well-preserved survivor. This is just one reason Wigwam Village No. 2 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988. “Wigwam Village is one of the great icons of roadside architecture in America; one of a handful of survivors of representational architecture like the Big Duck on Long Island, Lucy the Margate Elephant in Atlantic City, the Teapot Dome Service station in Zillah, Washington, and the Tail O’ the Pup in Hollywood that would be featured in any serious book on the subject.” — “Roadside Architecture Of Kentucky’s Dixie Highways: A Tour Down Routes 31E And 31W,” prepared for The 2004 National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference. There are other reasons Wigwam Village No. 2 is historic. Frank was a visionary and innovator. He was among the first to practice what is called Place-Product Packaging. Place-Product Packaging is not something that is done much these days, but Frank was doing it in the ‘30s. What is it? OK... So, you are driving down the road, and you see a teepee motel. You go inside a room, and the furniture is rustic. There is a Navajo bedspread, and Native American art is on the walls. The gift shop sells Native American-made items, and the logo and signage is in a Native American motif. The restaurant has a menu shaped like a teepee. It is the full experience, it is immersive — it is a theme park before there were theme parks. In fact, theme parks probably are the only places doing this nowadays. Menu for Wigwam Village No. 1
“Wigwam Village No. 2 is nationally significant as the hallmark of a type of hostelry that developed in direct response to the proliferation of the automobile during the 1930s. In its fanciful emulation of an Indian encampment executed in steel and concrete, Wigwam Village No. 2 also exemplifies a unique type of architecture created for automobile services along the American roadside. The motor court's transportation and architecture areas of significance are intertwined because the cultural 1950
Wigwam Village No. 6 is built in Holbrook, Arizona
Redford builds Wigwam Village No. 7 in Rialto, California
Redford wins patent, for building construction
message evoked by its architectural form is integral to the profits made by the enterprise it houses. Wigwam Village No. 2 is one of the most historic forerunners of a practice now known as placeproduct-packaging the commercial use of architectural imagery by automobile service-oriented establishments along the American roadside.” — Application for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, 1988.
“Large corporations came to dominate highwayoriented restaurants after 1960 through ’placeproduct-packaging’: the coordination of building design, decor, menu, service and pricing under distinctive logos. This total design in merchandising has contributed to the standardization of roadside landscapes and travel in the United States.” — “Roadside Restaurants and Place-ProductPackaging,” written by John A. Jakle in 1982 for the Journal of Cultural Geography.
Place-product packaging became popular during the ‘50s and ‘60s, but, remember — Frank was doing this in the ‘30s.
Another innovative marketing technique Frank employed was called Cross Commercialization — putting more than one business in one place.
It seems intuitive and common sense today to put a motel with a gift shop, restaurant and gas station, but in 1937 this was novel. And it made sense. Motels by definition are not in cities; they are on roads and highways. Back then, there wasn't a gas station or a Starbucks on every corner, so motels had to be self-sufficient for their guests. Having all of those businesses also was a revenue driver — people might stop for a slice of pie, cup of coffee and gallon of gas, leaving behind their dollars.
Frank was a master at separating people from their money. 1954
Wigwam Village No. 3 closes
Frank Redford dies in San Bernardino
Wigwam Village No. 5 closes and eventually is demolished
I-65 bypasses Dixie Highway
What Frank Redford Got Wrong... A Lot Frank had been interested in Native American culture since he was a child. He collected what he called “Indian” relics. By 1934, he had amassed “an extensive collection of Indian relics,” the Glasgow Times reported. “Later, these relics will be housed in a special building, and placed in charge of an Indian boy for exhibition purposes at the Wigwam.” It was not until 1919, when Frank was about 20 years old, that he saw his first, real teepee. He visited a Sioux Indian reservation in South Dakota, and the sight of teepees gave him the idea for the “Wigwam Tourist Camps,” according to a 1938 article in the Glasgow Times. But the idea didn’t seem to come together for him until the early ’30s, when Frank and his mom traveled across the country, from Horse Cave, to Long Beach, California, on a vacation — in the middle of The Great Depression! While he was there, by chance, he saw the Tee Pee Barbecue, which was.. uh, shaped like a teepee and was flanked by two, small teepee bathrooms. So inspired, he returned to Horse Cave and did what any good entrepreneur would do — he stole the idea! He built an ice cream shop and then a lunch stand shaped like a teepee They had the same rolled flaps and smaller teepee bathrooms as did the one in Long Beach. His had gas pumps, so maybe this was more of an homage or tribute than a theft. The lunch stand did just fine. By 1935, his customers wanted to know why he was not making motel rooms shaped like teepees. After all, motels were becoming popular with the availability of cars, and his customers said they would stay in such a motel. He agreed and built six wigwams next to his restaurant. Now, Frank was a student of Native American culture and, as noted above — he had seen a real teepee. But he got some things intentionally and sadly wrong with Wigwam Village. Despite what the neon sign in front of Wigwam Village No. 2 says, you will not sleep in a wigwam. These are not wigwams. Frank did not like the sound of “Teepee Village,” so he chose “Wigwam Village.” But these structures are not teepees either. We sometimes call them "weep-ees" because we have to work on them, and we are old, and they are older. They are shaped like teepees, but teepees would have been made of animal hide or cloth stretched over poles. These are made of wood, steel and concrete. Teepees would have been portable. These, not so much. Early 1970s
Wigwam Village No.2 restaurant and gas station close
Wigwam Village No. 4 replaced with Days Inn
Wigwam Village No. 6 Wigwam Village No. 2 reopens after two-year closure listed as national landmark
Most important — teepees were made by Native Americans in the West and Midwest and on the Great Plains. But these were made by — Frank Redford, who was not a Native American. You never would have seen a real teepee in Kentucky. You might have seen wigwams. The Shawnee made wigwams, which were dome- or long-shaped structures made of wood, earth, grasses and hide. They were permanent.
There never were teepees in Kentucky. So, there is no escaping the fact, and we do not gloss over the fact — Frank Redford appropriated or stole another culture's way of living and brought it across the country to Kentucky so he could make money by selling motel rooms. “Redford also employed Native Americans in authentic costume to clinch the escapist setting. At the Horse Cave location, renamed Wigwam Village Number 1, three young Indian boys were hired to work occasionally before World War II. At Wigwam Village Number 1, Indian dancers from Oklahoma occasionally were employed to perform in the so-called arena, or space encircled by the cabins,” Sculle wrote, relating interviews with Redford’s wife Vetra and workers. One Native American worker, pictured to the right, was Isaac Ross, shown in front of “The Trading Post” at Wigwam Village No. 1. Sculle wrote that Ross, about 17, was a “full-blooded Cherokee from North Carolina” who worked at the motel before being killed during World War II. A 1934 Glasgow Times story reported that “Frank Redford and ‘Chief Eagle,’ Indian mechanic from Mr. Redford’s ‘Wigwam’ in Horse Cave” were to appear at the Rotary Club, where “The Chief will make a short talk. He is in charge of the service station and garage at the Redford ‘Wigwam.’” It is impossible today to say whether Frank knew he was exploiting a minority culture for commercial purposes — or whether he cared. And, there are no interviews to be found with the Native Americans who worked at the motels, so we do not know what they thought about their roles. But this is not an arrangement we would endorse today. As a society, we have become more sensitive and aware and, hopefully, more culturally evolved than to use another person and their culture to make money. Frank was not in 1937. We do not want to obscure this fact. We believe that what happens at Wigwam Village No. 2 is important and must be considered along with the structures themselves, the name “Wigwam Village” and its history. We are not trying to sell you the Native American experience Frank envisioned, but, instead, we choose to focus on the historic niches that Wigwam Village No. 2 occupies — its role in the evolving car culture, its window on how people vacationed and traveled and the innovations in marketing that innkeeping that Frank pioneered. Also, on a purely visceral level — these are simply whimsical, fantastical forms that make people smile when they are near them.
To be fair to Frank, he trying to appeal to a fascination with the West as a frontier and to the romantic idea of the Wild West. If you were driving down the road and saw a wigwam, you might not know what it was. But people knew what teepees were. They had seen them in the movies and magazines. Yet, there was something else that Frank was trying to accomplish, and, really, it is quite brilliant.
Glamping Before There Was A Word For It Maybe it is not evident immediately, but Frank also was trying to appeal to people’s nostalgia for what they recalled as a simpler, happier time. In the '20s and '30s, massive urbanization was occurring. People were leaving the country for cities and farms for factories. They yearned for a simpler, happier time. And, perhaps we do also in 2022. So, for them and for us — these concrete teepees are tents, and this is camping. It was glamping before there was ever a word for it. We hear guests say that they felt like they were camping, except they had doors, floors and hot water. This same camping aesthetic runs through Wigwam Village No. 2. Frank referred to the Wigwam Villages as “tourist camps.” This evocation of the past is part of the complicated legacy of the Wigwam Village franchise. Katie Algeo, cultural geographer at Western Kentucky University, wrote about this experience of stepping back in time in her study of the commercialization of Native American culture for tourism, "Indian for a Night: Sleeping with the 'Other' at Wigwam Village Tourist Cabins.“ She said "that initially the draw for tourist was their nostalgia for the vanishing life of Native Americans that would have been idealized in magazines and in movies. But where does that leave us in the 21st century? In more recent years, the lens of the travel experience has shifted to reflect that early modern era now reconfigured as the prototypical ‘simpler, happier time,’ which is echoed by the ‘simpler, happier time’ of childhood. The generic Indianness of roadside tepees might evoke memories of one of the many children's summer camps that use Indian names and various forms of playing Indian as a means of connecting with nature or enacting an age of innocence.” Historian Keith Sculle wrote: “The teepees’ implied message was the promise of simple pleasure. Redford knew it and put up neon signs: Eat and Sleep in a Wigwam. Many asked if they could do just what the sign invited; and, after their stay, some told the personnel at the motel that they had had fun.”
There’s A Patent For That “A dozen or more Wigwams ... arranged in an oval, offer a novel variation from the usual tourist cabins.” — “Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State,” compiled and written by the Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Kentucky, 1939. Soon after Frank built Wigwam Village No. 1, he was ready to advance his concept with the design of Wigwam Village No. 2. He patented his version of the teepee in 1936 and in 1952. The first patent was for ornamentation. You will note the swastika. Long before he who will go unmentioned co-opted the symbol, many other cultures used it, including the Navajos, who deemed it a sacred symbol and called it the “whirling log,” ″falling log” or “swirling log.” Wigwam Village 2’s swastikas were removed by World War II. The second patent, in 1952, was for building design, with details about the layout and structure. The 1937 teepees look a lot like what is in the patent, but the teepees at Wigwam Villages No. 6 and 7 bear more resemblance in their construction. The teepees at Wigwam Village No. 2 were built with wooden frames overlaid with metal lath and then stucco. Sculle interviewed J.C. Poynter who was on the team with his father Harry Poynter that helped to build the BigWam. First, they used mules to excavate the foundation. “The team formed the exterior of this building with metal strips welded on the bias and a foot apart onto two-inch angle irons. Poynter vividly recalled that he wore out two pairs of shoes working on the sharp steel frame before it was covered with stucco for which he received (35 cents) per hour.” Owners of other Wigwam Villages struggled with the construction, mostly because the stucco was prone to cracking, Sculle wrote. The owner of No., 5 in Alabama gave up on Redford‘s instructions and tried his own method: “After building the first four cabins with steel frames covered by lath and plaster, the team modified Redford’s Redford instructions and developed a technique that made the buildings ‘like boats,’ Mrs. (L.H.) Lindsey recalled. Onto each steel cabin frame the team applied a combination of wood, then felt, and, lastly, canvas. Then, the cabins were shrunken with a generous application of linseed oil.”
Through the years, Wigwam Village No.2’s teepees have been painted and patched every five years, but that was insufficient to stop cracking and leaking. Frank knew the problem was bad, and he was searching for solutions. In 1954, Redford he wrote to the Arizona Wigwam Village owner to herald a new, plasticbased paint that he said could lessen the cracking. Still, Sculle wrote, “the unique
architecture” continued to present “chronic problems.” And it still does today We are now re-stuccoing the teepees with a synthetic stucco that is designed to withstand cracking and water damage. The other chronic water issue with the teepees is poor ventilation, which creates condensation and humidity that has led to wood damage. Although the 1952 patent shows tubes at the top intended for ventilation, they Workers building Dixie Highway and The BigWam. do not work. The result is that the knotty pine paneling on the interiors has had to be replaced many times over the years. We are installing modern ventilation and repanelling the walls with knotty pine. This will allow us to put in windows that you can open!
A Little About The Rooms “The Wigwams are built of white stucco and braced with steel. The interior is finished with knotty pine, red cedar, hickory and sycamore logs with bark intact.” —The Glasgow Times, Dec. 8, 1938 The rooms are round, basically, which made it difficult to put furniture in. But they have furniture — the original 1937 furniture. Some of it is a bit less original than others. We are getting it restored with help from the Old Hickory Furniture Co., which has a lineage to the original manufacturer, the Columbus Hickory Furniture Co., both in Indiana. In the ‘20s and ’30s, Indiana was a center for this kind of furniture — hickory and cane pieces that, like Wigwam Villages, reminded people of simpler, more rustic times. Luther A. Simons was one of the furniture makers, who, like Frank Redford, had a lot of ideas, some good enough for a patent. Ralph Kylloe, in his definitive book “Hickory Furniture” lays out the story of hickory and cane furniture from Indiana and about Simons’ part in it. Simons was born in 1883 in Morgantown, Indiana. He was described by those who knew him as an entrepreneur whose persistence and tenacity led him through many different avenues in the industry. In the ‘20s, he helped found the J&S Hickory Manufacturing Co. in Colfax, Indiana. Within a month, he was forced out of the business. But Simons persisted and started the Columbus Hickory Chair Co. in Columbus, Indiana (later shortened to the Columbus Hickory Furniture Co.). His designs looked very much like what was being made at the time, but he incorporated new materials, such as aluminum edging. He also invented Simonite, a caning made of cellulose. He figured that the cane that came from overseas would be cut off during World War II. He was right, and the product became an instant success. The Old Hickory Furniture Co. still uses Simonite today. One man who knew Simons told Kylloe that Simons was a man with ”big ideas who was not afraid to ask. He was always looking for something different and sometimes things went well and other times they did not, but he was not afraid to try.” He also was progressive and generous, often hiring people who needed a chance — amputees, deaf people and those who were older than 75. He paid everyone the same wages. He died in 1951, and his brother was unable to keep the business going, so it closed. (For you architecture nerds: Simons’ daughter, Xenia married Joseph Irwin Miller, who led Cummins Corp. in Columbus, Indiana, and was a patron of storied Modern architecture there.)
finally, You Could Get There From Here “US 31 holds little lure — on the map. But with a full gasoline tank and at the wheel of a tuned up car with everything in order this becomes another adventure—and the highway, the road to Dixie. Out of your Cage Out of your Cage And Take your Soul On a Pilgrimage!” — A Lexington Herald-Post editorial republished in Kentucky Progress Magazine,1929 Frank Redford chose 31 West, or Dixie Highway in Cave City, for the location of Wigwam Village No. 2 because the decisionmakers at the time had decided it would be a major road, overtaking 31 East as the preferred route. When completed, it would extend from Michigan to Florida. Dixie Highway, before it was bypassed by Interstate 65, handled bumper-to-bumper traffic almost all day and night. Kentucky has been on the path to Florida for the past three years or more, the ‘early birds’ starting out in November, the ‘big parade’ going in January and the tailenders hurrying through in March. Before the rear guard has vanished, the home-coming begins and the roads are full again in May. By that time all roads are carrying thousands of spring and summer tourists.” — Kentucky Progress Magazine, November 1929. After I-65 opened, many Cave City motels went to weeky and monthly rentals, but Wigwam Village No. 2 remained a nightly motel. And it wasn’t just that the teepee motel is cool.There was another reason Frank located it where he did — and we think, ultimately, that secured Wigwam Village No. 2's survival. Remember, four Wigwam Villages were torn down. What Frank knew was that the federal government was going to make a national park nearby. In 1941, just four years after Wigwam Village No. 2 checked in its first guests, Mammoth Cave became a national park. It is just eight miles away. Today, 500,000 people visit a year. Most Wigwam Village No. 2 guests are here first to visit Mammoth Cave and then to find an interesting place to spend the night. We also get many guests whose parents, grandparents or great grandparents honeymooned here, and they want to spend the night in the same teepees. And we get honeymooners and couples marking anniversaries... but a favorite is from the guest who tells us: "My parents used to
drive us by here all the time, but they wouldn't let us stay! Now, I am going to do it!" But most here are for the caves. No. 4, in Orlando, Florida, which boasted 27 teepees, was torn down in 1973 to make way for a Days Inn. Before that happened, there was an unsuccessful effort to move the concrete teepees by helicopter! Wigwam Village No. 1 had deteriorated to the point that in the 1980s it was torn down and now is a convenience store. Yet Wigwam Village No. 2 has survived since 1937 as a functioning motel. It would be easy to bulldoze it under — its status on the national register does not protect it from being demolished or fundamentally changed. But we are committed to restoring to its 1937 splendor. We are trying to be careful about our interventions. On that note, the BigWam — the big teepee — was a restaurant and had gas pumps with attendants until the early 1970s. Motels from the start battled to maintain a reputation of decency and cleanliness. At Wigwam Village No. 2, only men were allowed to clean the rooms because having a woman alone in a motel room would be unsavory. And only women were allowed to work in the restaurant, where Frank’s wife, Vetra Redford, was in charge. “She developed the pattern for waitresses’ uniforms to insure similarity and applied decorative rick-rack echoing the zigzag string course of the ‘teepees’ to extend the ‘Indian’ motif. She also required each waitress to make her uniform from the pattern and required their regular use and recruited the ‘prettiest, freshest, and brightest and the most intelligent girls’ to project the image she desired for the restaurant,” Sculle wrote. A local chef with a large following had expressed interest in working at the restaurant but only if the kitchen was moved to the basement. Vetra also opposed the idea because she wanted diners to see their food being made so they knew it was pure and sanitary. The chef did not come to work at Wigwam Village No. 2. Today, folks who recall the restaurant remember one thing almost uniformly— the curly fries! By the early 1970s, however, I-65 had bypassed Dixie Highway, business fell off, and the owners decided to close the restaurant and gas pumps and use the building for a gift shop and office. The good news is that it still has the beautiful, semicircular, oak counter top that can seat 30 or 40 people. We plan to turn the BigWam. into a coffee shop, which would be in keeping with its past use.
A 20th-Century Social Engineering Experiment After building Wigwam Village No. 2, Frank franchised his concept. The other Wigwam Villages all looked similar, especially in how they were laid out — a semicircle or horseshoe. This was intentional on Frank's part. Why? Some say it was to mirror a traditional Native American encampment. But, it is a natural shape to focus the guests on the center communal area. Frank wanted to encourage and foster fellowship and camaraderie among his guests. Why would that be important? Because especially in 1937, there wasn’t much to do at night when you got out of your cave adventure and went into your teepee. Forget about TV or cell phones — you didn’t even have air conditioning. So, people would come out to the center, play games, cook food, picnic… and then light a fire in the fire pit. That is when the weirdest thing would happen. People would talk to each other. Strangers would make friends with each other. “The well-maintained landscape resulted in weekend croquet matches between visitors and local patrons, as reported in Wigwam Number 2. Additional features such as playgrounds, benches and fire pits directly encourage travelers to interact with each other outside. This communal incentive harkens directly to the early days of auto camping in the municipal pay lots, where visitors were intrigued by the other characters they would come across on their travels which became part of the allure of the open road,” Kimberly Ellis wrote in “Here Briefly Rests A Restless Tribe: Preserving Frank Redford’s Wigwam Villages,” her 2010 master’s thesis for the University of Georgia. All of this still happens today, 85 years later. Frank’s social engineering experiment still works. So, every night, we bring down a pile of wood and light a fire. Y’all are welcome to go down there and meet your neighbors. If you have marshmallows, we have skewers that guests have given us. They get a lot of use.
To The past And Beyond!
During your stay, you probably will see a bit of construction and landscaping work happening. We promise to keep the dust and noise to a minimum. But we are working as fast as we can to bring Wigwam Village No. 2 back to 1937, so you can sleep back in time and so Wigwam Village No 2 will be here for your grand kids’ grand kids. Among our priorities is replacing the doors. The louvered doors here now are not original. They likely were installed during the ‘50s or ’60s to make up for lack of air conditioning. Since then, however, just about all of the glass louvers have been broken and replaced with wood. Not a good look. We have commissioned the talented folks (and friends) at Prajna Design & Construction out of Lexington, Kentucky, to make new doors that look like the ones from 1937. They are also helping us panel the interiors with knotty pine, the way the teepees looked in 1937. And we are replacing the windows with the original-looking sliders so they can be opened. The heating and cooling will be handled with mini-splits discreetly concealed in the rooms. We are installing insulation and other ventilation. Outside, we are re-stuccoing the teepees and returning the red zigzag around their middles. The teepee flaps will be painted white, as they were in 1937. We are re-landscaping the property to its 1937 lushness — Wigwam Village No. 2 had many trees and bushes, some of them still here eight decades later, but many of them long gone and not replaced. We also are landscaping the front of the property, where it meets Dixie Highway, so the parking lot is safer and more attractive. The BigWam will become a coffee shop with seating inside and outside. It will serve pastries and other prepared food and sell marshmallows for your evening bonfire. And, yes — it will sell souvenirs. It is an ambitious but doable plan, one that we hope carries Wigwam Village No. 2 into the next century and beyond. Our goals are your comfort and historical accuracy. Please note the image above on this page, an advertising card from 1940 that details the “Comfort, Cleanliness and Refinement” you should expect as a guest at Wigwam Village No. 2. Frank had the right recipe in 1937, and we plan to follow it. Have a great stay and please visit with us again soon to see how we are doing with the restoration!
Who Was Frank A. Redford? The Man (And Woman!) Behind The Motel
“Frank A. Redford was born 17 February 1899 in Muncie, Indiana, to a fairly prosperous business family. When he was two, the family moved to rural Hart County, Kentucky. After high-school graduation in Horse Cave, Kentucky, he went to work for the United Fruit Company in Central and South America. He remained with the company for three years and returned home to be with his mother when his father died. Glimpses of his personality derived from rare remarks by several respondents reveal Redford to have been a young boy indulged by his prosperous, single-parent mother, a youth enriched with architectural memories by extensive travel, and an adult who was a loner bearing a vision about his Wigwam Village chain.” — Keith Sculle, writing in his “Frank Redford’s Wigwam Village Chain: A link in the Modernization of the American Roadside.”
Keith Sculle’s picture of Redford is drawn from 40 interviews he conducted during the 1980s with people who knew and worked with Frank and included his former wife, Vetra Long (they divorced at some point after Wigwam Village No. 2 was built). From those interviews, we can only speculate as to what motivated him to press forward with the Wigwam Village franchise after he finished the first two motels. For instance, he patented the ornamentation and building design of his “wigwams,” but he never enforced the patent, and, apparently, therefore, rarely charged for use of his plans to make Wigwam Villages. Perhaps this was because Frank grew up in a prosperous family and did not need the money. Maybe he did not like confrontation. We do know he got what he wanted because he was a strict manager.
Sculle wrote: “Redford did not pursue infringers, as would be expected of an entrepreneur with visions of a large-scale chain. He reasoned that because he did not sue infringers, he should not collect the annual charge for his patent rights from the chain owners. Apparently, he collected his fee only sporadically.” “In return for building specifications for the ‘tepees,’ which were beyond the capacity of most contractors, and the provision not to open a Wigwam Village within one hundred miles of another, a Wigwam Village owner annually was to give Redford one-half of one percent of the profits from food, lodging, and souvenirs, cooperate with other owners in the chain, advise customers to patronize other places in the chain, and keep their places in an ‘exceedingly sanitary and high class manner,’” Sculle wrote, drawing on a 1939 Glasgow Times article. The newspaper story proclaimed: “Mr. Redford’s patent on the Wigwam Village expires in 1950, and by that time he plans to have such units established in several states,” and it says that there were plans for one in Luray, Virginia. That one was never built. Later, he did charge his friend Chester Lewis for the rights and plans to create Wigwam Village No. 6. Frank‘s payment was a royalty from the proceeds for renting radio time to guests in No. 6’s teepees. Lewis’ son Paul recalled guests could rent 30 minutes of listening for a dime. “Those were the days when dimes were made from silver,” Lewis told a reporter. “One of my chores was to empty the dimes out of the radios. And all of those dimes went to Mr. Redford.” Given the low reputation of motor courts (FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover called them “a new home of disease, bribery, corruption, crookedness, rape, white slavery, thievery, and murder”), Frank and Vetra Redford were driven to keep Wigwam Village respectable. For instance, Sculle wrote that the Redfords did not prohibit drinking at Wigwam Village Nos. 1 and 2 and, in fact, beer was sold there. But “when two customers waiting for dinner at the restaurant talked about their enjoyment of alcohol, Redford refused their order.” Such diligence led Joe Richardson, editor and publisher of the Glasgow Times, to endorse Redford's management in an editorial in June 1941: “Frank Redford's Wigwam Villages on US 31-E and US 31-W are fine examples of what good management and good order can do for a business. But, best of all, it demonstrates the fact that a tourist camp can be operated orderly and without those disagreeable things generally associated with tourist camps-that a camp can do this and be a success. Mr. Redford's camps are a model of decency, of cleanliness and of fine service. He will
not tolerate misconduct or anything that smacks of indecency at either of his two places of business. And these rules, more than anything else, have contributed to the very deserving success he is making of the Villages. Ladies and gentlemen are always welcome and they can always feel perfectly at home in a Wigwam Village.” Another testimonial came from Duncan Hines, who you might know from the cake mix, but he was an actual person who lived nearby, in Bowling Green, Kentucky. He published an annual book on the best places to stay in and eat in North America, and he included Wigwam Village No. 2. It was considered an honor to be in this book. He became good friends with Frank. As much as Frank was the man behind the motel, Vetra Redford was vital to Wigwam Village No. 2, a partner in the businesses and in their marriage. At the time, pre-war motels were mom-and-pop enterprises and explicitly advertised this to promote a vision of wholesomeness. But Vetra was not married to Frank when he hired her away from a Horse Cave cafe to run the restaurant at Wigwam Village No. 1. “Frank’s intention was not romantic at the start, the eventual Mrs. Redford recalled; and, for her own part, she eagerly accepted his job offer as an opportunity for female advancement limited locally thru only two other routes, nursing and teaching. Eager to learn on the job, she progressed quickly; and, then it was that she recalls Franks’ prediction to someone that he would marry her. Indeed, they were married a year after she started working for him.” Vetra brought more than enthusiasm, Sculle wrote — “for she created very significant design and hiring practices for her husband’s already memorable advertising strategy. ... and recruited the ‘prettiest, freshest, and brightest and the most intelligent girls’ to project the image she desired for the restaurant. Hiring them required that she overcome the local stigma of many roadside businesses as unfit for nice girls by calling at their homes and persuading their families of the propriety of her and her husband’s business places. Running them effectively was intensive work benefitting from the resilience of a successful marriage. Of her work at Numbers 1, 2, and 7, Mrs. Redford succinctly concluded: “We were always partners.” Frank was a stern, all-business boss, Sculle wrote. “A capacity to conceive and implement a novel marketing strategy requires at least unusual creativity and dauntless self-certainty. These traits could have been incubated as the only child indulged by his widowed mother, as one respondent recalls Redford. Although the chronology of the ‘Indian’ motif reveals that Redford gradually improvised the strategy, that he did not conceive it completely at Number 1 and enforce it without variation in every village, several respondents recalled Redford as a visionary about the chain. Once decided, Redford wanted his instructions implemented. He was a perfectionist and an exacting taskmaster even with his wife, according to two accounts, including his wife’s. His orders to help were simple: be clean, neat and orderly, and take no tips.” He also did not linger to talk with guests. “Yet, despite his general aloofness and apparently stern demeanor in the workplace, he engendered dedication from those closest to him.”
His ingenuity began to be recognized. In 1938, Eleanor Roosevelt included her description in her daily newspaper column “My Day.” “Yesterday we caught a glimpse of a most striking group of wayside cabins. I thought at first sight they were a glorified Indian encampment, for in the center stood a huge white tepee decorated with lines of color and surrounded by small white tepees glistening in the sunlight. My practical secretary brought me back to reality when I began to speculate about the very modern Indians who must be living there, she took one look out of the window and remarked: ‘Probably tourist cabins.’” Redford also was recognized in the industry as a pioneer. A 1951 Baltimore Sun article about the immense popularity of tourists courts such as his — “Tourist Cabin Grows to Billion-Dollar Size” — singled him out for his accomplishments: “Imaginative use of materials, landscaping and color created little oases of beauty in many places where formerly there was nothing for an ancient as pump and a sun-scorched shack. Frank Redford, of Long Beach, for example, conceived the idea of building a motor court to resemble an Indian wigwam village. He patented the plan, granted licenses and now half a dozen states have these wigwam courts.” In 1944, Frank sold Wigwam Village Nos. 1 and 2 to traveling salesman of advertising novelties, Paul Young. Young also was an entrepreneur and natural salesman. By 1950, Redford had built Wigwam Village No. 7 in San Bernardino, California, and was living in an apartment on the second floor of the large teepee that also served as an office. No. 7 featured two rows of tepees in semicircles. They surrounded a pool, with the colorful landscaping you would expect in Southern California — and palm trees! By the 1990s, No. 7 had fallen into such disrepair that the city condemned it and moved to tear it down. A sign outside proclaimed: “Do It In A Tee Pee.” But a saviour stepped in, bought it and restored the outsides. Unfortunately, the original furniture was gone. Today, it is a popular stop on Route 66. Meanwhile, Young was carrying Frank’s ideas forward. He is credited
Frank Redford in San Bernardino.
with creating many souvenirs with the Wigwam Village branding, including matchbooks, ashtrays, swords, pennants and more. They became good friends and collaborators. Ever the businessmen, Redford and Young launched another enterprise — Wigwam Dairy Chief, an ice cream shop and restaurant shaped like a teepee in Paducah, Kentucky. “Follow the trail to Wigwam Dairy Chief,” an ad proclaims. A newspaper report from the grand opening said 4,000 people attended. Redford and Young oung had planned to open them in Horse Cave, Louisville and San Bernardino. The business is no longer open, but the teepee in Paducah remains. It would be Frank Redford’s last big idea. He became ill in 1957 and asked Young oung to take over Wigwam Village No. 7. Young oung did so after selling Wigwam Village illage Nos. 1 and 2 in 1946.
Three months after getting sick, Frank died in December 1957 in San Bernardino, just shy of his 59th birthday. He is buried in Horse Cave, Kentucky, not far from the site of Wigwam Village No. 1 and No. 2.
Certainly, just the existence of Wigwam Village No. 2 and others in the motel franchise provoke many serious questions:
Did the Wigwam Village franchise reflect anything real about Native Americans who populated what is now Kentucky? Was there a link between Native Americans and Mammoth Cave, the top reason guests come to Wigwam Village No. 2? What do Native Americans today think of Wigwam Village No. 2, with its faux teepees called wigwams? When asked about the Wigwam Villages, David “Thundering Eagle” Fallis, Principal Chief of the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky, told a writer for the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 2013: “Though the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky would be extremely pleased for anything that brings attention to the history and ongoing plight of Native Americans everywhere, we do not welcome such things as ‘Wigwam Village.’ It is an absolute absurdity to portray Native Americans of this area as ‘wigwam’ dwellers.” Helen Danser, chair of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission and member of the Native American Intertribal Alliance in Kentucky, told the writer that, in regards to Wigwam Village No. 2: “I’m not opposed to it being there if it’s done in an appropriate manner because it would be a wonderful teaching tool.” Today’s Wigwam Village No. 2 is not meant, at least under its current ownership, to provide an actual Native American experience. But it certainly can be an entry to more exploration and education. And, if nothing else, this booklet should offer facts about those important questions raised above and several others. We asked for help from Tressa Brown, coordinator for the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission. In creating this Q&A, she drew on this definitive work: “A Native History Of Kentucky" by A. Gwynn Henderson and David Pollack, from ”Native America: A State-by-State Historical Encyclopedia.” She also consulted with members of the Kentucky Native American Heritage Commission. The Commission was established in 1996 to recognize and promote Native American contributions and influence in Kentucky’s history and culture. The Commission has 17 members, eight of whom are required to be of Native American heritage. Its goal is that: “Through education and increased awareness, the people of Kentucky will understand the
histories, cultures and matters of concern to Native American peoples.”
Here is a start.
Q: What is the connection between Mammoth Cave and Native Americans? A: Native Americans were the first to enter Mammoth Cave around 5,000 years ago. They explored over 19 miles of cave passage within what is now Mammoth Cave National Park. The torches they carried, made from river cane, provided light.
By about 3,000 years ago, people were mining gypsum, mirabilite, epsomite, and other minerals — for use as pigments and purgatives — from the walls of Mammoth Cave and other caves in the region. They used mussel shells gathered from the Green River to scrape the relatively soft mineral off the walls into woven baskets or gourd containers they carried into the cave. Evidence of Native American mining can still be seen on the cave walls.
Evidence of their visits is reflected by the thousands of objects that litter the underground routes these native miners traveled. Unused objects include caches of torches. Other items include worn-out woven plant fiber sandals, gourd bowls, and even cave art, in the form of petroglyphs (carved images) and pictographs (charcoal pigment-drawn images).
In the last 220 years, cave explorers have discovered Native American burials and the remains of naturally “mummified” bodies in the caves. Evidence shows that careful attention and respect was paid to the dead, and their clothing and tools illustrate that they were experienced cave explorers. Today, Mammoth Cave National Park personnel have consulted with tribal partners so that the deceased have a safe and secure resting place in locations away from cave tours.
Q: What Native American tribes or indigenous people have lived in Kentucky or the area that would be named Kentucky? A: Seven Native American tribes have traditional ties to Kentucky and the Mammoth Cave area. They are the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the Cherokee Nation, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians, the Shawnee Tribe, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, and the Chickasaw Nation.
Q: Then, it is not true that Kentucky was just a hunting and warring ground for Native Americans? How did this myth begin? A: It is a tenacious myth that Native Americans never lived permanently in Kentucky. Native Americans have been living in what is now Kentucky for more than 12,000 years.
This myth is connected to another myth that refers to Kentucky as the “dark and bloody ground.” In 1775, at the signing of the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals (which transferred most of the Kentucky lands from the Cherokee Nation to the Transylvania Company), Cherokee leader Dragging Canoe is reported to have said that a dark cloud hung over the land, known as the Bloody Ground. European land speculators took his statement to mean that conflict existed between American Indian tribes and that the land was not claimed by any tribe.
From their perspective, this belief made it easier for them to justify selling the “free” land to European colonists.
Both myths are untrue.
Evidence in every county in the state documents settlement by Native Americans over the course of thousands of years. And there is no evidence to show that Kentucky was known to any tribe as “the Dark and Bloody Ground.” These two myths have persisted because it was easier and more profitable for land speculators to sell land that was not claimed by Native Americans. Also, the ancient artifacts settlers encountered as they plowed their fields did not seem to be used by the Indian people they saw around them. Settlers did not consider that the Shawnee or Cherokee were related to the ancient people who had built the mounds. So, the settlers felt that their own claims on the land were as valid as the Indians’ claims. A third reason these myths have persisted is that they were and continue to be perpetuated in magazines, children’s books, textbooks, and scholarly journals.
Q: Which of them, if any, lived in Cave City or in Barren County? A: In the early history of Kentucky, we do not know what names indigenous hunter-gatherer groups called themselves, nor do we know the names of the ancient cave explorers. Archaeologists, however, have assigned names to later cultural groups. For Barren County, around 2,500 years ago, hunter-gatherergardeners may have been linked in some way to Hopewell groups living farther east. These peoples built burial mounds and geometric earthworks. Over 1,000 years ago, Mississippian hunter-gatherer-farmers lived in the area. These are the people who built flat-topped temple mounds on which their chiefs lived. Later, in historic documents, the Shawnee, the Yuchi, and the Cherokee are mentioned.
Q: Do any tribes remain in Kentucky, and, if not, why not? A: There are no federally recognized or state recognized tribes in Kentucky today. However, members of nearly 200 tribes currently live in the Commonwealth.
There were several reasons why, when the first European long hunters came into Kentucky in the 1760s, they did not see many Native villages. Smallpox had decimated the Native populations in the late 1600s. By the mid-1700s, other tribes (Miami, Wyandott, Delaware and Iroquois) were moving into areas already occupied by the Shawnee, Chickasaw, Yuchi and Tutelo.
By the end of the French and Indian War in 1763, most groups had abandoned their villages due to actual attacks or the threat of attacks by enemy tribes and their European allies. Though native people no longer lived in what is now Kentucky, it remained a source of deerskins for trade — an important economic resource — and they fought to maintain their claim to it.
By the time Kentucky became a state in 1792, American Indian tribes (Shawnee, and Cherokee) had negotiated land cessions of almost all the land that became Kentucky. By 1820, the Chickasaw had ceded their western Kentucky lands to the Commonwealth. Q: What did Kentucky tribes live in? Did they live in teepees like the ones at Wigwam Village No. 2, or in wigwams, or in something else?
A: Native Americans in Kentucky never lived in hide-covered teepees. Until about 2,000 years ago, Native people lived in semi-permanent houses of bent poles covered with hides, woven mats or bark. Wigwam (wiigiwaam) is the Ojibwe word for that sort of house (semi-perm, bent-pole, bark-covered). They also lived in large rock shelters. Later, about 1,000 years ago, when tribes in western Kentucky were building mounds and larger villages, houses were made of wooden poles interwoven with saplings and plastered with mud (wattle and daub). Roofs were likely thatched with grasses or covered with bark. Floors were made from packed earth or hardened clay. Symbols were sometimes painted on houses and floors. Q: What are a few things that distinguished Native Americans in Kentucky from others in other places? A: One distinguishing feature of Kentucky’s Native history is the role Kentucky played as a world hearth of plant domestication. Archaeologists have confirmed that Kentucky, like Mexico, the Levant and China, is one of just six locations in the world where local residents domesticated native plants — the beginning of gardening.
By about 3,000 years ago, Native Americans living in Kentucky added gardening to their hunting and gathering lifestyle. They prepared garden plots by burning controlled fires to clear the land. They selected and grew locally domesticated varieties of gourds and squash. They also grew two different kinds of locally domesticated native plants that produced edible greens in the spring and, in late summer/early fall, nutritious seeds. Goosefoot, knotweed, and maygrass were high in carbohydrates or starches while sumpweed and sunflower were high in fat and protein. The earliest evidence for the domestication of sunflower and goosefoot anywhere in the world comes from Eastern Kentucky rock shelter sites. Caves in the Barren County area also hold evidence of early plant domestication. Mounds and towns are another distinguishing aspect of Kentucky history. From 1,100 to about 600 years ago, Mississippian farmers in the region surrounding Cave City built large towns and platform mounds. In some instances, as many as 600 people lived in these settlements. Ceremonies held at the towns attracted residents living in nearby smaller villages or farmsteads. Large, flat-topped mounds were arranged around an open space or plaza. A large rectangular structure on top of a platform mound served as a civic building, a temple/shrine, and the chief’s house. Other houses were built around the plaza, sometimes within a tall, protective fence or palisade. Crops were planted outside the palisade. These types of settlements occurred along rivers and streams throughout the lower Ohio Valley. Q: What does the name Kentucky come from or what does it mean? A: There is no single origin for the name “Kentucky” (Kentucke, Cantucky). One of the first recorded uses of the name was in a document describing the capture of a group of traders by Indians allied to the French on Jan. 26, 1753, somewhere in central Kentucky at a place they called “Kentucky.” There are several opinions concerning the word’s origin: an Iroquois word (Kentake) meaning “meadow land”; a Wyandot word (Kentah-the) meaning “the land of tomorrow”; an Algonquian term (kin-athiki) referring to a river bottom; and a Shawnee word meaning “head of a river.” In no language does Kentucky mean “dark and bloody ground.”