Traveling across the American Southwest always seems to evoke feelings of nostalgia.It’s hard not to think of cowboys riding along the desert terrain or a family road trip with the car windows lowered and just stretches of highway ahead.
The Wigam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona prides itself on celebrating the motel traditions that gained popularity in the 1950s—a clean, safe and affordable roadside accommodation.
Chester E. Lewis first opened the motel in 1950 and his family has run it ever since. There are a few other Wigwam Motels or “villages” still in operation including Wigwam Village #7 in San Bernardino, California and Wigwam Village #2 in Cave City, Kentucky.
There are 15 private “wigwams” at this motel. Despite the name, the structures don’t actually resemble wigwams, which are round, domed shelters used by a number of northeastern Native American tribes. Instead they are are modeled after tipis, which are tall conical tents that are traditionally used by Indigenous people of the Great Plains. They are a popular, and sometimes co-opted, symbol of Native identity. The original developers thought that “wigwam motel” had a better ring to it than “tipi motel” and the name stuck.
There’s also a museum and two smaller tipis that were originally used as restrooms for a former Texaco station. It’s clear that the Wigwam Motel truly embraces many of the iconic associations of the American Southwest: road trips, exploration and the aesthetic virtues and functionality of the tipis of the Plains Indians.
Know Before You Go
Nestled between the highway and train tracks, this roadside motel comes with all the sounds you might expect. Each vintage "wigwam" comes with its own tiny bathroom, wall heater/fan and creaky bed or two.