The Wigwam

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Discover the Wigwam, which was once used as vacation lodging for the families of ranchers and Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company executives in the 1920s.

The Wigwam, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2010, dates back to 1929.

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Wigwam Employees Share How They Have Made History

A completely employee-produced video project sharing the unique history of The Wigwam, and how each team member has left their mark on the resort’s history.

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A member of Historic Hotels of America since 2010, The Wigwam has been one of Arizona’s most prestigious holiday destinations for more than a century. The resort was originally the property of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which had created the complex as a vacation complex for its high-ranking executives. The corporate titan had first arrived in Arizona in 1916, when it sent Paul W. Litchfield south to investigate the region as an alternative source for cotton planting. Cotton was an integral ingredient in the tire-making process, in which its fibers were used to help strengthen the structure. At the time, manufacturing corporations in the United States had sought to control access to the raw materials necessary to develop their products. As such, they sponsored all sorts of agricultural projects that could enable an easily flow of those resource to their factories. This aspiration became all the more desirable when World War I greatly inhibited international trade, forcing American companies to become more self-sufficient. Goodyear itself suffered tremendously from its inability to easily acquire Egyptian cotton from its British trading partners. Goodyear looked toward the warm, dry climate of Arizona as the perfect place to create a cotton-growing operation and saw to it that Litchfield put the plan into motion.

Upon his arrival, he created the Southwest Cotton Company and acquired several thousand acres to cultivate the cash crop. Litchfield then hired a couple hundred workers to start clearing the desert, which took a few months to complete. As the work to irrigate the fields went underway, Litchfield began constructing a company-owned residential complex that would house the workers and their families during the growing season. It quickly developed into a vibrant community that eventually became known as “Litchfield Park.” Litchfield himself constructed a quaint estate on the outskirts of the village that he called “Rancho La Loma.” But he also developed a small, yet cozy, vacation retreat for other company executives to use for whenever they decided to visit and inspect the daily operations of the Southwest Cotton Company. Christened as the “Organization House,” the building resembled a historic adobe structure that once defined Arizona’s landscape. It debuted with just six guest accommodations, but they all managed act as a much needed source relaxation for the businessmen who had taken the arduous journey from the company’s headquarters in Akron.

Litchfield’s Organization House proved to be immensely popular and it became a hotspot of activity for Goodyear’s many white-collar employees. The demand to stay at the facility grew to such an extent that Litchfield expanded the facility tenfold over the course of the following decade. At first he merely added 24 guestrooms, but soon realized that he needed another 40 onsite. Goodyear realized that it had a wonderful economic opportunity on its hands, and decided to open the Organization House to the general public. The corporation quickly began an extensive renovation project that saw the structure morph into a luxurious, multi-facility resort. Among the facilities that Goodyear commissioned were a series of “wickiups” (or “wigwams”) just beyond the original main building front entrance for guests to temporarily occupy. The company also began laying the groundwork for a future nine-hole golf course, which would serve as the destination’s primary attraction. Thus on Thanksgiving Day in 1929, the Organization House reopened as “The Wigwam Guest Ranch” to great acclaim. Families from across the country flocked to Goodyear’s new resort, engaging in a wealth of activities ranching from horseback riding to hiking. Patrons were even allowed access to the Goodyear Blimp!

Goodyear shifted toward wartime production when America entered World War II in 1941. Its rubber goods became central components in all sorts of military-grade equipment. The company’s factories helped create parts that built a wealth of planes, tanks, and guns. But the war also fundamentally changed how Goodyear ran The Wigwam. It shuttered the resort from public consumption, instead opting to use it exclusively for the pilots stationed at nearby Luke Field. The Wigwam quickly became a popular attraction among the airmen, who often went on leave to spend their weekends at the resort. Memories of Goodyear’s treatment toward those serving at Luke Field persisted long after the war had ended, as future generations of servicemen and women frequently sojourned to the resort. Members of the military were not the only people to visit The Wigwam once the fighting had stopped. It quickly resumed is status one of the state’s most fantastic retreats. Many luminaries went out of their way to spend time at the resort, such as the likes of Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, and Shirley Booth. General Manager Reade Whitwell was largely responsible for the economic renaissance that befell The Wigwam. He firmly pushed the resort into the national spotlight, highlighting its elegant appeal and natural tranquility.

Goodyear eventually closed its cotton-farming operations when it started diversifying its portfolio in the 1960s. Focusing more on real-estate development, the company began constructing a series of preplanned communities across Litchfield Park. Nevertheless, Goodyear left Arizona completely in the mid-1980sa and sold some 13,000 acres that once belonged to the Southwest Cotton Company to several businesses. Among the holdings that it sold was The Wigwam, which went to the Suncor Development Corporation for a sum of $221 million. Yet, its ownership of the resort was brief, selling it to a Japanese investment firm call “Kabuto” some four years later. Kabuto subsequently invested some $13 million into another series of renovations that saw the addition of 90 guestrooms onto the main building. JDM Partners then acquired The Wigwam alongside a few other investors in 2008. Determined to preserve the resort’s proud heritage, the group initiated what was perhaps the greatest restoration project to date. Today, The Wigwam remains among the best places to vacation in the southwestern United States.

  • About the Location +

    Located a few miles outside of Phoenix, the Town of Litchfield Park is a historic community that was originally founded by Paul W. Litchfield in the early 20th century. Litchfield was an associate of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, which was rapidly growing into one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world. Tires at the time needed cotton to strengthen the rubber coating, so a steady supply of either resource was necessary to keep the business profitable. Unfortunately, World War I had greatly disrupted global supply chains across the world, affecting Goodyear’s ability to acquire the cotton it desperately needed. A fair amount of its cotton imports came directly from Egypt, which was nominally governed by the British Empire. German U-boat attacks had greatly interfered with the ability of British merchants to ship the material west across the Atlantic, leading to a drop in supply throughout America. Like many other American corporations in the 1900s, Goodyear sought to further enhance its ability to control the flow of raw materials to its factories. Instead of locating a new trade partner, its executive leadership determined that it was better to merely construct its own cotton-growing facility somewhere in the southern reaches of the United States.

    Upon the suggestion of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Goodyear sent Paul W. Litchfield to the Phoenix area in order to find a place suitable for a massive commercial cotton farm. He first attempted to inspire local agriculturalists to produce large quantities of cotton on Goodyear’s behalf, but encountered little interest. Undeterred, Litchfield convinced the company to allow him to produce the cotton directly. Goodyear consented and made him president of the newly founded Southwest Cotton Company. Litchfield soon acquired some 36,000 acres of land in the Salt River Valley, which soon became the heart of Goodyear’s cotton operation. But Litchfield had also set aside 5,000 acres to create a seasonal housing complex for the field workers to inhabit. Furthermore, he portioned some land to craft his own estate—Rancho La Loma—as well as a temporary executive lodging called the “Organization House.” The entire area was thus referred to as “Litchfield Ranch” before becoming “Litchfield Park” in 1926. Most of the earliest inhabitants of the community were Mexican and Native American men, although some had their families join them by the end of the decade.

    The endeavor proved to be fruitful for Goodyear, even after the Great Depression severely handicapped the American economic. It handsomely rewarded Litchfield, making him both its president and board chairmen. Litchfield himself still continued to use his ranch, eventually retiring to it in 1958. But Litchfield Park had grown into a vibrant holiday destination by this point, with The Wigwam (the former Organization House) as its central attraction. Both The Wigwam and the wider community of Litchfield Park were still firmly under the control of Goodyear, though. In 1964, Goodyear created the “Litchfield Park Land Development Company” as a means of expanding the size of the town to accommodate 90,000 residents. While Arden E. Goodyear served at the head of the enterprise, Patrick Cusick and Victor Gruen spearheaded the plan. They subsequently hired Emanuel Cartsonis to help create a general street grid that would feature 25,000 private homes. Yet, their plan also called for the creation of 18 elementary schools, 10 junior high schools, and six regular high schools, as well as both a college and junior college. While they made some headway into the project, the men experienced significant difficulties along the way. Frustrated, they decided to abandon the construction, and sold whatever undeveloped land that was available. As a result, Litchfield grew organically over the remainder of the century.


  • About the Architecture +

    When Goodyear executive Paul Litchfield began constructing the “Organization House” in the late 1910s, he chose Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture for his inspiration. Four decades later, the same architectural form was utilized by General Manager Reade Whitwell to create the resort’s iconic “casita” housing that now defines its present appearance. Also known as “Spanish Eclectic,” Spanish Colonial Revival architecture a representation of themes typically seen in early Spanish colonial settlements. Original Spanish colonial architecture borrowed its design principles from Moorish, Renaissance, and Byzantine forms, which made it incredibly decorative and ornate. The general layout of those structures called for a central courtyard, as well as thick stucco walls that could endure Latin America’s diverse climate. Among the most recognizable features within those colonial buildings involved heavy carved doors, spiraled columns, and gabled red-tile roofs. Architect Bertram Goodhue was the first to widely popularize Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, spawning a movement to incorporate the style more broadly in American culture at the beginning of the 20th century. Goodhue received a platform for his designs at the Panama-California Exposition of 1915, in which Spanish Colonial architecture was exposed to a national audience for the first time. His push to preserve the form led to a revivalist movement that saw widespread use of Spanish Colonial architecture throughout the country, specifically in California and Florida. Spanish Colonial Revival-style architecture reached its zenith during the early 1930s, although a few American businesspeople—including Patrick J. Kennedy—continued to embrace the form well into the late 20th century. 


  • Famous Historic Guests +

    Bing Crosby, singer and actor known for his roles in Going My Way and The Bells of St. Mary’s.

    Gene Autry, actor known for such roles in The Phantom Empire, In Old Santa Fe, and The Old Corral.

    Paul Newman, actor known for his roles in such films like Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

    Shirley Booth, actress best remembered for her roles in Come Back, Little Sheba, and Hazel.

    Bill Boyd, actor best remembered for his role as the cowboy hero “Hopalong Cassidy.”

    Maya Angelou, civil rights activist and poet known for such works like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

    George W. Bush, 43rd President of the United States (2001 – 2009)


  • Film, TV and Media Connections +

    Love’s Last Resort (2017)


  • Women in History +

    Maya Angelou: Of the many luminaries to visit The Wigwam over the years, few are as distinguished as American poet, actress, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou. The author of seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and countless other works of literature, Angelou’s spectacular career lasted for some 50 years. Perhaps the most critically acclaimed work that she produced was her first—I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. The first in her seven-part autobiographical series, the book is a first-hand account of her childhood and adolescence. It is a classic “coming-of-age” story that demonstrated how the strength of the spirit can overcome the obstacles of trauma. Her evolution specifically illustrated her growth from a victim of racism to a strong woman capable of confronting prejudice.

    She went on to have a diverse career as a young adult, working in occupations that ranged from being a nightclub dancer to serving a fry cook. Angelo even spent time as a cast member for the operatic troupe, Porgy and Bess. But she soon found herself immersed in the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-20th century, acting as a coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Soon enough, Angelou was protesting alongside the likes of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. But Angelou never stopped writing. She continued to create all kinds of literary productions, including a ten-part television series called Black, Blue, Black. Aired in 1968, it explored the influences of African cultural on American society. Angelou also built a strong reputation as an actress, receiving a Tony Award nomination for her performance in Look Away.

    In testimony for her great contributions to the arts, Maya Angelou earned countless accolades throughout her life. For instance, Wake Forest University made her a professor of its American Studies program during the early 1980s. She also was invited to be the first poet since Robert Frost to speak at a presidential inauguration, performing her poem “On the Pulse of Morning” in 1993. Her other honorary speaking engagements included commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations and elegizing the death of Nelson Mandela. Perhaps the greatest honor bestowed upon her was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which she received shortly before her death in 2014.


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