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History on Wigwam Villages tidied up, enhanced, a bit

Tom Chaney of the Bookstore corrects mistake in in Today, today, together with wonderful stories about the Wigwams only he could know

By Tom Chaney
Proprietor, The Bookstore in Horse Cave, KY
He who knows almost everything Historic and Cavernal.

Robert Stone called my attention to your note on Frank Redford and the patent for the Wigwam Villages.

Please allow me to make one correction and some additional information.

The original Wigwam Village #1 is no longer extant (as earlier indicated in CM Today, Today, Sunday, February 18, 2007 -Ed). It was located at the junction of KY 218 and US 31-E three and a half miles east of Horse Cave. It was closed many years ago and was demolished in the late 1970s, I believe. The Wigwam General Store is located on the site of the cafe. The cabins were located in a circle around the depression just behind the store.

There is a brick duplex house at the outer perimeter of that circle which was, in my youth, occupied by the manager of #1. His name escapes me at the moment, but he had a daughter Eleanor who was in my sister Ann's class in school. The manager and his wife were friends of our parents. We visited them occasionally.

A few years ago I came into possession of a box of business records from #1. In the mass of payroll records and invoices were insurance bills from my father's firm, Withers, Chaney and Green (Before you die, buy, burn or blow away, see us!)

Mr. Redford then built #2 in Cave City with a larger cafe and, I think, more cabins. It is the one still in operation. It was built facing the new 31-W between the old 31-W, now KY 335, at the point of their junction.

My father also carried the insurance on #2. Soon after #2 opened, Frank Redford called my father Boots Chaney to come to the motel where he and others were about to open one of the cabins whose occupant could not be raised and whose car was still parked by the cabin.

The man was discovered dead. It was determined that he died of asphyxiation. There was the possibility of suicide.

Sometime later Boots got a similar call. The occupants had a car with Chicago plates at a time when there was an alert out for a gangster from Chicago who was believed to have fled south. Frank Redford and others were concerned about the possibility of foul play.

When the cabin was opened it was discovered that the occupants were a young, newlywed couple from Chicago who had died at the moment of the consummation of connubial bliss. They had some difficulty separating them.

Boots ordered the motel closed until the problem be discovered and corrected.

He said that an investigation laid the blame on the vented gas heaters in the cabins. While there were vents, the conical shape of the cabins combined with thermal inversions. Mr. Redford scrapped the gas vents and installed a central steam heating system for the entire motor court.

I believe seven Wigwams were built--some by Redford and others by franchisers. One or two were in the New Orleans area. Another was built in Arizona along US 66 (it is still in operation). The other two were in California.

I have been told that the franchise fee received by Redford consisted of the receipts from the pay radios in each cabin.

A few years back a man from Indiana was a diner at the Bookstore. He said that his father had been the architect for the Wigwams. I failed to get his name and any more information. I shoulda orta have done that.
PS: Thanks for running my columns from time to time.

PSS: James Miles and I are trying a book fair here next weekend. Call The Bookstore for additional information.

Tom Chaney can be found telling stories, smoking pipe-weed, and occasionally selling books at THE BOOKSTORE, Box 73, 111 Water Street, Horse Cave, KY 42749. Phone 270-786-3084. Email: Tom Chaney Click here for The Bookstore.

Related:To read the Wikipedia entry on Wigwam Villages, Click Here

This story was posted on 2007-02-18 17:44:30
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