CAVE CITY, Ky. (FOX 56) – Wigwam Village No. 2 is a blast from the past.

“I’ll never forget the first time I pulled up and saw it,” said Megan Smith. “Oh my god, it was awesome!”

And more than eight decades after it was built, it’s still a blast to see.

Keith Stone surprised Megan Smith with a getaway trip here during Labor Day weekend of 2020.

“When we arrived, it was my first time. My mind was blown,” she said. “And Keith said, ‘Well, you know it’s for sale.'”

And that set the wheels in motion which led to the Louisville couple becoming the new owners of an iconic roadside motel that was built in 1937.

They said when they found out their bid was accepted, it was like winning the lottery.

It’s a labor of love renovating the property. Stone said he hasn’t come across the blueprints, but he believes they will turn up one day. But because both he and Smith have backgrounds in architecture, they have a pretty good idea of how the 15 concrete teepees should be repaired.

They do have the original patent, which has been a help as they rework some features inside the rooms, adding modern safety and energy-saving features while maintaining the original look and feel.

Inside the rounded walls, you’ll find either one or two beds, a small dresser, and yes, there is a bathroom and a shower. But the new owners say a lot of the experience of staying here has always happened outside the cone-shaped structures.

Stone said, “People would spend a lot of time in the area we call ‘the bowl.’ They would play games and picnic and make a bonfire. Then the weirdest thing would happen– people would talk to each other.”

They say it still happens today, and they make a nightly bonfire to encourage strangers to get together for conversation.

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By 1949, there were seven Wigwam Villages around the nation. The first one was just up the road in Horse Cave. Only three remain. This one, and number six in Arizona, and number seven in California.”

They were the brainchild of businessman Frank Redford, who wanted his motels to stand out from all the others popping up in the middle of the 20th century.

Stone said Redford intentionally got some things wrong. “These do not look like wigwams, they look like teepees. He did not like the sound of teepee village, so he renamed it.” Traditional wigwams are dome-shaped. Neither wigwams nor teepees were used by Native Americans in Kentucky.

Stone and Smith are sensitive to the fact that building such a motel today would be seen as offensive. They try hard to balance preservation with political correctness. They do not sell staying here as a Native American experience, even though Redford did. They celebrate the motel as an architectural wonder and a piece of Americana from the early days of road travel.

“We think those things help to counterbalance the cultural appropriation and swing the pendulum back to Wigwam Village No. 2 being worth preserving and restoring,” Stone said.

Plus, Smith adds, “they’re just so darn cute.”

The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The new owners have plans to turn the large teepee (they call it “The Big Wam”) that used to house the office and a restaurant into a coffee shop.

Wigwam Village has been described in a lot of ways over the decades — tacky and wacky, fascinating and fun. It’s good to know that this piece of the past has a future, thanks to new owners who love everything about it.

“We watch the public drive by and you see those mouths open up and you see them say, ‘This is amazing.’ It happens every day,” Smith said.

“So if you’re wondering why someone would want to buy this place and restore it, my main answer would be, ‘Who wouldn’t want to?'”

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