The Wigwam, a member of Historic Hotels of America since 2010, dates back to 1929.
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 easy flow of those resources 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 on-site. 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 ranging 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.