Building Description Wigwam Village - Tee Pee Motel, Cave City Kentucky

Wigwam Village No. 2 is perhaps the most whimsical and eye-catching architectural landmark in Barren County. Featuring 18 steel and concrete tepees, the 1937 motor court in the northern outskirts of Cave City occupies a site bordered on the front (east) and back (west) by new Highway 31W and old Highway 31W, respectively. The newer two-lane Highway 31W, a major north-south route in the southern Pennyrile region of Kentucky, connects Cave City with the towns of Horse Cave, approximately three miles to the northeast in Hart County, and Park City six miles to the southwest. In downtown Cave City, Highway 31W intersects with Highway 70, the principal access to Mammoth Cave National Park. Just outside of Cave City, Highway 70 crosses I-65, the favored route of the millions of tourists who visit Mammoth Cave and the scores of private recreational attractions, motels and gift shops lining Highway 31W and 70 in Barren County.

Wigwam Village No. 2 is notable for its immaculately maintained appearance. Its pristine quality also is due to the symmetrical and very precise placement of every element. As a motor court, Wigwam Village No. 2 is typical of the early phase of motels in its composition of numerous small buildings, each dedicated to a single function such as a sleeping room or office. At Wigwam Village No. 2 there are 18 units in the identical conical design of a tepee, or wigwam: 15 sleeping rooms and a gift shop/office flanked by two restrooms. In addition, a small frame building stands next to the southwest side of the gift shop, and, in front of the gift shop, a concrete island formerly supporting gasoline pumps features a tall metal and neon sign.

The gift shop/office, small frame building, and two flanking restrooms (one marked "Squaws" and the other "Braves") stand in a row parallel to the highway. Between these four buildings and the highway, an approximately 40-foot-wide asphalt apron runs the full length of the complex and serves as a parking area for gift shop patrons and visitors not spending the night. The 15 sleeping rooms are arranged in a wide arc beginning and ending at the edge of the parking area. A manicured lawn surrounds each unit and descends inside the arc to a large flat area dotted with park benches and brightly painted metal playground equipment. A driveway outlines the outer edge of the arc and an asphalt walkway close to the front doors forms the inner edge. In the space between each unit, a one-car parking pad connects to the driveway. Low, carefully trimmed evergreen hedges define the circular foundations of all 18 tepees. Three mature hardwoods are symmetrically arranged across the lawn and very tall spruces and cedars are clustered to form a backdrop behind the gift shop and restrooms. Numerous hardwoods are scattered across the rear or west end of the property, between the driveway and the old 31W highway.

The exteriors of the 18 "wigwams" vary only in size and number of windows. At 52 feet tall and approximately 35 feet in diameter, the gift shop/office (originally a lunch room and office) is the largest. It has four windows, two windows on each side closer to the entrance, which is protected by a gabled metal canopy. The fifteen sleeping rooms are approximately 20 or 25 feet in diameter and have two windows. The smaller units contain one double bed and the larger units, number six through ten, contain two. The two restroom buildings flanking the gift shop are approximately 15 feet in diameter and have no windows.

All of the wigwams are identical in their conical shapes and proportions. Their structural systems consist of steel angle irons on which metal bands spaced one foot apart are wrapped horizontally and "on the bias" and welded. The frames are covered in a concrete-like stucco which is molded at the entrances into rounded forms intended to simulate open flaps. Wooden doors holding tall jalousie windows are recessed, as are the small square jalousie windows. On the surface of the cone, the window frames also are square but they are turned 45 degrees so that they "rest" on a corner. White paint covers the walls, accented in bright red--at the top of the cone with a jagged lower edge; about halfway up the wall in a bold zig-zag band encircling the building; around the window openings in a narrow zig-zag band with small triangles along the inner edge and marks similar to exclamation points at the corners. The sleeping room numbers above the doors and on the sides next to the respective parking spaces also are red. Four slender metal poles in imitation of the ends of branches project from the top of each wigwam. Two Art Deco-inspired tubular metal and plywood chairs sit at the edge of the lawn opposite the door to each sleeping unit. Pole-mounted floodlights are located between the chairs in front of five of the units.

The interior of the units are sheathed in panels of plywood that give the walls a beveled effect. Dropped flat ceilings are located at a level above that of the exterior zig-zag band. In the narrow bathrooms created by a partition at the rear of the sleeping units, red and white tiles on the floor, walls and stall showers repeat the zig-zag motif.

The small frame building southwest of the office was the original gift shop and now houses ice and drink machines. It is a one-story pyramidal-roofed form sheathed in board and batten. On the narrow concrete platform in front of the gift shop, tall poles with neon "vacancy" and "office" signs suspended in between support a tall metal, two-sided sign in the two-dimensional shape of the units with the slogan "sleep in a wigwam" traced in neon.