So here it is March already and I have broken my New Year’s resolutions many times over. I didn’t actually write it down….but it was in my head. My resolution? Write on my blog more consistently….have a plan….like once a week. Well, well that didn’t materialize, so I changed it again in my head. In February it was “write one post a month.” Surely I could manage to get out 12 posts in a year. Evidently not. Maybe if I had actually written it down, gotten it out of my brain and onto a piece of paper, I might have had a better chance. But life is all about second chances and “do-overs”, so I’m trying again.
Back in November I challenged anyone who might have read my blog to go and Look in Your Own Backyard. I’m sure if anyone did that, but you really should do this sooner rather than later and not be like my mother. Last year, I went to visit my mother who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She moved there in 1976. 40 years ago….well, now 41 years ago. It took her 37 years before she visited the Grand Canyon….which is only a mere 3 hour drive away. So while I was there, I thought we should visit some of the other fun sights that are in her own backyard. We made a “bucket list” of places my mother has never seen….so in two weeks time we tackled a mansion, a castle, three National Park Monuments and one historic village, plus we checked out a special light show at the Desert Botanical Gardens and spent an afternoon watching the National Hoop Dancing Competition. Whew! My mother was born and raised in Chicago, so one of our first ventures in backyard exploring was to visit the The Wrigley Mansion. Yes, there is a little slice of Chicago in Phoenix. William Wrigley, Jr., yes….that famous maker of chewing gum and former owner of the Chicago Cubs, and for whom Wrigley Field in Chicago is named built a house in Phoenix. William Wrigley, Jr. started building this mansion in 1929 for his beloved wife, Ada, as a gift for their 50th Wedding anniversary. It was completed in 1931. Cost? $1.2 million….that was a lot of money back in the days of the Great Depression. With over 16,000 square feet of living space the house has 24 rooms, 12 bathrooms and eight fireplaces….and is the smallest of the six homes that Wrigley owned. He didn’t get to enjoy the house for very long as William Wrigley died in 1932 shortly after moving into the house. The cause of death according to the newspaper headlines was that he was a “victim of indigestion”. Built on a 100 foot high hill, the views from the front porch are amazing as the house overlooks the city of Phoenix. Phoenix was a relatively small city back in 1929 and back then this house was considered to be on the outskirts of the city. You can see the downtown area off in the distance. And in the other picture below, Camelback Mountain. Directly below the house and not seen in the picture is the Arizona Biltmore, that Wrigley also owned. Many of his house guests stayed there and not in the house as each of their 14 servants had their own room, plus four rooms designated just for the family, that didn’t leave many rooms for guests. The house has been described as “Spanish style” and with a “Moroccan theme”, partially due to the beautiful tile work and handpainted ceilings. 99% of the tiles in the house came from the Pebble Beach Quarry and Tile Works on Catalina Island, that William Wrigley also owned. The tiles were shipped from California and then brought by mule the last 10 miles up the hill to be installed at the mansion. An abundance of the tile can be found in the 12 bathrooms. They are much more impressive in person than in pictures. Apparently having a “couch” to rest on in the bathroom was the in thing. Besides beautiful tile work there are also several handpainted ceilings, like this rotunda in the grand foyer entrance.
And this ceiling….which is in the living room where guests were entertained. Again, pictures don’t do this justice. The living room is also home to one of the more unique features of this home….a 1929 Steinway player piano. It is one of only 2 Steinway player pianos ever produced and is now worth a staggering $18 million dollars! It plays 10 different songs…all George Gershwin tunes as Wrigley arranged for his wife’s favourite composer & musician, George Gershwin, to record them. And it has a remote control too…so Wrigley’s wife, Ada could listen and change the music while relaxing by the fire on the other side of the room. And where is the other piano? Why at the Smithsonian Museum of course. Story has it that William Wrigley ordered the piano right before the stock market crash in 1929. The Steinway company offered to release Wrigley from his purchase contract after the crash, but instead Wrigley sent a blank check to Steinway as a confirmation that yes, he did still want to purchase the piano. The deed for the mansion property includes a caveat that all of the belongings in the home were considered to be part of the property, so any owner had to preserve the history of the home and the belongings in it…..including the piano. The Wrigley family owned and used the house for several weeks during the year until the house was sold in 1972. It passed through two additional owners, one being Western Savings, who used the property as a private club for the elite of Phoenix before being purchased by the current owner, George “Geordie” Hormel. Geordie Hormel was a musician and part of the family that owns Hormel meats…(yes, those meats in a can). An avid pianist, he wanted to purchase the piano….so in 1992 he purchased the house to get it!
There is one other interesting room inside the house….this telephone operator’s room which is just just off the grand foyer. It might not look like anything special, but notice the “silver” walls. Up close it’s easier to see, but those walls are lined with foil wrapper paper!The same silver foil that is used in Wrigley gum! I’m not sure why, but I expected it to smell like “Juicy Fruit” or maybe “Spearmint”, but I was disappointed. Guests would place their calls through the operator in this room. But if you could always make a call using this phone booth that is in one of the upper hallways!
Geordie Hormel spent several million dollars refurbishing the home and enclosing the outdoor patios. The property, in keeping with the city regulations, is operated as a “private club”, however anyone can “join”. Today it houses a restaurant, lounge, and even a wine bar in the library. The tour is a fun way to spend the afternoon and some of the most interesting things are all the memorabilia that covers the hallway walls….especially if you are a Chicago Cubs fan!
Next up is the Mystery Castle…..so stayed tuned!