Wrigley Mansion

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Description

During the Depression, chewing gum mogul William Wrigley, Jr. bought Biltmore Hotel and built the Wrigley Mansion nearby for his wife. The Wrigley's used the mansion as a winter home where they would stop each year on their journey from Chicago to Catalina Island. This tour of the mansion explores its construction and rich history.

Transcript

Narrator:
High on a hill overlooking the Arizona Biltmore Hotel sits the Wrigley Mansion . In times past, it was a winter destination, and like its contemporary, the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, a place that epitomized gracious living. The histories of the Wrigley Mansion and the Biltmore are entwined. After gum magnate and Chicago Cubs owner William Wrigley Jr. bought out the MacArthur brothers' interest in the Biltmore, he built the house on the hill overlooking the hotel. Finished in 1931, it was intended as a 50th-anniversary gift for his wife, Ada .

Cynthia Parker:
They had five homes. This one was only a winter cottage. It was the smallest of their five homes at 17,000 square feet, and it was just a way station, a little place to stop over on their way to Catalina Island , which they owned. So they would pass through here in the wintertime. And that meant that the furnishings that were here were intended to be comfortable and inviting but luxurious because many dignitaries and important people knew the Wrigleys and came to visit them here.

Narrator:
The mansion was called La Colina Solana, the sunny hill, and provides dramatic views of the valley. Wrigley employed architect Earl Heitschmidt to design the house.

Vernon Swaback:
I think for people who came to the West from back east, they wanted to capture the Southwest charm. So the architecture here has been described as California mission, revival, a bit of Mediterranean , and a little Spanish, all combined.

Narrator:
The style of the mansion contrasts with the Biltmore, which bears an unmistakable debt to Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright was a friend of the Wrigleys but didn't have much respect for the mansion.

Vernon Swaback:
As you might know, there's quite a difference in the architectural character between the Wrigley Mansion and the Arizona Biltmore Hotel. Wright never believed on building on the top of the hill. He talked about his own home in Wisconsin as building on the brow. If you build on the top, you destroy the hill and so forth. At one point he said to Phil Wrigley, who was the chewing gum magnate, you know, he said, "well Phil, I see you stuck your whole wad on the top of the hill."

Narrator:
William Wrigley died only a year after completing the house and left the business to his son Philip. Efforts to restore the house to its original style are ongoing. The Wrigleys' taste has been described as eclectic.

Cynthia Parker:
This is the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Wrigley, the room where he died. It has been restored as much as possible to its original appearance, and you'll notice also in this room, we have one of the unique fireplaces, each one in the house being different.

Narrator:
The house's interior displays a trove of various styles and motifs. The ceiling in the rotunda was done by Giovanni Smeraldi, a very famous artist who also did the regal Biltmore in downtown Los Angeles . And it is a somewhat Moroccan style with a star in the center radiating outward, and it was done with a combination of gold leaf and rich colors of red and black. The living room also has a fabulous ceiling done by Smeraldi, and in particular, it incorporates two motifs. Mr. Wrigley had English heritage, so he has the lion. Mrs. Wrigley traced her lineage to the French, so there is the Fleur-de-lis.

Narrator:
Although the Spanish mission style tends to predominate, the art deco bathrooms surprise with colorful tiles brought via boat, train, and mule from Catalina Island . Some of the former bedrooms have been converted to dining rooms. The star motif is pervasive inside and outside the house. It's fashioned into the railings. The Biltmore has been called the star of the desert, and that spilled over to the Wrigley Mansion .

Narrator:
The spilling over worked both ways. The Wrigleys would sometimes put up their guests in the Biltmore. Later, after the Wrigleys sold the properties to Talley Industries, the reverse was true.

Mae Sue Talley:
When we had an overflow of guests, we would put some of them up in the Wrigley house because we owned that, of course, and we had kept it very much the same. We hadn't changed it, but we'd put some up there in the bedrooms up there.

Narrator:
Geordie Hormel, an heir to the Hormel meatpacking fortune, bought the house in 1992 and set about restoring it. Now the entire mansion, including all of the former bedrooms, are open for wining, dining, entertaining, and it's a wonderful place, especially for weddings and banquets.

Narrator:
Over the years, the city of Phoenix and lush gardens have grown up around the

Wrigley Mansion .
The sprawling winter cottage sits atop its hill drenched in the desert sun, reflecting a classic style that never really goes out of fashion.