Tuesday, July 29, 2014

William Wrigley Jr.'s Winter "Cottage"

A 50th Wedding Anniversary Gift
La Colina Solana

High upon a hill in Phoenix, in the shadows of Piestawa Peak, rests the venerable Mission Revival Wrigley Mansion. 

The Phoenix Wrigley Mansion

The original 16,000 Square foot "cottage" cost $1,200,000 to build (approximately $20,500,000 in 2014 dollars). Earl Heitschmidt of Los Angeles was the architect. Before designing the Wrigley Mansion Heitschmidt was a key designer of Los Angeles' Biltmore Hotel on Pershing Square. Heitschmidt's later projects include CBS Studios in Hollywood and LA's Park LaBrea.

The home, a wedding gift for William's wife Ada, was completed in 1931 and is the smallest of Wrigley's six homes. It contains 24 rooms and 12 bathrooms. Of the many bedrooms there were only 4 designated for the family. The intent was for the Wrigley's winter guests to instead stay at Wrigley's nearby Arizona Biltmore Hotel.

The Mansion's Main Entry Hall

The Wrigley imprint is found in almost every detail of the home including the rose above the front door, the chewing gum wrapper wallpaper in the telephone room and symbolic fresco references to Ada's French heritage and William's English heritage.

The Phone Room 
With Wrigley Spearmint "Wrapper" Wallcovering

A Rose for Ada 

The Crown Chandelier in the Entry 

The ceiling's were painted by Giovanni Smeraldi (who in 1923 worked with Heitschmidt painting  LA's Biltmore Hotel).

The Living Room

The beautiful tiles in the house were cast in the Pebble Beach Quarry and Tile Works on Catalina Island. Wrigley owned both the tile company and Catalina Island.

Catalina Tile

Door Panel
Woodworking Detail 

The mansion also happens to be where Wrigley died in 1932. After Wrigley's death the family kept the house, using it as one of their winter retreats for many years.

The home was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989 and was purchased in 1992 by meat packing heir and musician George (Geordie) Hormel. Hormel carefully restored the home and enclosed its large porches which expanded it to 19,000 Square feet.  Since Biltmore covenants prevent the building from being used as a restaurant, Hormel opened it as a "private" club, open to anyone, for a token fee.

Geordie Hormel was somewhat of a legend as well.  His life included four marriages (the first being Leslie Caron), numerous children and a successful musical career of his own.

Geordie's September 1951 Wedding to Leslie Caron

Geordie regularly performed in the mansion on its magnificent Steinway until his own death in 2006.

The "Blank Check" Steinway

And the Steinway is not just any Steinway. This was one of only two ever created with a "jukebox" player feature. It was ordered by William Wrigley before the stock market crash and reportedly the Steinway Company offered to release him from the order for the piano. Instead, lore has it that Wrigley sent Steinway a blank check to confirm he still wanted it. The other Player Steinway is in the Smithsonian. Many of the mansion's guests played the piano including Liberace and George Gershwin. Liberace reportedly attempted to buy it but was told it went with the house.

Geordie's Lounge

After 20 years of living in Phoenix I had never made the trek up the hill to see William Wrigley's cottage. Last Saturday I corrected that oversight with a lovely lunch and a tour. 

Ada's Cottage on the Sunny Hill 

Like all good architecture, the building has outlived it's creators and benefactors. And, now 82 years after its completion, Wrigley's Sunny Hill still hosts new generations of Phoenicians and their guests.

Roadboy's Travel © 2014

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