Cave City’s Wigwam Village Inn, with its teepee-like motel rooms and towering neon “Sleep in a Wigwam” sign, has been a traffic stopper along U.S. 31-W for more than 80 years.
Now the attraction that is on the National Register of Historic Places is grabbing attention of a different sort: from potential buyers.
Bowling Green’s Afzal and Masuda Rahim, owners of the quirky tourist attraction since 2005, have decided to retire from the inn-keeping business and sell the property that is now very nearly one-of-a-kind.
Built in 1937, the Cave City Wigwam Village and its 15 steel frame and concrete sleeping rooms is one of only three of the Native American-themed motels left in the U.S. Maybe because of that rarity, the local landmark attracted an Old West-style gold rush when it was listed with Glasgow Realtor Kerry Mears for $395,000.
“It was unbelievable,” Mears said of the response to the listing. “I knew people would be interested, but I was surprised at how many. I’ve had calls from California, Iowa, Georgia and other places.”
Mears is no longer fielding calls about Wigwam Village, though. After listing the property last month, Mears believes she has it sold.
“It is under contract,” Mears said Thursday. “The buyer is out of Lexington. We may close in a month or so.”
“There was a lot of interest,” confirmed Afzal Rahim. “We had multiple offers. We were a little surprised.”
A professor of management at Western Kentucky University for 36 years before retiring this year, the native of India managed to keep alive one of southcentral Kentucky’s signature attractions for 15 years.
He and his wife bought Wigwam Village from John Ivan, and Afzal Rahim said they found it to be a good investment.
“It was a good property,” he said. “People came from all over the country and from Europe, Australia and other places. People are still interested in staying there. It is something different.”
It always has been. The Cave City attraction was actually Wigwam Village No. 2, coming a couple of years after founder Frank Redford built the first Wigwam Village in Horse Cave.
Redford added more Wigwam Villages, building five more for a total of seven by 1949. Today, the Cave City site joins locations along Route 66 in Arizona and California as the only Wigwam Villages still in operation.
The Rahims renovated the rooms and maintained the gift shop in the large teepee structure that was once a restaurant.
Afzal Rahim said the 4.5-acre property still has great potential.
“There’s room to build something else on the property,” he said. “We thought about expanding but didn’t proceed. There are opportunities because of the amount of land. The next person might be willing to do it.”
The outside of the structures on the property can’t be dramatically altered since Wigwam Village Inn was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988; but Mears believes the next owner could make some other changes to keep the attraction viable.
“She wants to do a lot of restoration,” Mears said of the potential buyer. “She could put the restaurant back in. I live in Cave City, so I’m very excited to see someone come in and do some restoration.”
Afzal Rahim, who also owns the Cave City Budget Inn, said selling Wigwam Village is bittersweet.
“If we were younger we might keep it,” he said. “It’s difficult to part with these things we’ve created, but you have to let go.”