Preservation of historic locations and notable landmarks that give southcentral Kentucky its unique character is an important endeavor, but it too often seems that such pursuits are not prioritized amid the march of progress and new development.
In Cave City, however, property owners Keith Stone and Megan Smith are trying to rehabilitate a venerable slice of local lore, which has also earned at least a little bit of national renown: Wigwam Village No. 2, the memorable roadside inn that has drawn visitors and onlookers to U.S. 31-W since 1937 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In a country that seems increasingly dominated by cookie-cutter hotels and motels along indistinguishable interstate exits, the Wigwam Village harkens back to an era of travel entirely unfamiliar to younger generations. So, even though the notion of a motel consisting of wigwam-shaped rooms is inherently silly, the ambitions of Stone and Smith are anything but frivolous. If they are successful in their aims – to restore the facility to its “1937 splendor,” as Stone puts it, while also adding modern touches that appeal to modern travelers – then they will achieve the best of both worlds: They will let visitors experience a taste of history in an environment entirely comfortable to contemporary life.
Stone and Smith have been at work since March, and they hosted a major event for the village Saturday, when they reintroduced its famed “Sleep in a Wigwam” sign after it was refurbished by Louisville’s Rueff Sign Co. That project received a financial boost from the Cave City Tourist and Convention Commission. The commission’s involvement bodes well for the village’s prospects, since it suggests the entire community is interested in seeing the wigwams brought back to life.
“It’s such an icon for this area,” said Greg Davis, executive director for the commission. “One of the top questions we get when we go to conferences is if the wigwams are still there. It has been in need of repair. ... We’re very pleased to see it come back.”
Plenty of work remains, of course, but certain circumstances might be working in the new owners’ favor. For one thing, they seem perfectly suited for the tasks at hand: Stone has an architectural background, while Smith is interested in historic preservation. In addition, the timing might be right – as life in the United States slowly but surely comes back online following the long coronavirus shutdowns, people are itching to get out and explore. An unusual site (and sight) such as Wigwam Village No. 2 – it’s one of only three that is still standing, with the others in Arizona and California – would seem to an ideal destination for travelers drawn to the quirkier stops on the road.
We join the Cave City community in looking forward to the village’s future, and we wish Stone and Smith good luck and good fortune as they work toward their goals.