“Have you slept in a Teepee lately?” That’s the burning question the sign out front of The Wigwam Motel asks passer-by’s on Route 66 in San Bernardino, California and the lucky ones can answer yes. If you happen to be passing through, maybe one day you too can say you have slept in a teepee.
When The Wigwam Motel #7 opened in 1949, it was the last in a series of concrete teepee themed motels that popped up along America’a highways from the the early 30’s to late 40’s attracting weary motorists and families alike with its kitsch and gimmicks. Fortunately, it is still possible today to have the same experience as those long gone tourists from the golden age of highway travel in the West. But the fact that it has survived wasn’t always certain. Like so many of the sights along Route 66, the Wigwam Motel fell on hard times and at one point was actually renting by the hour with a different sign out front, encouraging those nearby to “Do it in a teepee.” It was a far cry from the times when children would have been splashing in the pool in the courtyard. Today the future for the Wigwam Motel #7 looks much brighter, and in 2012 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which should help to ensure it will be around for future generations to come.
The renovation that has been completed has turned it back into what it was in its heyday, an attraction itself and not just a place to stay the night. So when staying here don’t expect luxury. It has been renovated in a way to remain true to its original character. The rooms are basic, functional and clean. Tourists decades ago weren’t as demanding for amenities as they are today. They didn’t expect things like spas, workout rooms, free wi-fi (and it’s a good thing since it hadn’t been invented yet,) and room service. You won’t find any of those things here. But what you will find is a truly one of a kind experience you won’t soon forget.
The cars passing by may have changed from gas guzzling boats to hybrids and electric cars, the gas price at the station down the road may be dramatically higher, and you might have booked your room online instead of using the US Postal Service, but fortunately today tourists generations apart are still able to share the same memory of having “slept in teepee.”
San Bernardino, California January 2015