Saturday, May 14, 2011

Arizona - Phoenix - Biltmore Hotel and Condos

On the Taliesin West tour,  we learned that Frank Lloyd Wright was a consultant on the design of the Biltmore Hotel.  We were shown a beautiful photo of it, prompting us to go see it in person.  We did not realize until we got there that the Biltmore was also owned by gum magnate William Wrigley and was situated right next to the Wrigley Mansion, which we also planned to tour.  In fact we intended to see the Wrigley Mansion first but our GPS led us right in the middle of the Biltmore complex and insisted that "we had arrived", even though the mansion was actually further up a hill.

Frank Lloyd Wright's influence was obvious both inside and outside the hotel.  In the gardens, the Asian sculptures that he designed featured prominently, and were the same ones found at Taliesin West.
Inside, there is a bar named "Frank and Albert", named after Frank Lloyd Wright and architect Albert Chase McArthur.  The decor prominently featured Wright's favourite colour, a deep orange-red that he used frequently in his furnishings, as well many of his cars.

It was over 36 degrees celsius in the blazing sun in Phoenix (quite a difference from the -2 low in Grand Canyon a few days earlier), so stopping in the bar for a cold drink and air conditioning was top on our agenda.

William Wrigley invested in the construction of the Biltmore just before the Great Depression.  When the markets collapsed, all the other investors went bankrupt.  Wrigley never believed in banks and kept his money stored in vaults on his property, so he was not affected by the stock crash and ended out buying the Biltmore all on his own.

Wrigley was both an altruist as well as an excellent business man.  During World War I, he could not produce enough gum to supply both the troops and the general public, so he decided to send all supplies to the troops.  However he continued to advertise his gum, building excitement so that when the war ended, there was an explosion of pent-up demand for the gum.  This was truly an amazing man as well as a wonderful family man.

On the same "compound" as the Biltmore Hotel were the several condo complexes built around a golf course.  We thought it would be fun to take a tour of the model suite to see how the millionaires live.  To our surprise, we did not get a huge sales pitch or have to fill out any forms or personal information in order to see the suite.  Neither did we get turned away for not looking rich enough to warrant seeing the place.

So we were allowed to wander around on our own through a 3500 square feet, $1.5million condo, imagining where we could hang our art if we lived there ... I think we would have to buy more art!  There was a huge open concept living room/dining room/kitchen area, 3 large bedrooms, each with ensuite bath and walk-in closets, other offices and studies and a large covered ground floor terrace with a view of the golf course.  The place was so large that I kept getting lost.

Continuing further down the road from the condo development, we started getting into the designer homes.  Finally after being in suburbs of Phoenix where cookie cutter homes all looked identical, we were able to see huge houses each with unique design, landscaping and personality.  It was also interesting to note all the Mexican gardeners busy at work on the lawns.  Despite all that effort though, the grass of these upscale homes were still slightly brown from the sun and heat.  There's no escaping the power of the desert, even if you are extremely rich!

One house in particular had a definite Frank Lloyd Wright feel to it with the patterns on the gates.

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