Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Arizona - Phoenix - Wrigley Mansion

Rich always displays mock annoyance at other husbands who go out of their ways to please their wives, saying that "they are bad influences and set the bar too high".   When we heard the history of William Wrigley Jr, the founder of Wrigley gum and his acts of love for his wife Ada, Rich knew that he was way out of his league.

Wrigley bought Catalina Island and built a home with 360 degree views on Mount Ada, named after his wife. 

Then for their 50th wedding anniversary, he built Wrigley Mansion, again up on a hill with panoramic views of Phoenix including the Biltmore Hotel (which he also owned), and Camelback Mountain (also known locally as Praying Monk Mountain due to a small mound of earth that seems to represent that shape).

We took a guided tour of the mansion which included lunch at Geordie's, the in-house restaurant.  The mansion contains 24 rooms, 12 bathrooms, spans 19,000 square feet and cost 1.2 million dollars when it was built in 1930.  In the ballroom sits a Steinway piano that was rigged to play automatically via remote control.  Wrigley arranged for George Gershwin, Ada's favourite musician, to record 10 songs for the piano.  The remote control had a long cord so that Ada could listen to the music while curled up by the fireplace.  The tour-guide played us a sample of Gershwin's Rapsody in Blues and the acoustics were amazing.

Wrigley owned the Catalina Tile Company for a few years and all the bathrooms in the mansion are walled with ceramic tiles made from this factory. 

We learned that Wrigley was a very kind and generous employer.  He treated his 14 servants like family and gave each of them their own bedroom and bathroom.  The sample room we saw was lavishly furnished and not what you would expect for a servant's quarter.  At his company, he gave provided life and health insurance for his employees and was one of the first to support 5 day work weeks.

After William and Ada Wrigley had passed away, the mansion was up for sale and possible demolition when it was bought and restored by millionaire stew maker George (Geordie) Hormel.  Geordie was an eccentric who liked to wear his hair long and dress like a hippie.  He was known to play the piano at the mansion during Sunday brunch and was often thought to be a homeless man by the restaurant patrons, which he thought was hilarious.  It was interesting to see old photos of Geordie as a young man, including his wedding photo with his first wife, actress Leslie Caron! 

We had lunch in the restaurant named after Geordie, where I had a mahi mahi fish sandwich with truffled french fries and Rich had a "caprese salad" although it was made with spinach instead of basil.

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