Monday, April 6, 2009

Wrigley Mansion

Phoenix, AZ

The living room and adjoining sun room of the Wrigley Mansion are perfect for a small wedding while the bar and patio host a weekly wine tasting. Dinner is served from 5 to 9 PM in the main dining room which is at times also used for corporate functions.

The tour of this house was equal parts architectural or historical nuggets and sales promotion. This seems entirely appropriate given that that the mansion was built by William Wrigley, the consummate salesman and marketer.

The Wrigley mansion was built in the late 1920's as an anniversary present for William Wrigley's wife Ada. The mansion which sits atop a 100-foot knoll has Spanish, mission and Italian influences. It was one of 5 homes owned by the Wrigley's. While the family held onto the home until the 1970's William spent only one night there. He died at the mansion that night of "acute indigestion, complicated by apoplexy and heart disease".

The Wrigley name is no doubt known by you. If you're a baby boomer you can't forget the twins who promised you'd double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint gum. And while I'm not a baseball fan I have heard of Wrigley Field in Chicago.

The William Wrigley Jr company originally sold soap and baking powder. As a marketing gimmick gum was added to each package. The gum became the more prized product and the company changed its focus to confections.

Another cleaver marketing strategy was to give 4 sticks of gum to every household in the phone book. I was struck by the enormity of this, then stepped back and realized that in the early 1900's there were a lot fewer people with phones.

During the first world war Wrigley lobbied to have gum declared a war necessity and included in the K pack. His success lead to production shortages necessitating its removal from the public market. Wrigley continued advertising with the slogan "remember this wrapper".

One of the most beautiful features of the home is the Catalina tile used in the 8 bathrooms and numerous fireplaces. The tile was manufactured on Catalina Island which was owned by Wrigley.

In another instance of combining his businesses, Wrigley papered the small telephone switchboard room of the Phoenix mansion with the tin foil used to wrap Wrigley gum. The results were odd but interesting.

Wrigley was among the original investors in the Arizona Biltmore hotel. And when the stock market collapsed in 1929 he became the sole owner. While in Phoenix consulting on the Biltmore, Frank Lloyd Wright expressed his dislike of the Wrigley Mansion. His objections started with the siting of the mansion atop a hill.

While I didn't appreciate the sales promotion aspect of the tour I did enjoy seeing the home. And its easy to visit it and the Biltmore Hotel at the same time. They're probably less than a mile from one another. We spent a pleasant sunny afternoon touring the two.

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