Our family hasn’t done a lot of traveling, but when we do go to new places or see new things, I always get excited over something and then can’t wait to share it with someone.
So it was on a recent vacation to sunny Phoenix to visit a close relative. I know many of you are snowbirds and have just gone to this state for a short stay. But in case you’ve missed the intriguing place of which I am writing, you might want to put it on you list of "must-see’’ places.
I’m speaking of the Wrigley Mansion, built by chewing gum magnate, William Wrigley Jr. Perhaps it would not have been quite so interesting to us except the fact that the guided tour of this magnificent old home ended with a Minnesota twist.
Mr. Wrigley was a unique character and full of creativity from his youth. Expected to follow in the footsteps of his father, who was in the soap business, he became a salesman. He wanted to be extra good at it and he added on an extra bonus to anyone who bought the product — a can of baking powder.
He soon realized that the baking powder did better than the soap, so dropped the soap and added a different premium, a package of gum. The same thing happened. Thus, he then dropped the baking powder and entered the world of gum.
In his later years — if ever there was a slow time in the business — he came up with innovative ideas to bring it back up.
During World War II he quit selling gum to the public, but had the government add a pack to each serviceman’s ration. Naturally, when there is a shortage, people only want it more.
Another year when sales were down, he gave everyone whose name was in the phonebook four sticks of gum to get them to start chewing! He was a true salesman.
The story continues that a famous landmark in Phoenix, which still remains, the Biltmore Hotel, was built by a group of rich investors who all went broke during the stock market crash. All but William Wrigley, that is, who felt sorry for them and bought them all out in 1929.
He then wanted to live near his investment and built the Wrigley Mansion, high on the outskirts of the valley and over-looking the entire city of Phoenix. Both the view and the building is awesome, and many of the original furnishings remain. Many furnishings came from overseas.
Wrigley gum continues to be manufactured in Chicago. The city is also home to the Cubs who play on the famous Wrigley Field. The baseball team also was owned by Wrigley.
The mansion, however, has gone through some tough times in its later years, and was almost destroyed. A large company purchased the estate and soon went broke. Phoenix then recommended it be destroyed because of the high cost of keeping it intact. But a savior came forth.
George Hormel, of our very own state of Minnesota, purchased it, began renovations, and formed the Wrigley Mansion Club, open to the public. The great grandson of the original person who built the mansion, also named William, is president of the board. When it was purchased by George Hormel, his son, Geordie, was in charge of running it.
In January 2006, Geordie Hormel died. However, the Wrigley Mansion is still owned and operated by the Minnesota company. It is worth seeing.