The Story Behind Wrigley Mansion
By Lauren Wong
With only $32 to his name, William Mills Wrigley Jr. left his home in Philadelphia and moved to Chicago with hopes of becoming a successful, traveling soap business man. From only $32 he became a huge success, so I guess that shows to always follow your dreams. “If there’s a will, there’s a way.” Before I get into his Phoenix mansion, I want to share some history from his growing success.
Background on Wrigley:
When Wrigley made his move, it was 1891, so his $32 translates to a bit over $900 today. He started Wrigley’s Scouring Soap, but always offered his customers an incentive to purchase from him, some special premiums. So originally, he offered baking powder, until that became a bigger hit than his soap. He started selling baking powder, his new incentive being two packages of chewing gum per can of baking powder. To no surprise, it was the chewing gum that became the hit.
In addition to his gum business, he bought a controlling interest in Santa Catalina Island. He worked on improving the island by adding a new hotel, Casino, steamships, and discovered the use of clay and minerals found on a beach near Avalon, eventually creating the Pebbly Beach Quarry and Tile Plant. Additionally, he was the largest shareholder and principal owner of the Chicago Cubs, (hence the name Wrigley Field), and more. He made a name for himself from coast to coast.
The Phoenix Mansion:
The Wrigley Mansion was constructed in 1932 as a 50th anniversary present to his wife, Ada Elizabeth Foote. I’m not sure how you can top a gift like that! The architecture has elements of Spanish, California, and Mediterranean styles. Earl Heitschmidt was the architect of this $1.2 million, 24 room, 12 bathroom, 16,000 square foot mansion.
There’s still a lot of original pieces still found throughout the mansion. For example, the tiles that were shipped from the Wrigley’s family tile factory in Catalina Island (and carted up the hill to the mansion by donkey), are still what you’re walking on today.
This was the smallest of their other residences. They had homes in Chicago, Philadelphia, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Catalina Island, and Pasadena. The Phoenix house was only used by them a few weeks of the year.
In 1932, Wrigley died in his Phoenix home of a heart attack, not long after the building was completed. The Wrigley family sold the mansion in 1973 and throughout the years the owner has switched around. In 1992, the city of Phoenix was about to get ready to tear it down, but Georgie Hormel and his wife bought the property. Together they restored it with the intention of maintaining its historic roots and ‘sharing its inherent magic with everyone.’ Georgie has since passed away, but Jamie still owns the property.
In 1989, the mansion earned its way onto the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride. The mansion has also been recognized as a beautiful wedding venue, being the winner of the Knot Weddings in 2008, 2009, and 2011.
Renovations took place in 2021. The mansion’s known not only for its history, but for its premier fine dining and special events space. Inside you’ll find Georgie’s Restaurant and Lounge, Jamie’s Wine Bar, and Christopher’s at Wrigley Mansion. Today you can stop in for some delicious food for dinner or their Sunday brunch, listen in on their live jazz Friday’s, sit at the bar, or take a tour.
Some questions answered from Cara Langley, Director of Guest Services at the Wrigley Mansion:
In your personal opinion, why is Wrigley Mansion so special and so important to keep preserved? How did you get involved with the mansion?
The Wrigley Mansion has an inherent magic about it. The Mansion was a 50th wedding anniversary present from William to his dear wife Ada, and there are many touches throughout the home to let her know how special she was to him. I have enjoyed the Mansion’s magic as a guest and feel that it must continue to be shared with the world. I am a Phoenix native and have worked in the area for over 20 years. I spent many years working at the Arizona Biltmore, whose history is so closely tied to the Mansion’s, so it was very natural for me to progress to a position here. There are not many historical properties in Arizona, let alone in Phoenix, and we have to preserve that magic for future generations to experience and enjoy.
What makes you passionate about it? What would you share with the public about why historic places are so important to maintain in our tech-driven, growing world?
In today’s technological world, we take for granted many of the comforts that people did not have during the time that the home was built. It is important for us as a society to remember and learn from our experiences and those that came before us. Without them, we would not be where we are today. I think we often forget that we today are writing tomorrow’s history