The Arizona Biltmore & Wrigley Mansion
The Wrigley Family in the Valley of the Sun
The Chicago Cubs have called the Arizona home during the spring months for over 60 years. Each February, Cubs players make the trek to the Valley of the Sun to prepare for the grueling season ahead of them. However, the Cub’s ties to the Valley go even further back than the team’s Spring Training home. In fact, the roots of the Cubs go back another 23 years, to 1929 and two distinct properties: The Wrigley Mansion and the Arizona Biltmore.
In 1916, William Wrigley Jr. bought a minority stake in the Chicago Cubs as part of an ownership group. By 1921, Wrigley was the majority owner. Within a Decade, Wrigley had purchased the team, in whole, from its previous owner, Albert Lasker. Wrigley, who made his home on Catalina Island, felt a deep connection to the West coast of the United States. Starting in 1921, Wrigley decided that the Cubs would Spring Train on his beloved Catalina Island, thus starting nearly 30 years of baseball tradition on the Island. However, the Wrigley’s did not enjoy the long days of traveling required to get from Chicago to California. In 1929, William Wrigley found the solution to this problem: a winter home in the little desert oasis of Phoenix, Arizona.
Wrigley’s decision to purchase the Biltmore came at a precarious time. The resort was built at the start of the great depression in 1929, and had somehow managed to stay profitable during the early years of the depression. The luxurious resort attracted the richest clientele and maintained a dignified elegance during these years, something that greatly interested Wrigley. Upon purchasing the Biltmore in 1930, Wrigley immediately went about installing even more amenities to the resort, installing the Biltmore’s first swimming pool; The Catalina Pool, named for his home. Maryiln Monroe famously declared the Catalina Pool as her favorite pool in the country. And once Phillip Wrigley moved the Cubs to Arizona for Spring Training, the resort and its famous pool was a popular location for the players as well.
Yet, despite the luxurious nature of the resort, the Wrigley’s had no intention of actually living in the resort. Instead, Wrigley erected the Wrigley Mansion, some two blocks west of the resort. Costing 1.2 million dollars, with 24 rooms, 12 bathrooms, and sprawling across nearly 16,000 feet, this “winter cottage” was supposed to become the resting point for the Wrigley’s during their long journeys from Chicago back home to Catalina.
William Wrigley would truly never get a chance to enjoy the fruits of his effort. Not long after the completion of the Wrigley Mansion and during his first full stay, William Wrigley died on January 26, 1932 at the age of 70. And while William Wrigley never got the chance to enjoy the Wrigley Mansion, its still stands proud today. Rescued from demolition in 1992 by the late Geordie Hormel and his wife, the mansion is listed as a Phoenix point of pride. It houses a restaurant and has become a popular venue for weddings and other special events. Visitors to the mansion are welcome and the property offers tours designed to portray the deep history of the mansion.
Just to the south of the mansion, the Arizona Biltmore also continues to flourish. Although the Wrigley Family no longer owns it, their spirit still pervades the resort. While the resort has under gone 3 major renovations in its history, the Catalina Pool still relaxes and cools weary guests and resort itself still pays homage to its original owner.