William Wrigley Jr.'s spectacular anniversary gift to his wife

The Wrigley Mansion is a spectacular home that was built in 1932 as a 50th anniversary gift from chewing gum millionaire William Wrigley Jr. to his wife, whom he adored. Today the Wrigley Mansion is open to the public for tours and to enjoy their delightful restaurant with its magnificent view.

You can drive or take a cab to the Wrigley Mansion, but it’s also a pleasant nine-mile bicycle ride along the shoulder of the Cross Cut Canal and the Arizona Canal from the Magnuson Hotel Papago Inn right to the steps of the Wrigley Mansion. If you prefer a leisurely stroll instead of bicycling, you can walk there in three hours. The canal path is a scenic green space that runs right through the middle of the city. There are grocery stores and places to rest along the way. Most of the trail is paved, but the last few miles of the trail to the Wrigley Mansion was hard-packed dirt. 

At the Wrigley Mansion, our tour guide, Amy, lead a 40 minute tour. She told us that just a small fraction of the 17,000 square foot house was the Wrigley’s personal space. Most of the house was either the servant’s quarters or lavish spaces for dining and for entertaining guests. I liked the entryway with its gracefully curving staircase to the upper room.

The exterior of the mansion was a bit of a mishmash of Spanish, California Monterey and Mediterranean architectural styles, but the inside had many beautiful elements including spectacular ceilings of hand-painted Italian tiles. Mr. Wrigley had a telephone exchange installed where his guests could make and receive outside calls. He had the walls of the tiny room lined with the inside foil wrappers of his spearmint chewing gum! Amy said that up until a few years ago you could still smell the spearmint when you stepped into the room. 

The mansion was purchased in July 1992 by Geordie Hormel, heir to the Hormel Foods Corporation fortune. Geordie opened the mansion to the public for dining, meetings and for relaxing with friends over a drink.

Our tour guide was most proud of the Wrigley Mansion’s Steinway player-piano. The piano has a rare electronic mechanism which allows multiple songs to be loaded and played, one of only two pianos like that left in the world; the other is in the Smithsonian. Amy pressed a button and the Steinway began to play Rhapsody in Blue, the keys plinking all by themselves.

The Wrigley Mansion sits on a hill with an unobstructed view of the Valley of the Sun. To the east is Camelback mountain, and far in the distance to the southwest, I could see the red cliffs of Papago Park where the Magnuson Hotel Papago Inn is located.

After the tour, we enjoyed happy hour in the lounge at Geordie’s Restaurant. We sat out on the sunny porch and drank some great wine and fun cocktails and snacked on delicious bruschetta made with heirloom tomatoes, basil and garlic and roasted vegetale rosso with rustic tomato sauce and mozzarella. The view was incredible. 

When I asked about Geordie’s dinner menu, our server said that their chef prepares Italian-inspired dishes, featuring beautifully grilled steaks, fresh seafood and house-made pastas, with the season’s best ingredients.

Today the Wrigley Mansion is a popular venue for weddings, special events and Sunday brunch. I returned recently with my wife and friends for the tour and lunch. Try the Spam and pulled pork sandwich - a nod to Geordie’s Hormel inheritance. It was delicious!

Due to old city regulations, the Wrigley Mansion is a private club, but a membership is only $5 and is included in the price of the tour. There are other tour packages available. The lunch we enjoyed included the tour. For reservations click here.

We had a great time at the Wrigley Mansion, and combined with the adventure of getting there on the canal trail, it was a perfect way to spend a sunny winter day in Arizona. To bicycle or walk to the Wrigley Mansion from the Magnuson Hotel Papgo Inn, just pick up the Cross Cut Canal six blocks west of the hotel. Follow the Cross-Cut Canal north to its intersection with the Arizona Canal at Indian School Road. Head west along the Arizona Canal until you see the Biltmore Hotel on your right and then just a little ways further, you'll see the Wrigley Mansion sitting on the hill on your left.

Here is a photo from eight decades ago. The setting hasn't changed much.

Story and photos by Bret Wirta