|William Wrigley Jr. built this house (1929-31) as a 50th wedding anniversary present for his wife Ada. It was the smallest of their five homes - 16,850 sq.ft! - their winter cottage!
The house has so many interesting features - Catalina tile, the prized Steinway dual-art player piano, hand painted ceilings, eleven different styled fireplaces and a foil lined telephone room - the foil coming from gum wrappers! The house has only four bedrooms because Wrigley owned The Biltmore Hotel across from the mansion and put guests up there. He bought the Biltmore after the market crash because he never invested in stocks - he believed that cash was king and he had plenty of it!
William started working in his father's soap factory in Pennsylvania at age 9. When he was 11 he ran away from home but returned after two weeks of living in the streets of New York. At 13 he was expelled from school for throwing a pie at someone. His father was disgusted with the boy and gave him one of the toughest jobs in the factory - working six days a week and up to 10 hours a day.
William married, had 2 children, and at age 29 moved to Chicago with $32 in his pocket and a carload of soap. One of his marketing gimmicks was giving his customers premiums. At first he gave away baking soda with every soap sale. That got too expensive so he started giving away free packs of chewing gum. Gum at that point in time was pretty flavorless so William came up with Juicy Fruit and Spearmint and from that point on he sold only chewing gum. He placed it next to the cash register at the market - that was a first. He was also the first person to give factory workers a five day work week. He believed in spoiling women so once a month the ladies in the factory could get their hair or nails done and he paid.
The Wrigley mansion was sold several times - most recently to the Hormel family. George Hormel was a songwriter and artist as well as heir to the meat packing company. The piano in this mansion is said to be one of two - the other is in the Smithsonian. The Steinway Company never made player pianos and when Wrigley asked them to make one they said no. He sent them a check for $10,000 and said he wanted the first one whenever they decided to make one. Voila - William got his piano. All of the piano roles are Gershwin tunes played by Gershwin himself. We heard Rhapsody In Blue today and it was glorious.
Anyway, George Hormel ( and Liberace) wanted to buy the piano but Wrigley had stipulated that the piano was to always stay in the mansion so George bought the mansion. Pretty good deal too- he paid 2.6 million in 1999 and the piano alone is valued at approximately 14 million.
I lunched outside - had a delicious ham and fig crepe with mixed greens. A very enjoyable outing.