Results 1-7of 7 Reviews
July 7, 2010
July 11, 2004
Lee Sinclair, a banker from Salem, Indiana was a visionary in his time. As a guest at the West Baden Springs Hotel, he saw potential there and purchased it in 1888. Within ten years he transformed the 500 room hotel into a sophisticated retreat, complete with an opera house and casino. He invited baseball teams to hold spring training at his complex, practicing on a baseball field he built inside a unique double-decker covered bicycle track. From 1897 to the hotel's closing, Cubs, Reds, Pirates, Cardinals, and Phillies entertained cheering fans watching from the track on bicycles or pony carts.
And then a fire disintegrated the hotel within 90 minutes. Not one of the 400 guests were injured even though the fire occurred at 1:30am. The year was 1901, and Mr. Sinclair vowed to rebuild within the year. He toured grand spas in Europe and found his inspiration at Carlsbad, Czechoslovakia, a sulphur springs resort where prominent guests such as Beethoven, Chopin and Peter the Great watched the 37-foot Sprudel geyser shoot into the air. Sinclair came back to Indiana with plans to build "Carlsbad of America," a circular hotel with the world's largest dome.
Locals laughed at him. But a year later his six-story masterpiece was finished, topped by the world's largest rotunda. The guide pointed out paintings of a phoenix on the lobby ceiling when we entered the grand hotel.
Affluent guests were drawn to the mineral springs, lured by advertisements of "Sprudel Water" which promised cures for 50 ailments, from alcoholism to sterility. People stayed three months on average and returned yearly. Word spread abroad (helped by exporting Sprudel water) and international guests began visiting.
Guests filled up the 708 rooms curving around the glass atrium and spent days strolling between four springs in the sunken gardens, swimming, golfing, horseback riding, or bowling. Evenings were spent at the bicycle track or opera house for musical shows or dramas such as "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
And then the stock market crashed. And with it, the hotel's future. In 1932, it closed it's stained leaded-glass doors for good. Years later, opulence was removed when a Jesuit seminary moved in followed by Northwoods Cooking College.
Over the last ten years, Mr. Cook and the Historic Landmarks Foundation have lovingly restored the hotel, and the result is as breathtaking as the sunken gardens. Beyond the grand entrance, Roman statues sit above original mosaics on the atrium floor below lavish stencil-decorated columns and ceilings; and gold-leafed columns line the emerald dining room decked with tapestries and elegant draperies.
Know an interested visionary? For 31 million it's theirs.
From journal Weekend in French Lick
December 27, 2003
Featuring a six-story domed atrium (the largest clear-span dome in the world until the Astrodome was built in 1963), 700 rooms, natural mineral springs used for bathing and drinking (it was advertised that drinking the water would cure a number of illnesses), the resort drew celebrities from all around the country. Well-known patrons to the hotel were "Diamond Jim" Brady, Al Capone, mayors from major cities, governors and even a presidential candidate.
Professional baseball teams such as the Chicago White Sox and Cubs and the Cincinnati Reds held spring training on the baseball field located on the 250 acres that made up the property. Guests could also enjoy golf, horseback riding, bowling, billiards, swimming, hiking, and nightly theater. Most everything a guest would need was on the grounds, including a bank, shops and a barber.
The stock market crash in 1929 caused the hotel to fall on hard times. In 1934, the Jesuits took over the property and, over time, altered the structure, removing much of its original ornamental design. Later, the Northwood Institute, a hotel management and culinary arts school, made the building its home until 1983. Over the next 13 years, the property was idle, allowing weather and time to take its toll on the place once known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World."
West Baden Springs National Historic Landmark is open year-round for guided tours. The former spa hotel was partially restored by Cook Group Incorporated of Bloomington, IN and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. The buildling was designed by Harrison Albright and constructed in 1902 in just 277 days. Thirty months were required to restore major parts of the building at a cost of $30 million.
The building is currently for sale.
From journal Cornfield Getaway!
November 20, 2003
From journal Family Fun at French Lick
Burr Oak, Michigan
April 13, 2003
From journal A Drive-able Spot in So. Indiana
Fairview Park, Ohio
March 4, 2003
Tour schedule for 1-hour tours:
April 2002 through January 5, 2003
Daily on the hour, Monday through Saturday from 10am to 3pm and Sunday from noon to 4pm
Open all holidays except Christmas Day
January 5 through March 31, 2003
Wednesday through Sunday, tours at 11am, 1pm, and 2pm
$10 per adult, $5 per child 13 to 18, $2 per child 6 to 12, free for children 5 and under
From journal French Lick in September
December 10, 2002
From journal Hiding from the Relatives