Line 1 Adventures - West Baden Springs Hotel - French Lick, Indiana - Eighth Wonder of the World.
In September 1902 the new hotel that was built in a year opened with press calling it the "Eighth Wonder of the World". When the hotel opened it offered two golf courses, horseback riding, billiards, bowling, baseball, swimming, hiking, bicycling, a moving picture theater and opera house and much more. The hotel would quickly be known for the mineral baths and Sprudel waters that would cure all. The hotel was named Baden after a German City known for its mineral springs.
West Baden hotel had seven numbered springs and guests would partake of the mineral waters that were touted to fix anything. We were able to see one of the wooden rods with a glass container on the end that was used to dip water out of the springs. The water was also sold with the brand name "Sprudel Water" with an elf named Sprudel on the label.
The dome is 200' tall and 600' in circumference and at one time birds flew from tree to tree inside. An unknown West Virginia architect Harrison Albright was hired to design what was deemed an impossible task. Oliver Wescott, a bridge engineer designed the dome trusses. To complete the structure on schedule, a 500-man crew worked six days a week in ten-hour shifts at a total cost of $414,000. The dome was completed on time.
In 1929 when the stock market crashed the hotel emptied almost immediately and the hotel shut its doors in 1932 and was sold for $1.00 to the Jesuits. The hotel was transformed into a seminary and was now known as the West Baden College and was operated this way till 1964. It was then sold to a Michigan couple that donated it to the Northwood Institute as a private college until 1983 and kids were rough on it.
From 1985 till 1995 the hotel slowly deteriorated with a six-story section of the hotel collapsing. The huge dome’s floor was partially destroyed with many of the tiny tiles having to be replaced. Around 1999 the Cook Group started the restoration and while expecting to invest $12-14 million, the bill ended up at $32 million on the phase 1 restoration.
The Cooks restored the grounds as well as the buildings. While we were here in the winter it was easy to see that the gardens and walking trails will be fantastic in the summer. The hotel reopened in 2007 as a high-end resort with 246 rooms. They have added an 18-hole PGA golf course that uses the Taggart mansion as the clubhouse.
There is truck parking at the French Lick Resort & Casino. For more information go to their web site. There are trolley cars and horse carriages to get back and forth from the Casino to the West Baden hotel. Both places have enough history to keep you entertained for a long time.