West Baden Springs Hotel

The West Baden Springs Hotel, itself a building of no small history, is an absolutely gorgeous place, one we will be talking about for awhile.

The place got going about 1855 with guests coming by rail to indulge in the mineral waters. Lee W. Sinclair got it in 1888 and, after a fire destroyed everything in 1901, hired an unknown architect out of West Virginia to build a circular hotel out of nonflammable materials. Oh, the dome should be the world’s largest, by the way. Undaunted, the architect, Harrison Albright, set about his work and by September 1902 the thing was done. It was then called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Birds flew freely beneath the 200-foot atrium. An enormous fireplace burned 14-foot logs to keep the chill off and to warm the likes of such guests as Diamond Jim Brady, Al Capone and John Sullivan. Entire baseball teams would hold spring training there. The resort had everything – golf, horses, billiards, bowling, baseball, swimming, hiking, bicycling, movies and nightly theater.

 

The place went through a variety of owners from gambling men to Jesuits who toned everything down, sold off anything that would excite the senses and got down to the business of religious education. The Jesuits moved on and sold the place in 1985, but that owner went bankrupt. The building deteriorated. Indiana Landmarks undertook a campaign to  find a new owner and rebuild. Politics, lobbying and other sundry efforts came and went, including the Trump Hotels and Casinos. Nothing worked until about 2006 when the hotel was sold to the Cook Group Inc., which finally got the place up and running and re-opened in May 2007. Indiana Landmarks still keeps an eye on things, to ensure whoever owns the place maintains the facility to a proper, historic standard.