Search: West Baden Springs

more from west baden…

by grace on March 11, 2015

here’s the grand fireplace in the atrium.  it would have been something if they still had real fires in it, but i guess the only public place where you’ll get a real fire these days is at a cracker barrel! i just read on wikipedia that the fireplace could hold logs as long as 14 feet!  that’s amazing.

it was spectacular, nonetheless.  there in the top right-hand corner is an elf called Sprudel, named after the “sprudel water,” the mineral water there at the hotel.

here’s the fancy dining room, which reminded me of the dining room on the queen mary.  but nary a soul was there.  we did have breakfast there the next morning, and we were the only people in the place.

outside the dining room was the women’s bathroom, and here’s part of it – a little sitting area.  do women ever sit in these sitting areas?  i bet not.

the giant mirror leading into the actual bathroom part of the bathroom.

yes, i could not stop taking pictures.  this bathroom wasn’t actually as nice as another one there on the ground floor, which had many lovely flowers in vases all along the sinks.

the fabulous dome during daylight.

randy and kevin, chillaxing on a comfy couch.

mom also had a lovely time.  and see, no other people!  i really hope there were no other people because it was the off-season.  it’s listed on the national register of historic places, and it’s listed on the 2008 list of the Top 75 Mainland U.S. Resorts by Condé Nast magazine.  AAA gave it four diamonds, and rated it as one of the top 10 U.S. historic hotels.   it’s a fabulous place!  if only there was train service from chicago, maybe that would help draw in the people.

here’s some of the interesting history of the place:

The original West Baden hotel was built in 1852, but burned in 1901.  the owner, Lee Wiley Sinclair, declared that his new hotel would be fireproof and would have the world’s largest dome. Most building professionals rejected a 200-foot (61 m) skylight as impossible, but unknown West Virginia architect Harrison Albright designed the building and Oliver Wescott, a bridge engineer, designed the dome trusses. To complete the structure before the first anniversary of the fire, a 500-man crew worked six days a week in 10-hour shifts for 270 days, at a total cost of $414,000.

The new structure opened September 15, 1902 to rave reviews, and advertisements called it the Eithth Wonder of the World. The resort’s mineral water and baths were alleged to cure almost anything, and the hotel’s amenities included a casino, live theater every night, opera, concerts, movies, bowling and billiards. Outside the hotel, guests had their choice of a natatorium, two golf courses, bicycling on a double-decked covered oval bicycle track that was the largest in the country at 1,760 feet (540 m), horseback riding, baseball, and several picturesque hiking trails. To cater to their well-heeled clientele, the hotel provided a bank and a stock brokerage. A trolley transported guests from the hotel’s front door to nearby French Lick. Palm trees grew in the huge atrium where birds had free range and guests relaxed on overstuffed furniture grouped in clusters under the 200-foot (61 m) dome. The fireplace in the atrium was enormous in scale and could accommodate logs as long as 14 feet (4.3 m).

Some early advertisements claimed over 700 rooms, but most sources today cite around 500. The main building contained six floors: the ground floor held the lobby, hotel management offices, the dining area, shops and meeting rooms; saunas and mineral baths were located on the top floor; guest rooms were built in two concentric circles around the atrium on the second through fifth floors. Rooms on the inner ring overlooked the atrium; forty 4th and 6th floor rooms had balconies into the atrium. The hotel rooms were small by today’s standards. Most rooms had one or two twin beds, and did not have a private bathroom.

These hotels were the Disney World of their time. In those days, it was assumed that if you could afford to come to America [for vacation], you would go to French Lick. It was that well-known overseas. Beginning in the late 1880s, southern Indiana was a favorite destination of the wealthy, famous, infamous, and near-famous who would relax, golf, gamble, enjoy fine dining, and be entertained.

A bellman told me that all the gold you could see in the hotel, and there was plenty of it, was real gold.

here’s the lobby where we checked in.

we went over to the French Lick Hotel for dinner and some gambling.  Their lobby was also ornate, but nothing like West Baden.  It was weird to be there again after going there several times so long ago, and not really remembering it.  i wish we’d looked for the great big pool, but we were focused on food and gambling.  The fancy restaurants in both hotels didn’t get good reviews on Yelp, so instead we went to a casual place inside French Lick called the Power Plant Bar and Grill, and it was disappointingly ordinary, with a surly waitress.

kevin, trying to regulate his carb intake so his blood sugar wouldn’t go crazy, ordered a burger with no bun.  the waitress snapped “no bun, no fun,” which annoyed kevin quite a bit, and as you know, the fella doesn’t get annoyed very easily.

we tromped over to the casino, a very very long hike, and it was, as i’d feared, reeking of smoke even though there weren’t many gamblers.  butt it did have a pretty big, dedicated non-smoking gambling area.  randy happily started playing, as i wandered around looking at the machines.  they looked like maybe they were the old reject machines that were sent here to this gambling purgatory.  mom, kevin and i all gambled away about twenty bucks apiece, but randy had a grand old time, walking away with maybe $160.  pretty good for playing the penny slots!

we were tired, and headed back to West Baden.  Randy wanted to buy us all a drink with his winnings, and kevin’s blood sugar has plummeted, so he and randy got delicious slabs of carrot cake.

mom had a lemon drop martini.  and now, at about 10:30 at night, the atrium was really really empty, so it was like our own fabulous night spot.

the fabulous topper on the dome changed color, and i became transfixed with it, and kept taking pictures.

here’s the fireplace at night, with Sprudel the elf highlighted.

some of the detail on the dome.

i found a luxurious recliner to take the dome pictures, so i didn’t strain my neck.

kevin took this picture of me, taking my pictures.

here’s the view from the glass elevator.

we wanted to go down to the hot tub, but kevin was too tired, so mom, randy and i all trekked down through the lobby.  it didn’t matter that we wearing robes, since we were the only people anywhere.

the hot tub was nice and relaxing, and i was happy to go back upstairs and crawl into the comfy bed.

we made a plan that randy would call when he woke up, which i assumed would be later in the morning.

and that’s all for now.

ok then,

mrs. wednesday morning hughes.

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