West Baden Springs Hotel

The current West Baden Springs Hotel was constructed from 1901-1902, but the site was used for hotels prior to this incarnation. The earliest hotel in West Baden Springs was constructed on this site in 1845. With the arrival of the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago line, a new hotel, the Mile Lick Hotel, was constructed in 1855 and renamed the West Baden Springs Hotel at a later date. Unfortunately for its owner, Lee Sinclair, a banker from Salem, Indiana, it burned in 1901. Sinclair decided to rebuild and hired architect Harrison Albright of Charlestown, West Virginia to design the hotel and engineer Oliver J. Westcott to plan the dome. Construction lasted from 1901 to 1902 on the six-story brick and concrete hotel. The 708-room hotel had a 16-sided exterior as well as a glass and steel dome covering a 195-foot open atrium. The rooms were arranged around the outer edge of the atrium and form two concentric circles separated by an open hallway. Rooms overlooked either the atrium or the picturesque landscape. The free-standing dome was considered an engineering tour de force and visitors came to experience the architecture, partake of the restorative mineral waters on the grounds, and to take advantage of the variety of amenities that were offered at the West Baden Springs Hotel. These included a music room, theater, and stock exchange within the hotel. On the ground, there were spring houses, an opera house, bowling alleys and billiard tables, a natatorium, a small Catholic cathedral, a golf course, a stable, bridle paths and nature walks, formal gardens, and a two-story covered structure that housed a horse track and full-sized baseball field on the main level and a bicycle track on the upper level.

Sinclair died in 1916 and his daughter and son-in-law took over. They undertook a renovation campaign and added a large veranda to the exterior and a series of decorative additions on the interior including covering and painting the brick columns in the atrium, facing the lower walls with marble and the installation of the mosaic floor and the ceramic fireplace. From 1918-1919, the hotel served as an Army hospital, but in 1922, Edward Ballard purchased the complex. He was in the gambling and circus business and, under his ownership, the West Baden Springs Hotel flourished. The proximity to gambling in the area drew a variety of famous people, including hotel regular, Al Capone. Ballard maintained ownership through 1932 when the hotel closed after suffering dramatically with the onset of the Great Depression. In 1934, Ballard donated the complex to a Jesuit seminary, but they found the building offensive. They toned down the decorative embellishments of the exuberant hotel. The seminary maintained the building until 1964 and sold it to Northwood Institute, a private collegiate school of business management. By 1983, the hotel was sold to Eugene MacDonald and he intended to return the building to its original hotel use. Unfortunately, by the early 1990s, the hotel was in receivership. Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana was able to purchase the building with the aid of an anonymous donor in the 1990s, and the Cook Group Foundation was able to stabilize and partially restore the National Historic Landmark. The public portions of the hotel were restored including the entire exterior and the atrium. At this time, the West Baden Springs Hotel has been restored and is functioning as a casino.

Images

West Baden Springs Hotel

West Baden Springs Hotel

Source: Courtesy of Indiana DNR View File Details Page

West Baden Springs Hotel

West Baden Springs Hotel

Interior | Source: Courtesy of Indiana DNR View File Details Page

Street Address:

8538 W Baden Ave, West Baden Springs, IN 47469 [map]

Official Website:

https://www.frenchlick.com/hotels/westbaden

Cite this Page:

Indiana Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology, “West Baden Springs Hotel,” Discover Indiana, accessed July 18, 2018, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/311.
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