West Baden Springs Hotel

Historic hotel and dome with a long and storied past.

West Baden Springs Hotel

Beginning of the West Baden Springs Hotel

In 1887 the Monon Railroad began service to French Lick and West Baden.  The West Baden Springs Hotel grew up to serve them.  By the late 1800s guests arrived from all over the country on seven different railroads.  They came because they could relax the mind and body.  Mineral water was thought to cure what ailed you, and here one could take sidewalks to any of the 7 mineral springs on the grounds.

In 1891 the Hotel burned and was rebuilt.  The scale of the resort grew to include:

  • A casino
  • An opera house
  • A covered double deck 1/3 mile oval where they raced bicycles and ponies
  • A lighted baseball field in the middle of the oval track, where many professional Baseball teams held spring training

Heydey of the West Baden Springs Hotel

In 1901 the Hotel burned again.  This time they decided to rebuild to a much grander scale.  They would build a fireproof dome that would be the largest and grandest in the world.  Not only that, but it would all be completed in a year!  500 men labored 6 days a week for 10 hours a day, and 270 days later, in 1902, the West Baden Springs Hotel was born.

The new hotel boasted a 200-foot dome, which was the largest in the world and a super big deal!  A bigger dome was not built in the U.S. until 1955.

Hailed as the Eighth Wonder of the World, the West Baden Springs Hotel became the Disney World of its day, although back then it was marketed as the “Carlsbad of America”.  That’s because at that time Carlsbad, a city founded in 1370 in the Czech Republic, was widely known as the Spa Capital of the world.  The West Baden Springs Hotel wanted to be the spa capital of the U.S., so they even put “Carlsbad of America” on their entrance arch!

In the Early 1900’s the West Baden Springs Hotel was THE PLACE TO BE, and it was only a train ride away.  In the atrium under the dome they had live palm trees with birds flying around.  500 hotel rooms overlooked the atrium, where the fireplace burned 14-foot logs.  They even had a stock brokerage and bank on site!

Decline of the West Baden Springs Hotel

As cars increased in popularity among the wealthy, it became less fashionable to travel by train, and visitation decreased.  Then came the 1929 stock market crash and the Great Depression, which really hurt business.

By 1934 the whole thing was in disrepair, and the Jesuits stepped in and bought it.  The Jesuits didn’t like fancy things so they worked to make the whole place a bit plainer.

In 1966 the Jesuits sold the property, which then got donated to the Northwood Institute.  The Northwood Institute was a private college, and the property served as a satellite campus until 1983.

After that, the property just sat there and rotted until 1992 when it started to collapse.  $140,000 was spent to stabilize the structure until a buyer could be found.

Rebirth of the West Baden Springs Hotel

Bill Cook, one of Indiana’s richest residents, stepped up to fix the ailing property.  In 1996 a 30 month, 30 million dollar restoration began.

Finally, in 1999, the West Baden Springs Hotel opened for business again.  However, just the Atrium and Dome had been restored.  The rooms were not dealt with at this time.  So, while the Dome at the West Baden Springs Hotel was beautiful and much visited, the hotel still floundered for 5 years.  It was finally determined that the only way to save the West Baden Springs Hotel was to attract a casino.  The hotel previously had a Casino, so it only seemed fitting.

In 2003 Legislation was passed that allowed for the creation of the French Lick Casino.  Donald Trump originally was granted that license, but Trump filed Bankruptcy which forced the gambling license process to begin again.

Bill Cook stepped up again and applied for the license in 2005.  This kicked off another round of restoration and building.  An astounding 100 million dollars was spent on the West Baden Springs Hotel.  They built out 243 hotel rooms – half as many as before, but standards had changed in 75 years.

in June 2007, the West Baden Springs Hotel once again opened its doors to guests.  Now the West Baden Springs Hotel is better than ever, AND you can stay there!

The luxury of a room there costs about $250-400 per night depending on room type and whether or not you have an atrium view.

French Lick is perfect for a Girls or Guys Getaway!

There is plenty to do all within a small compact area.  Get your crew together and plan a trip to French Lick.