Deep in southern Indiana, there's an absolutely gorgeous hotel that went from being one of the most beautiful hotels in the world to total disrepair. But there's a light at the end for the hotel as the hotel is finally being restored to its former grandeur.
After being destroyed by a fire in 1901, the West Baden Springs Hotel was rebuilt by Lee Sinclair in just a year. Bigger and more beautiful, the new construction features a 200-foot atrium, an enormous fireplace that burned 14-foot logs, and mineral water baths to cure whatever ailed guests. The hotel was a destination in and of itself with its casino, live performances, movie theater, bowling alley and billiard parlor. In warm weather, the grounds offered golf, horseback riding, and the largest bicycle track in the US. There was even a stock brokerage and bank on-site for all the rich blood the West Baden Springs brought in, securing the hotel's reputation as a playground for the wealthy.
Then, as you might have guessed, the stock market crash of 1929 happened. The money dried up. The ailing hotel was sold to the Jesuits for one dollar. They took out the luxury furniture and converted the building to a seminary, West Baden College. But by the 1960s, the seminary had closed and the building changed hands again, this time to a private college, the Northwood Institute. Eventually, they too sold the hotel to a real estate firm on the brink of bankruptcy.
From the hotel: "In 1974 West Baden was listed as a National Historic Landmark but the elements took their toll on the neglected hotel and it was closed to the public in 1989 for safety reasons. In January 1991 a buildup of ice and water on the roof and in drainpipes caused the collapse of a portion of the exterior wall. Indiana Landmarks, the country’s largest state-wide historic preservation organization, led the charge to stabilize the hotel to preserve redevelopment potential, and attract a new owner capable of restoring the property for a new use. In 1992 Indiana Landmarks spent $140,000 to stabilize the hotel, matching a $70,000 contribution from an anonymous donor."
The hotel's luck has been improving since the mid-1990s when investors took control of the property. By 2007, the West Baden and nearby French Lick Resort reopened.
Today, the West Baden Springs Hotel feels like you've stepped into the roaring 20s, but with all of today's modern amenities. It's back to being the top hotel in Indiana and may very well be one of the most beautiful buildings in the midwestern United States.