Lee W. Sinclair dubbed his dream hotel “the eighth wonder of the world” when he built it in 1901. The opulent West Baden Springs Hotel’s centerpiece was the dome-topped 200-foot diameter atrium. The rest of the hotel and the surrounding grounds were grandiose, as well. The West Baden Springs Hotel, along with neighboring French Lick Springs Hotel, was the wealthy’s place to go. West Baden Springs was more than a hotel; it was a full resort. The resort included a casino, a velodrome, and a baseball field that professional teams used for spring training. However, West Baden Springs was best known for its mineral springs that had healing powers. We toured the West Baden Hotel during our recent French Lick, Indiana, visit and learned of the hotel’s rise, decline and restoration.
When the Monon Railroad built a line from Chicago to French Lick, Indiana, in the late 1800s, everyone who was anyone from Chicago began visiting French Lick. Well-to-do folks played golf on a championship course. They bathed in the healing mineral springs. And they stayed in the luxury French Lick Springs Hotel or the nearby equally luxurious West Baden Hotel.