Thursday, February 02, 2012

Traveling Thursdays: The West Baden Springs Hotel, Pt. 2

Last week, you saw vintage photos of The West Baden Springs Hotel during its heyday. Today, you'll see photos from the first few visits I made to it back in 1996 when it had slid into ruin.

After closing during the Great Depression, the hotel was repurposed in 1934 as The West Baden College, a Jesuit Seminary. Many in the area were upset that the Jesuits removed much of the building's decorative elements to make it more suitable for their purposes. However, without the Jesuits, the vacant hotel may have slipped into a greater state of disrepair. Even the Jesuits found the property to be a fiscal challenge to maintain, and finally had to sell it in 1966 to another school, The Northwood Institute, a private college which operated a satellite campus of their business management school at West Baden until 1983. Here are a few shots from Northwood's 1970 yearbook, the Norfindia. As you can see here, the mighty atrium was being used for car shows:

The former Hygeia Spring had been converted to a chapel:

The once grand Pluto Spring was a dumping ground:

Remnants of the Jesuit era were still to be seen:

Flash forward to 1996. Located an hour from my house, I had read about this hotel for years, and even drawn the cover for a fiction book about it. It was difficult for me to imagine a place this grand located in the middle of nowhere.

Like something out of Rip Van Winkle, the weeds had taken over the once beautiful gardens.

A huge slab of the hand laid italian marble floor from the atrium was sitting outside, unceremoniously dumped many years before. The lobby was in a sad state of decay.

An exterior wall had collapsed, leaving bathtubs, tile, and other items entirely exposed to the elements.

Even additions made by the Jesuits had been ravaged; this is the same statue shown in the Northwood yearbook:

The once grand dining room was in no condition for any meals to be served.

Still, there were glimpses of its former grandeur, as can be seen in this statue of a Muse that was too large to be carted off by vandals:

This fireplace was made entirely of Rookwood Pottery, a famous art pottery once manufactured in Ohio:

Zooming in, you could see Sprudel, the hotel's mascot:

Seeing these photos, it would be difficult to imagine the feasibility of this landmark ever being restored. Hang onto your hope for the next installment! Follow my Daveland updates on Twitter. See more vintage & current West Baden Springs Hotel photos on my WBSH web page.


Major Pepperidge said...

Didn't somebody comment last week that the hotel was a beautiful as ever?!?!

Such a shame to see it so run down.

Davelandweb said...

Stay tuned Major - there's good news ahead!

CoxPilot said...

When my wife's grandmother passed in 1978, and we came to receive several items including a porcelain cup with a rather unusual red "devil" shaped handle, and an inscription about Pluto, the god of good fortune. We packed it away years ago and forgot about it. It is a rather disturbing looking thing, and we never liked it, and always thought it was from a worlds fair or something like that.

After your post about the French Lick/West Baden Hotel, I looked up the area and it's history and found that the cup was from there, and referred to the sulfur spring waters of the area (Pluto Water).

Go figure!! Strange how some things come full circle.

I'm digging through some old boxes, and hope to find it again so I can send you a picture. Stay tuned.

Davelandweb said...

Lee - The French Lick Hotel has stayed open through the years. The fact that it was a less "grand" property probably helped it weather the depression. It is just down the street from West Baden. Here are some photos of it on my website:

Can't wait to see your ladle! I believe that was intended for use by those who dipped directly into the spring at the hotel. Oh boy does that stuff smell nasty!