Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back Home Again In Indiana: Paoli and French Lick

After Bloomington, I headed further south towards my destination of the West Baden Springs Hotel. The two cities are about an hour apart, and in between are a number of quaint little towns that still have their Main Streets and Town Squares. Paoli, Indiana is probably one of my favorites.

Although many of the buildings on the square no longer operate in the same capacity of their original purpose, I love the fact that adaptive reuse has allowed the historic architecture to survive.

Vintage signage!

West Baden's neighboring town is called French Lick Springs. Before checking into my hotel, I took a detour to the American Legion Building in French Lick. I became good friends with one of the locals, Norma Brock, when I was a tour guide at the WBS Hotel back in the 90's. She had taken me inside the Legion, which was formerly the Elite Club Casino back in the roaring 20's.

Entering today, you see a smoke-filled bar with a few patrons chatting it up, but at the back of the building (which was the original entrance), there are still vestiges of The Elite Club, as can be seen in this tile floor detail. The bartender was gracious enough to take me into this entryway so that I could take photos.

Norma had also pointed out the button in the entryway that was pressed by an employee when the cops were arriving to let patrons in the back know that it was time to scram. Norma's father, Clifton Marshall, had worked at The Elite, and she had many fond memories of the Club from its heyday. In addition, she had also taken me to another (former) Casino that her father had worked at in French Lick called The Gorge. At that time it was a nursing home. On that particular visit about 16 years ago, it was night and my crappy camera didn't get very many decent photos. I had heard that The Gorge was in bad shape and actually up for sale. I decided to trek up to it again and take some photos before it deteriorated anymore or (heaven forbid) met the wrecking ball.

The stone entry arch is very imposing, even though its surroundings are overgrown.

The vestiges of a fountain:

The original building doesn't look like much today; in its heyday, it resembled a quaint Arts & Crafts style lodge.

I'm sure the grounds were lovely back in the day.

Trains were once a vital transportation link to larger cities, such as Chicago, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. By now, most of the rails to those cities have been removed, and the Train Station in French Lick serves as a museum and ticket office for local train tours to Cusco Corners.

Pluto water was all the rage back in the early 20th Century; its tagline, "When Nature won't, Pluto will" was a semi tactful way of saying it helped constipation!

The Pluto Spring is still located behind the French Lick Springs Hotel, where the foul sulfur odor still permeates the air.

The Hotel was recently restored; although it looks fantastic, it does not begin to compare to the unique architectural genius of its neighboring competition, The West Baden Springs Hotel.

On the steamy July day that I visited, the fans and rocking chairs on the shaded porch were a welcome site.

The lobby area is quite ornate, with lots of gilding and hand-painted artistic touches.

Still, I prefer its next door neighbor, which we will visit on my next post.

See more vintage and current French Lick photos on my French Lick, Indiana web page.


Robby Cress said...

What a beautiful looking town. I love that large front porch on the hotel with the long row of rocking chairs. Looks like the perfect place to relax with an iPad and a cold drink on a warm day.

Connie Moreno said...

OMG!!! I want to go there!

Unknown said...

We live very close and stay at FLHC often. I have never heard of the Gorge Inn until I saw it on your page. Does it still stand? I love Craftsman architecture.

Daveland said...

As far as I know it still stands, but it has been a few years since my last visit.

Unknown said...

Sadly, I was notified just today, that the Gorge was burnt to the ground today in a controlled burn by the FL fire Department.

Daveland said...

Dinah - Thank you for the update. And yes - very sad. It's a shame an adaptive reuse wasn't found for The Gorge.

Unknown said...

As per above comment, the owners and their contractors held the controlled burn that destroyed the weather damaged Gorge, not the French Lick Fire department. The fire department would have never issued a permit for burning because of the hazardous materials contained in the building. The matter has been turned over to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management for review.

Karen Padgett said...

Ran across your blog today, just wanted to let you know that I am heading efforts to restore the Mineral Springs building to its original purpose of hotel, restaurant and retail space. Hope you will come back to Paoli sometime.

Unknown said...

Thank you for the pictures of the Gorge. My parents were residents there when it was "Gentlecare of French Lick". I drove to the stone arch for the first time in almost 23 years today. I was able to show it to my daughter, who was too young then to remember it, and my son who had never seen it. It was beautiful then and my parents loved it. This was a good trip down memory lane. Thank you.

Daveland said...

I am so glad to hear that the arch is at least still there. Depending upon how things continue to play out with the pandemic, I was hoping to be back in Indiana some time before the end of the year.