Wednesday, September 25, 2013

French Lick, IN

Yes, it's a real place. The tiny little towns of French Lick and West Baden are nestled in the Southern Indiana hills and LOADED with history and Hollywood connections. I've always been fascinated by this place and how close it is to home. To really appreciate this place we need to have a quick little history lesson. Bear with me, it's worth it.

The area is known for its mineral springs, and entrepreneurs have been capitalizing on them for decades. Known as "Pluto water" the water from the springs were thought to have healing powers. In 1845 the French Lick Springs Hotel was built. Since then its had its share of ups and downs, but back in its heyday it was a playground for the rich and famous. In 1931 Franklin D. Roosevelt even announced his candidacy for President in the hotel's grand ballroom. In the 80s and 90s the hotel hit some hard times, but thanks to renovation in 2005, the hotel has been restored to its original grandeur. Today it holds a world-class spa, booming casino, and multiple golf courses...and those are just a few of the possible activities.

The ornate artwork and Italian mosaic floors make you feel like you're in Europe instead of rural Indiana.

Notice the little Plutos in the stonework.

This is the original springhouse built with the hotel. Pluto water was so popular in the early 20th Century that the hotel started bottling it for sale. Back then they would use this water as a treatment for almost everything. That is, until the production of it was banned because it was found to have lithium...oops. Today you can take special mineral water baths in the spa. It may have magical powers but let me warn you, it's stinky.

Right next door to French Lick is the West Baden Springs Hotel and Spa. It's history is just as rich. After the original hotel burned down, a grand domed hotel was built in 1902 to model the spas in Europe. It was advertised as "The 8th Wonder of the World". West Baden has had many jobs since its opening. After the stock market crash in 1929 it was sold and functioned as a Jesuit school. During this time much of its elegant decor was changed or covered up. It also functioned as a culinary school for a while. Sadly, this hotel also hit hard times. In 1989 the building was officially closed down and over the next several years became extremely dilapidated. There's a happy ending though, because when the Cook Group came in to renovate French Lick in 2005, it also began work on saving West Baden. Today it's back to its former glory as well.

The dome is so cool to just sit and admire. In the lobby are some old pictures of the hotel right before its renovation. It's crazy to see the crumbling walls and dirt that used to be but then look around at how lavish it is today.

Mom and I decided to enjoy some lunch and girly drinks under the dome.

This fireplace isn't messing around. Note the little guy in the corner, that's Sprudel. The Pluto water was also sometimes called Sprudel water. I can't decide what exactly he is, a gnome or elf maybe?

A look at the little town of French Lick. On a completely unrelated note, the town has a claim to fame outside of the hotels and mineral springs. It's the hometown of the basketball legend Larry Bird.

It was the perfect morning to have breakfast on the veranda before heading back home.

I'm always amazed with each visit to French Lick. It seems like such a contradiction to have something so opulent and rich in history located in what used to be the poorest county in Indiana. The success of the resorts and casino has provided jobs and income for the area thankfully. While its location might seem a little obscure, the French Lick and West Baden Resorts are definitely worth the effort to get to them. It's a beautiful place and you're sure not to get bored with the countless activities available!
Want to make a visit or get a dose of a little more history? Visit


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