Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Celebrating the Past at French Lick Resort

By Joy Neighbors
It all began in 1973 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated May as Preservation Month. Today, French Lick Resort is celebrating the month with several vintage displays set up to let guests get a glimpse of the past.

Vintage Cars
1926 Ford Model T Touring Edition
The 1926 Ford Model T Touring Edition is parked in front of French Lick Springs Hotel. Once the average worker could afford a “Tin Lizzie,” life began to change in America. People loved this car for its low price, versatility, durability and ease of maintenance. It was the first vehicle in the country to use standard interchangeable parts. The Model T had a 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine that had to be hand-cranked to start, and got anywhere from 13 to 21 miles per gallon. With all the stops pulled out, the “Tin Lizzie” could get up to the terrifying speed of 45 miles per hour. The Model T was manufactured from 1908 through 1927.

1929 Ford Model A Coupe
This sleek 1929 Ford Model A Coupe, complete with a rumble seat, looks at home with West Baden Springs Hotel in the background. Parked in front of the old Billiards and Bowling Pavilion in the Formal Gardens, guests are encouraged to pose for photos by the roadster. The Model A sported several features the Model T did not: a three-speed sliding gear transmission, a four-wheel break system, hydraulic shock absorbers, and a safety-glass windshield. And dare devils pushing it to the limit could get a Model A up to a blistering 65 miles per hour. Over five million cars were sold between 1928 and 1932.

1929 Rolls Royce Phantom 1
And then there’s the legendary “Flying Lady.” This 1929 Rolls Royce Phantom One with the St Andrews body style is one classic beauty. Originally owned by former Indianapolis mayor and former French Lick Springs Hotel owner, Thomas Taggart, this Rolls would seat seven and originally cost $18,500 - the equivalent of over $260,000 today. It was used for private transportation, and provided a nice ride for visiting politicians and celebrities. It recently took six years to restore the car at the cost $365,000, but she's now back in all her glory.
The Flying Lady, out for a spin
According to resort Transportation Manager Sam Ray, “We take these vehicles out for special events, or to use as props in scheduled photo shoots. Of course, we have to keep them running so I get to take them out and drive them. People love to see them – they stop and wave. In the summer, I’ll stop by one of the hotels in my chauffeur’s uniform and pick up guests just for the fun of it,” Sam smiles and nods, “Everyone loves that!”

Vintage Casino Machines
Mid Century Casino Games
Casino games have also seen major changes over the years. Today, a casino floor is alive with sound, flash and movement, but there once was a time when a slot machine didn’t make much sound until you won. On display at the French Lick Casino this month are slot machines from the 1940s and an “old-fashioned” roulette wheel. 
"Old Fashioned" Roulette Wheel
Roulette, the French word for “little wheel” was invented in 1796. The game became popular in the U.S. in the 19th century and today remains favored, thanks to online gaming. Other displays at the casino include china used at former gambling sites in the area, and post cards from several local gambling establishments of the early 20th century.
More history is waiting to be discovered at French Lick Resort, not just during Preservation Month, but every day of the year!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Seven Historical Facts about West Baden Springs Hotel


By Joy Neighbors

Thanks to Lee Sinclair and his forward-looking ideas, West Baden Springs Hotel grew to become a world-renowned resort at the turn of the last century. When Sinclair died in 1916, his daughter Lillian continued the legacy of updating and remodeling the hotel. When Ed Ballard took over ownership in the 1920s, West Baden was known for its “moving” Sprudel water, baseball, and numerous luxurious conveniences.

Here are seven more historical points in honor of National Preservation Month.

West Baden Freestanding Dome

1) The largest freestanding dome in the
world spanned the atrium at West Baden until the 1960s when the Houston Astrodome took the glory.

2) West Baden was known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World” because of the dome.

Jesuits Cemetery
3) The Jesuits bought the hotel from Ed
Ballad for a dollar in 1934. West Baden houses three groups of Jesuits during the 30 years they kept the hotel: Priests, Brothers and students.
4) There is a cemetery on the property. Close to 40 Jesuits are interred in the small graveyard located a few steps from the West Baden portico. Visitors are welcome.

The Rookwood Fireplace in the Atrium
5) For several years, West Baden was a business and culinary school known as Northwood Institute.

6) The atrium boasts a one-of-a-kind
fireplace crafted from Rookwood tile made in Cincinnati and now valued in the millions.
7) West Baden opened as a hotel again in 2007 – 75 years after the hotel closed its doors on June1, 1932.

Learn more about West Baden Springs Hotel; visit our web page and explore all we have to offer.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Eight Historical Tidbits About French Lick Springs Hotel

By Joy Neighbors
Dr. William Bowles
May is National Preservation Month, a great time to mine the archives for interesting tidbits about French Lick Springs Hotel.

It was 1845 when Dr. William Bowles purchased land in southern Indiana and built the first French Lick Springs Hotel. Bowles believed that the local waters had healing powers. When he introduced his “miracle water cure,” French Lick became a stop on the wellness map. 

French Lick Brick
1. French Lick Springs Hotel was built with trademarked buff (yellow) bricks known as the “French Lick Brick.”

An Advertisement for Pluto Water
2. Pluto Water was French Lick’s trademarked water bottled at a local plant from the sulphur and lithium-rich springs located in the valley. Thanks to its effectiveness as a laxative, the company’s slogan, “If nature won’t, Pluto will” was true.

Monon Depot at French Lick
3. Former Indianapolis mayor Tom Taggart convinced the Monon Railroad to lay a special track to the door of the hotel so that guests from Chicago and Louisville could simply step off the train into luxury. At one time seven trains arrived and departed daily from the depot.

Birthplace of Tomato Juice
4. Tomato juice was created here in 1917. Chef Louis Perrin was preparing orange juice for the breakfast of hotel guests when he ran out of fruit. Thinking quickly, he began juicing tomatoes, and by adding a mixture of special ingredients (sugar, onions, garlic powders and spices), Perrin created what became known as the tomato juice cocktail.

FDR at French Lick Springs Hotel
5. Franklin Delano Roosevelt announced his intention of running for president at the 1931 Democratic Governor’s Conference held at the French Lick Springs Hotel. Roosevelt received the nomination of the Democrats one year later.

Abbot and Costello Share Breakfast with a Friend
6. Hundreds of famous people – stars and presidents - have stayed at French Lick Springs Hotel. From the early 1900s through the 1950s, it was known as “America’s Playground” - a place to see and be seen.

The Hill Course (Now Donald Ross)
7. In order to withstand the Great Depression and WWII, the hotel began touting itself as a golfer’s destination instead of a wellness spa.

The Pete Dye Course
8. French Lick is home to three championship golf courses: the Valley Links course was designed by Tom Bendelow and opened in 1910, the Hill Course (now the Donald Ross Course) was designed by Donald Ross and opened in 1917, and the Pete Dye Course was designed by golf architect Pete Dye on the back of a napkin. It opened in 2007.

Find out more about French Lick Springs Hotel and French Lick Resort and plan a visit to experience this one-of-a-kind hotel for yourself.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Remembering Mudlavia – Another Hoosier Wellness Spa

 By Joy Neighbors

Wellness resorts were hot commodities in the late 1800s. Travelers went to Hot Springs, Arkansas and Saratoga Springs, New York to "take the waters.” And of course, French Lick and West Baden, Indiana were home to two well-known health spas where the wealthy could enjoy spa treatments, and some time away from frantic society events. But there were several such spa-based hotels located in the Hoosier State.

Mudlavia Hotel
One was situated in north western Indiana, near the town of Kramer. The Mudlavia Hotel was home to the healing Mudlavia Mud Cure and Lithia Water Baths where guests were packed in hot mud before bathing in the hot mineral waters. The standard prescription was to "take the cure" once a day for the 21 days for maximum benefit.

The water's curative powers were discovered when a local farmer, digging a ditch, realized that as he worked in the mud, and drank from a nearby stream, his arthritis began to lessen. Soon he didn't hurt at all - he was cured. 

Mudlavia Springs
When word spread, H.L. Kramer bought the land and built a large hotel where he housed the healing water baths. Visitors came from around the country seeking a cure to their rheumatism, consumption and other serious health conditions.

But Mudlavia was not seeking the “typical" resort guest. The hotel brochure stated, “Who comes here, leaves vice behind.” A nice way to let the wealthy know that no gambling, drinking or other "amenities" offered at the lavish resorts would be tolerated here.

Mudlavia’s guests were also older adults, mainly in their 50s through 70s with health problems usually brought on by age. Men were the more frequent visitors to the hotel. Most were middle class with occupations such as bankers, mangers, teachers and salesmen. 

Most treatments took 21 days so the guest was at the hotel for at least three weeks. At the end of this time, if you were not “cured,” then another round of treatments were called for, which would last another 21 days. Many could not afford to stay any longer, and numerous people left without relief.

Mudlavia had a good reputation in the Midwest for it's curative mud and waters. But then on February 29, 1920, a fire was discovered in a hotel linen closet and the Mudlavia Hotel burned to the ground. There was talk of rebuilding but with the approaching Great Depression, no one was interested, nor could they afford to seek the cure anymore. French Lick Resort had the good fortune of the Cook family’s interest in preserving these two historic hotels for future generations. Mudlavia did not fare as well.

Mudlavia falls into disrepair
The structure fell into disrepair but was rallied as a home for the elderly during the mid-20th century. It was then remodeled and housed a restaurant before burning down again in 1974.  Although the hotel is now gone, the water was still being bottled and sold under the Cameron Springs brand until 2008 when the FDA banned its sale.

Want to learn more about the golden age of the “healing waters?” Step back in history with Indiana Landmarks and tour French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel. You’ll discover who came to stay and play here, and just what was so special about Pluto water and Sprudel Water, two big sellers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Tours of each hotel are offered every day.  Visit Indianan Landmarks for details.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

There’s More to the Mansion at Pete Dye Than Meets the Eye

By Joy Neighbors

Heather Harrison give a tour of the Mansion
May is National Preservation Month – a perfect time to explore some of the historical features of French Lick Resort. Today, we’ll take a tour of the Mansion at Pete Dye with Heather Harrison, Golf Food and Beverage Assistant Manager.


A Guest Suite
The Pete Dye Mansion has been part of the resort for almost a century. When former Indianapolis mayor, Thomas Taggart purchased French Lick Springs Hotel in 1901, Mt Airie, one of the highest points in Indiana, was part of the deal. In 1928, Taggart decided to build a brick rendition of the family’s Hyannis Port home on Mt Airie for his son, Tom Taggart, Jr. and his family. The mansion was completed in 1929, six months after Tom Taggart Sr.’s death.

The Modern Bathroom, Circa 1929
Tom moved in with his two-year-old daughter Eva, and a nanny. The mansion featured all of the latest enhancements of the era, plus a widow’s walk, an underground tunnel and secret passageways. Taggart owned the home until 1953 when he sold it. 

The Main Entry
Since then there have been seven owners. Then, in 2008, Bill Cook purchased the mansion with the new Pete Dye Golf Course. The home sold under the condition that it would not be torn down, but instead renovated back to its former glory. The Cook family agreed and renovations began to convert the house into the Pete Dye Clubhouse.

Arched Doors in the Mansion
Today, the mansion is a delight to behold, and an adventure to explore. The home boasts the original arched wooden doorways, beautiful crown molding, and 1920s bathroom fixtures in both upstairs suites. The lavishly appointed manse has four king guestrooms with separate living and dining rooms. 

The One Piece Curved Bannister
The banisters for the double winding staircases leading from the foyer to the second floor were created from two separate pieces of wood soaked in water, twisted, cold pressed and put into clamps to form the continuous curving railings. A servant’s staircase is located near Eva’s playroom, and the nanny’s room on the third floor retains its original storage function for the home. The widow’s walk provides a breath-taking 360-degree 40-mile view of Southern Indiana.

The Hidden Staircase
Of course, what mansion would be complete without a hidden staircase (located in the dining room, winding upward to the master suite), narrow servant’s passageways, and a servant’s foot bell discreetly hidden under the dining room table. The secret tunnel was filled in, and no longer connects the carriage house to the mansion.

A Room with a View
Today, you can enjoy romantic Sunset Dinners at the mansion on Sunday evenings all summer. And while you’re there, slip upstairs for a peek at the grand appointments of this beautiful mansion, which still captures the essence of the Roaring Twenties.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Happy Trails and a New Pony at The Stables

Horses in front of French Lick Springs Hotel in the 1920s
Horses have always been a part of the resort. Stables Ranch Manager Doug Stevens has spent his life in the saddle, so he understands horses. “The horses are also employees here at The Stables,” Doug said. “They have good days, and they have days when they’re tired. You have to learn how to read them and pay attention to what they’re telling you.”

Howdy is a Belgium Workhorse
With that in mind, Doug has decided that Howdy, the carriage horse, is ready for some rest, so he will be going into semi-retirement this summer. Howdy, a Belgium workhorse, has been at the resort for twenty years. “He’s spent years pulling the carriage for guests,” Doug said. “He’s probably around 26 years old; that’s about 75 in human years." But Howdy won't be put out to pasture, he'll still work a day or two a week pulling the carriage. "And he can also be used for trail rides. He's a good horse, but he’s due some time off," Doug said.

A Resort Carriage Ride
There will be no downtime though; a new carriage horse is waiting to take over Howdy’s rigorous schedule. She is going through training now and will begin taking the load off Howdy this summer.
While Howdy will be getting a long-due rest, a recent addition to the herd that Doug rescued will begin to pull her weight. “We have two ponies that we discovered from a phone call,” Doug said. “One is being trained for the children’s pony rides.” 

Manager Doug Stevens and the new pony
Doug has rescued over a dozen ponies since he began working for The Stables nearly 20 years. “There are lots of things to consider before you decide to take on a horse,” Doug said. “You can’t just get a horse and let it go. It needs attention and maintenance to be happy and healthy. And, at The Stables, all of our horses and ponies undergo ample training to make sure they are ‘guest-ready.’”
Come visit The Stables at French Lick Resort, home to 28 horses, each carefully selected and trained for trail horses, carriage horses, and ponies for the children to ride. Call to schedule a trail ride, hayride, or family visit. Groups activities are also available. (812) 936-5546.
Written by Joy Neighbors

Friday, April 14, 2017

The Unsinkable Molly Brown and Her Ties to West Baden

Margaret "Molly" Brown
She was a well-known American philanthropist, but is best remembered as the most famous survivor from the sinking of the Titanic.
Margaret “Maggie” Brown, better known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” was a passenger on the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic when it struck an iceberg on the evening of April 14th 1912. Within three hours, the ship had sank, but Maggie did all she could to assist people into the lifeboats. 

Titanic Survivors
Once she was forced aboard Lifeboat No. 6, Maggie took an oar and helped row the boat away from the dangerous debris. And then she heard the crys for help behind her. After multiple urgings to Quartermaster Robert Hichens, the crewmember in charge of the lifeboat, that he return to save those people, Maggie lost her temper. She threatened to throw Hichens overboard if he didn’t turn the lifeboat around and go back for more survivors. No one ever determined if he did, but the story garnered Maggie a place in history.

RMS Carpathia
But it was onboard the Carpathia, as it took survivors back to America, that her most significant work occurred. By the time the ship docked, Brown had established the Survivor’s Committee and had raised nearly $10,000 for the destitute Titanic survivors. 

Once ashore in America, Maggie
West Baden Springs Hotel
wanted to escape from the fame that had followed her onto land. Searching for some much needed rest, she traveled to a small hotel in Southern Indiana to recuperate from the tragic ordeal. Maggie Brown “took the waters” and rested at West Baden Springs Hotel until she felt up to facing her public life again.

Margaret Brown
Thanks to mid-century writers, and Hollywood, working to capture the harrowing sinking of the Titanic, and the can-do spirit of this American socialite, Maggie became known as “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” 

Margaret Brown utilized her Titanic fame to promote the rights of workers, and early feminist issues, along with literacy and education for children, and historic preservation. Brown was one of the first women to run for public office. She ran for the Senate in 1914, but stopped her campaign in order to travel to France. It was during this trip, during World War 1 that she worked behind the scenes with the American Committee for Devastated France, tending to wounded French and American soldiers. Brown was awarded the French Legion of Honor for her activism and assistance.
Brown became an actress in later life, and helped erect the Titanic Memorial in Washington D.C. Margaret “Maggie” Brown died at the age of 65 of a brain tumor - well respected for her role in advocating for the poor.

Written by Joy Neighbors

Friday, March 31, 2017

Two Upcoming Concerts are Classics

The hills (and the valley) are alive with the sounds of classic 70’s and 80’s tunes this spring at French Lick Resort!

Kool and The Gang
Wrapping up the month of April, “It’s a Celebration” with one of the iconic groups of the 1970s and 80’s. With over 70 million albums sold worldwide, Kool and The Gang has influenced three generations of music lovers with their incredible blend of jazz, funk and soul.

And this band hasn’t sat on its laurels. Kool and The Gang has earned two Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, 31 gold and platinum albums, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, nine Top Ten Pop hits, and a star of The Hollywood Walk of Fame. The band has also received the NARM (National Association of Recording Merchandisers) Chairman Award for lifetime achievement in record sales. 

Some of their greatest hits include “Ladies Night,” “Jungle Boogie,” “Too Hot,” “Take My Heart (You Can Have It),” and “Tonight.” In 2006, the group re-entered the Billboard R&B chart with “Steppin’ Into Love.” 

Kool and The Gang has played music for 50 years and is still one of the most active touring bands to the delight of their millions of fans world-wide. Don’t miss them, live at French Lick Resort, on Saturday, April 29th in the Hoosier Ballroom. Doors open at 6:00, show starts at 8 pm.  Check out Kool and The Gang to purchase tickets.

Three Dog Night
Get ready for an evening of great hits with the legendary sounds of Three Dog Night. Another classic group that has entertained us for nearly 50 years, Three Dog Night offers an eclectic mix of pop and rock.

Thanks to their compelling vocal harmonies and dynamic sound, no other group has had more top hits or sold more records including 21 consecutive Top 40 hits, 11 Top Ten albums, and 12 consecutive gold albums.

All-time favorite hits like “Mama Told Me (Not To Come),” “Joy to the World,” “Black and White,” “Shambala,” and “Liar” resonate with today’s audiences as well.

 During the past 30 years, Three Dog Night has played more than 2,200 shows including two Super Bowl performances, and the band continues to tour year-round packing performance halls and arenas with a multi-generational group of fans. Plan to attend this special concert Saturday, May 20th in the Hoosier Ballroom. Doors will open at 6pm and the show kicks off at 8:00. For tickets, visit Three Dog Night.

Let the music move you this spring when two legendary bands perform at French Lick Resort!

By Joy Neighbors

Friday, March 24, 2017

World War Two Vet Meets His Singing Idol

Jesse Parnell During WWII
Jesse Parnell served in WWII, raised four children, and flew with the Indy Honor Flight, so he’s pretty hard to surprise. But when Jesse’s daughter Darlene Parnell heard that Connie Smith would be at the resort, she began making plans. “Dad has listened to country music forever,” Darlene said. “I can remember as a child listening to country songs when we were driving to my grandparents. He just loves it.”
“Connie Smith is his all-time favorite singer,” Darlene said. “Saturday nights on RFD TV, when the Marty Stuart Show comes on and Marty features his country queen – Connie Smith, we can’t even talk with Dad. We have to wait until the show is over. He’s really a fan!”

Jesse Parnell Today
Darlene knew that she had to get tickets to see Marty Stuart and Connie Smith perform at French Lick. She wrote the resort, explaining that after an active life, having served in WWII, raising four children working as a warehouse superintendent in Indianapolis, and flying with the Indy Honor Guard, there was one thing the 91-year-old still hoped to do: meet Connie Smith. French Lick Resort decided to make it a show Jesse would never forget.
Darlene knew ahead of time that Jesse would be meeting Connie but she only told him that they would be attending the concert. “He will be so surprised,” she said. “He’s very happy about going to the concert, he hopes she “sing his favorite song, ‘Once a Day’.”
Jesse finds out he'll meet Connie Smith 

Concert day arrived, cool and drizzly. It was Friday, March 17th - St Patrick’s Day, so the majority of resort guests were sporting green shirts, pants and headgear, Darlene and Jesse included. Jesse was excited but he didn’t suspect a thing.
It wasn’t until Darlene and Jesse went to pick up their tickets that he learned he would get to meet his idol, and get photos taken with her. Jesse was speechless! Darlene said that her dad had never met anyone famous.

Jesse Parnell and Connie Smith
Now he has, and the fact that it was Connie Smith – his all-time favorite singer – well, the look on Jesse’s face says it all: Ain’t We Having Us a Good Time!
By Joy Neighbors