Kindred Spirits: Classic American Resort and Classic Cars

West Baden Springs Hotel abandoned

To use car terminology, West Baden Springs Hotel was a "barn find." A once glorious lady who became a shadow of herself following years of decay. Abandoned. Vulnerable to the elements. Unsure if she would ever be saved from extinction.

Magnificent West Baden Springs Hotel
Until an entrepreneur and consummate preservationist fell in love and saved the National Historic  Landmark.

Like anyone who has restored a classic car, the Cook family couldn’t learn enough about their new find. They spent countless hours trying to find out about the people who built and owned the hotel, the guests who visited and its subsequent lives as a Jesuit seminary and a private college.

Unfortunately, no architectural drawings of the hotel were located, but numerous photos provided the “blueprint” for the painstaking restoration. 22,000 pound towers were re-created and returned to their rightful perch, flanking what was once the world’s largest dome. Modern amenities were added while still maintaining the historic integrity and lavish guestrooms were designed to accommodate today’s discerning traveler. It would take $90 million to revive the classic beauty.

But the work didn’t end there; a top-to-bottom rehab was also done on French Lick Springs Hotel, once a competitor hotel but now under the French Lick Resort collection. Before it was all over, a 1917 designed golf    course would be converted back to its original design, a PGA championship worthy course would be added, a full-service casino would bring gaming back to the resort town (legal this time) and an event center would be added to host large-scale groups. In all, $560 million was spent to complete the “Save of the Century” as it has been dubbed.

Interestingly enough, it’s classic car groups who have been driving business to the resort. Auto preservationists can appreciate the comeback story and love the vintage appeal of the resort as a backdrop for their beauty.

Model A Restorers Club of America
Annual Conference June 2014
 MG 2014--- North American MGB
Register Convention
June 2014 
International Hudson Meet
July 2014
It’s not an uncommon sight to see Model A’s lining up outside of the hotels, MGs touring the back roads of southern Indiana or Hudsons parked as far as the eye can see. This trio of national car club events, which all happened within a five week span this summer, are just the tip of the iceberg. More events are already on the books - like the Porsche Parade in June 2015.

2014 Best of Show winners
Richard & Irina Mitchell
The resort will also be hosting the illustrious Concours d’Elegance at French Lick this fall. Formerly known as the Louisville Concours d’Elegance, the celebration of automotive excellence is on pace to become one of the top Concours in the country. This year, cars valued at well over $100 million dollars will grace the show field with Shelby American and classic cars from Indiana as the featured marques.

Rare cars like Carroll Shelby's
personal driver will be on display
during the Concours d'Elegance
at French Lick
Rarest of the rare cars from personal collections, well-heeled judges and a full weekend of activities will make the 2014 Concours d’Elegance at French Lick Resort an event to remember.   
It’s no wonder classic cars flock to this classic American resort; they’re kindred spirits - saved from extinction, lovingly restored and preserved for the future.