Today marks the 10th Anniversary of French Lick Resort. Back in 2005, French Lick Springs Hotel was quietly falling apart. Few employees, or locals, thought it would last much longer, and some had become skeptical that it could be saved at all. But the Cook family had a vision for the hotel, the resort and the community that they were determined to see through.
|Before & After - French Lick Lobby|
It wasn’t easy. Although there were plans to leave the hotel open during the renovations, which would allow everyone to keep their jobs, the repairs became too dangerous for that. This meant that over 300 employees would lose their jobs for a year while French Lick Springs Hotel was renovated.
But Bill Cook had made a promise to those workers, and he was not a man to go back on his word. Casino employee Marty Meyer remembers what happened well, “Mr. Cook arranged to supplement our unemployment so that it equaled our wages. He paid the difference – we received our full checks every week. What he did wasn’t feasible for a business but he didn’t care. He just wanted to save us along with these two historic hotels and revive these two towns, and did he ever!”
Hagen’s Restaurant employee, Carissa Miller also recalls that year. “Mr. Cook stepped in and paid the balance (after unemployment) for each employee so we would all still be making our regular wages. Plus, he paid the insurance for all of us for the year the resort was closed. I had two small children, and my husband and I were both employed at the resort. That kept us whole – everyone needed this. That made such a difference in my life and I’ll never forget it!”
|French Lick Springs Hotel Before & After|
In 2006, French Lick Springs Hotel reopened its doors as a classic American hotel. The “new” hotel now boasted 443 rooms, a full-service spa and health facility, an array of meeting and event spaces, and eight restaurants ranging from fine dining to grab-n-go.
|West Baden Arches Before & After|
The next year brought the grand opening of West Baden Springs Hotel, 75 years after the last guest departed. Major changes were needed to make the building structurally sound again but the Cooks understood historic preservation and knew that once completed, this hotel would become a state and national treasure.
|West Baden Lobby Before & After|
Attention was paid to the smallest detail in order to maintain the integrity of the hotel’s glory days at the turn of the last century. The hotel now had 246 spacious rooms including a dozen specialty suites, and a reinforced free-spanning dome that had once been called the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” A refurbished two-story natatorium and spa facility along with several exquisite dining establishments rounded out the exceptional offerings. With an elegance that befitted the finer estates of Europe, West Baden Springs Hotel captured the grandeur and romance of an earlier era.
|West Baden Springs Hotel Before & After|
Visit either hotel today and it’s hard to imagine how devastating time and vandals had been, but these photos will remind you of the sad shape these historic properties were in, and also show just how far these two grand dames have come.
Happy Tenth Anniversary to French Lick Resort! With so much that has happened in this past decade, it’s exciting to know that the best is yet to come!
By Joy Neighbors