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.