When we broke the news last month about re-discovering the Neptune Spring on the West Baden Springs Hotel property, the response on Facebook was overwhelming. 7,000+ likes, loves and “wow”s. 3,000+ shares. Nearly 900 comments.
We received a lot of questions about it, and today we
hopefully have a few more answers as we continue working to revive this
historical site. Chuck Franz (Vice President of Cook Group, French Lick
Resort’s parent company) and Justin Harris (French Lick Resort’s Director of
Facilities and a licensed engineer) have been working closely on the project,
and here’s what they can tell us about this 130-year-old spring that has been
Some of the marble and glazed brick from the bottom of the spring house basin is still remarkably well intact after 100+ years of being exposed to the elements.
Q: Is the spring still flowing?
Justin Harris: “That’s something we were curious to
see when we first uncovered it, and we found that the spring is still flowing.
We can pump out all the water from the spring basin, and within 12 hours it
will fill up to that third step from the top, about 5 feet deep. It’s still
flowing at 2 gallons per minute — historically it was 4-6 gallons per minute.
It’s the only active original spring to the West Baden property, since all the
other springs had been capped.”
Chuck Franz: “The pathways that we uncovered aren’t in the greatest condition yet, but we’re going to level all these pathways and revitalize them. This area used to be called East Park and we want to bring back this entire East Park area, because it does have a lot of history, and allow our guests to walk the grounds.”
Justin Harris: “The original paths that lead to the
spring were made from concrete panels that were an inch to an inch-and-a-half
thick, and after being buried for so many years, it broke up into a
cobblestone-type surface. Those paths aren’t safe for public consumption yet,
but we’re working to get them restored. As far as the spring basin, we’re figuring
out a better way to protect the area rather than just some steel barricades. We
plan to continue to work throughout the summer on this, and have it a feature
just as quickly as we can. There’s a lot of curiosity, a lot of interest in
Justin Harris: “If we were able to rebuild something
similar to the original structure, we would fall into the same issues that the
original hotel owners had, which is the frequent flooding of this area as it
sits in low-lying grounds. If you built it out of wood, of course you’re prone
to the wood rotting. We’d have to modify that and make that bottom portion
concrete or stone. It just doesn’t seem very feasible to do that. The people
back in the 1800s were craftsmen, and they did a lot of work that’s very
difficult for us to replicate without getting too much technology involved, and
then you kind of lose the historical nature of what it was. And the cost of
doing that would be significant.”
Chuck Franz: “We’re still working on it. Until we can
reroute the spring and get that water so that it drains effectively, we really
want to keep people away from it at this point in time while we continue to
work on it.”
Justin Harris: “Between the natural spring water that fills up the basin and rainwater that collects there, the basin is going to have some water in it until we put some kind of a drain system in. We’re in that planning phase of trying to find a solution to that problem.
I don’t know how they did it back in the day, but the
original Sprudel House (a short distance away in what are now the West Baden
Springs Hotel gardens) was an area that our guests could come to and sample the
waters from all the springs. That water had to get pumped somehow from the
Neptune Spring into the Sprudel House for the sampling. I don’t know how it
worked, and it doesn’t currently work; it doesn’t want to flow by gravity into
the creek. We’re probably stuck with pumping it in some capacity, but we have
to overcome the obstacle of getting power out to this area to install a pump,
and then ensuring it’s elevated or protected enough when we get high water in
Q: Amazed by the history that’s been dug up here?
Justin Harris: “The spring basin is actually still intact, and it’s very well preserved. It’s a miracle, because it’s made of cut sandstone. It sat in water so long that the sandstone gets a little soft by nature, but you can still see where the basin is carved sandstone with radiused corners. To still have that sandstone base is really cool.