West Baden Springs History 1901-1902
Creating “The Eighth Wonder of the World”
While French Lick claims the first hotel in the area, built in 1832, the town of Mile Lick—a mile north of the giant salt lick and springs in French Lick—also possessed mineral springs and capitalized on the attraction by 1855, when the first hotel was built there. Mile Lick was renamed West Baden, which offered a more sophisticated connection to the famous spa in Europe.
In 1888, Lee W. Sinclair acquired controlling interest in the West Baden Springs Hotel. All the guests escaped harm when a fire destroyed the structure in less than two hours in June 1901. On the ashes, Sinclair built the hotel of his dreams centered on a circular building, topped by the world’s largest dome and decorated like the grandest spas of Europe. Architect Harrison Albright of West Virginia accepted Sinclair’s challenge—considered impossible by most in the architectural community—to design and complete the grandiose building within a year.
In September 1902, the wondrous new hotel opened, with advertisements and press calling it the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” The hotel offered golf on two courses, horseback riding, billiards, bowling, baseball, swimming, hiking on scenic trails, bicycling, a moving picture theater and opera house, and more. Ads touted the resort’s mineral baths and Sprudel waters as broad-spectrum cures. Birds flew from palm to palm in the domed atrium (100 feet tall and 600 feet in circumference).
History of West Baden Springs Hotel
1901-1902: Creating "The Eighth Wonder of the World"
1902-1929: Vacation spot draws elite crowd
1930-1984: Great Depression ushers in college era
1985-1995: Post college years bring vacancy and deterioration
1996-1999: Partial restoration designed to attract buyer
2000-present: Nothing but blue skies from now on