West Baden Springs History 1902-1929
Vacation spot draws an elite crowd
West Baden Springs was a perennial vacation spot for the great and near-great during the first three decades of the twentieth century. Guests included the Studebakers and other captains of industry, prizefighter John L. Sullivan and other noted sports figures. Entire professional baseball teams held spring training at the resort. Political luminaries came from nearby and far away, including New York governor and presidential candidate Alfred E. Smith. Gangsters “Diamond Jim” Brady and Al Capone also spent time at the resort.
After Sinclair died in 1916, his daughter Lillian and her husband completed a massive renovation project begun in 1913. Her changes transformed the atrium into what she called the Pompeian Court, with marble wainscoting and an elaborate marble mosaic-tiled floor, classical statuary, decorative painting and gilded details. Overextended by the renovation, Lillian Sinclair in 1923 sold the hotel to Ed Ballard for one million dollars. Ballard, who began as a bowling alley worker in the hotel, had made his fortune operating classy gambling establishments in the area.
When the rise of the automobile and the burgeoning resorts in Florida began drawing wealthy vacationers away from the West Baden Springs Hotel, Ballard made up the loss by aggressively promoting the hotel to conventioneers and trade exhibitions.
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