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3 New Discoveries Inside the West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

Whether it’s your first time inside the West Baden Springs Hotel Museum or you’ve already visited before, there’s more history to see and more stories to discover.

Hey, when you’re 122 years old, you’ve got a lot of tales to tell.

We first opened the West Baden Springs Hotel Museum in May 2022 to showcase some of West Baden’s colorful and extensive past. This museum is always a work in progress with new items going on display, and as the museum officially turns 2 years old, here are three items from the newest sections that have been completed. With May being National Preservation Month, now’s the perfect time to stop in and take a look. The museum is open daily, free of charge.

a woman sitting on a table pointing at a display

Northwood Institute Era

From West Baden’s college days – when the Hotel housed Northwood Institute from 1966-83, comes this spirited little connection.

a group of girls posing for a photoLila Tucker is a 1973 Northwood alumna from nearby Paoli, and she loaned us her old cheerleading jacket which has been display for more than a year. One of the photos featured in the wall collage recently added behind the jacket is a group of Northwood cheerleaders hanging off the Apollo statue in the atrium. And Lila just so happens to be in that picture, too. She’s the one directly to the right of the statue, and still remembers squeezing onto the pedestal during that picture day more than 50 years ago.

“I didn’t know if we could all fit up there,” she says with a laugh, “but we did.”

A few steps away in the museum you’ll also find a Northwood letterman’s jacket, and across is a new Northwood display case that includes a devilishly cool Northwood Blue Devil figurine (all of which have been added this year).

a blue ceramic figurine on a glass shelf

Jesuit Era Wall

This might be the most mysterious era in West Baden’s history, because it’s the one we have the least documentation of.

Before Northwood moved in, the prior tenants were the Jesuits who utilized the hotel as a seminary for 30 years between the ’30s and ’60s. The Jesuits lived a simple, private lifestyle. That means very few photos exist from this era.

a group of men in a black frame

There’s one image on this wall that’s an original photo print: a group of priests at the old Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, taken circa 1932.

a church with pews and a chandelier

a large room with a large ceiling and a chandelier

Recognize the POV of this photo? Today, it’s the entrance to the atrium from the hotel lobby. When the Jesuits arrived, this area was walled up completely and the Jesuit altar was placed there as the focal point of their chapel. When Northwood moved in many years later, this area was expanded and made into a stage. 

a display of rocks and text

Core Sample Case

This countertop display case is like something out of a geology museum, but it illustrates the ground the original hotel was built on in 1902 – and why a significant repair was needed to save the atrium floor.

In a rush to be completed in one year’s time, the hotel was built atop poorly compacted fill atop underlying layers of material. Over the course of years and decades, this caused issues. Groundwater filled the bedrock under the floors and walls of the hotel, causing the atrium floor to heave and buckle in spots.

a construction site with a hole in the ground

Well before the hotel reopened in 2007, a repair in 1996 fixed these irregularities. This is what was found underneath: limestone, coal and shale, claystone, sandstone and fill material, layered to nearly 7 feet in all.

This cross-section of materials had been displayed in the old barbershop across the atrium, but now it has a new home in the museum. As for the atrium floor? Doing much better, thank you – it’s showed no evidence of cracking or heaving since this repair.

More to Come….

This museum is a work in progress with more stories to come. You might even own a piece of history to add to our story. If so, drop us a note at marketing@frenchlick.com – we’d love to hear from you!

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