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A Stroll through the Hotel Gardens from the Early Days

French Lick Gardens

It’s always a nice time for a walk in the gardens — even if it’s just a pictorial stroll through history.

We’re opening up the photo archives for a look at the French Lick Springs Hotel gardens and the West Baden Springs Hotel gardens from the early days of the hotel. Even in black and white, these gardens are a sight to behold.

A view of the French Lick Springs Hotel upper gardens, circa 1913. These were located behind the hotel, near where the French Lick Villas are located today. 

french lick garden pathway

A ground-level view of this area shows how wooded this garden area used to be 100+ years ago. The shade was much appreciated by guests, since this was long before the days of air conditioning. This was just to the west and up the hill from the famed Pluto Spring House, where guests would drink the famous Pluto mineral water. The custom of the day was to "take the waters" then take a walk around the gardens or hotel grounds, because light exercise was recommended while waiting for the laxative effect of the waters to kick in. 
Also note the sundial in the middle of the walking path. The sundial contained the message: "Time and tide wait for no man; neither does Pluto."


Old photo of French Lick Gardens

colorful painting of french lick gardens

This area was also known as the Rose Garden, because of the brightly colored beds of roses flanked by blue spruce and pine trees and red brick. 


french lick springs hotel garden bridge

A low, marshy area behind the hotel was also transformed into a Japanese style garden — this is the same area the hotel gardens are today. This became another favorite spot for guests to enjoy, with foot bridges, koi ponds, a bamboo fence, ferns, evergreens and water lilies. 


french lick gardens in snow

Even blanketed in winter snow, the garden aura was special.


black and white photo garden fountain

Taking a quiet moment in the gardens. 


1900's postcard of french lick gardens

Postcard images of the gardens, from the early 1900s. 


postcard of french lick springs

the home of pluto water
old photo of west baden springs

Likewise at West Baden Springs Hotel, the gardens were a central focus of the hotel experience. A major fire in 1917 destroyed an opera house, bowling alley, hospital, bottling plant and hot water pavilion in this area adjacent to the hotel. The sunken gardens, created in 1920, contain the original brick walls and walkways from when the garden was first built.


sunken garden west baden

west baden garden with old cars

An old-time garden view from the West Baden Springs Hotel veranda.


west baden springs garden postcard

More of a bird's-eye view of the gardens from historic postcards. The postcard above delivers a great view of the three spring houses/pavilions. Apollo (bottom left) and Hygeia (far right) are still standing today, while the Sprudel Pavilion (near the middle of the photo) was razed in 1974. In the upper left near the grove of trees, you can see the edge of the former bicycle and pony track.

sunken garden and springs post card

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