Our Stories Resort Blog

Dig a little deeper into stories about our history, unique guest features, and what’s happening around the resort.


Hotel Headlines From Days Gone By

April 13, 2023
Newspaper about gaming at french lick

When we say our hotels have been making headlines for well over a century, it’s the truth.

Dusting off some old newspaper clippings to spotlight a few of the occasions we’ve been in the news over the years....

The May 2, 1908 edition of the Indianapolis News sported the headline “Gambling at French Lick, Where Tom Taggart And Al Brown Reign As The Keepers of Noted Resorts And Are Reaping Rich Harvests.”

If you’ve got a good zoom tool and a little bit of time, it’s interesting to peruse the story (or the accompanying editorial cartoon, at least). The writer of the story interviewed the local sheriff, prosecutor and judge, who all had the same laissez-faire attitude about allowing illegal gambling to occur in French Lick. The not-so-secret gambling kept people flocking to Taggart’s French Lick Springs Hotel during the day, and the Brown Hotel (located right across the street) for gambling festivities into the night.

French Lick Springs Hotel owner Tom Taggart on the steps

French Lick Springs Hotel owner Tom Taggart on the steps (circa 1911), and the
Brown Hotel (below) which guests of Taggart's hotel frequented for gambling.

Brown Hotel

Aftermath of West Baden Springs Hotel fire

Aftermath of the June 1901 fire that gutted the original West Baden Springs Hotel.


West Baden Fire news headline

On June 14 and 15 in 1901, folks around the country were shocked to open their newspapers and see this headline:

Hotel Lies In Ruins … Great West Baden Structure Totally Consumed.

It made headlines from New York to San Francisco. Some early editions of the day incorrectly stated that as many as 200 people perished in the fire. This newspaper correctly that all the guests escaped, and that the “fire was attended with thrilling rescues…guests had not time to dress – turned out into the rain.”

Barely over a year later, the new West Baden Springs Hotel that we know today was open and ready for guests.







West Baden Fire Newspaper clipping

Unfortunately, fire headlines were popular back in the day. This 1939 fire consumed the French Lick Springs Country Club, which is today The Donald Ross Course at French Lick.

The December 14, 1918 edition of the Fort Wayne Sentinel carried the headline

The December 14, 1918 edition of the Fort Wayne Sentinel carried the headline “Famous Hotel Now Huge Hospital for Yanks.”

Army Hospital staff

West Baden Military Hospital news articleWest Baden Hotel Military Hospital Newspaper








Newspaper about West Baden returning to Hotel after being hospital

For a span of seven months between 1918 and 1919, West Baden Springs Hotel temporarily closed to guests and became U.S. Army General Hospital No. 35. With World War I intensifying, the U.S. government prepared for the influx of soldiers returning from overseas and military hospitals were needed for recovering soldiers. A patriotic spirit led business owners to offer their buildings to the War Department for modification into temporary hospitals, as these large spaces could be converted much faster than barrack hospitals could be constructed and at less cost.

As one of these other headlines notes months later, “records show that 800 overseas men were cared for there, with no deaths.”










demon's den,1940's

A “looking back” style feature from a local newspaper carried this great picture of the Demon’s Den shortly after it opened in the mid-1940s. Playing off the hotel’s devilish Pluto mascot, the Demon’s Den was an oval-shaped bar on the lower level of French Lick Springs Hotel. Today, the offices of French Lick Resort's executive leadership are located in this spot, right around the corner from the rock tunnel that leads to Pluto's Pizzeria and Pluto's Alley.

Pluto Mineral Water New article
Speaking of Pluto, a vintage newspaper ad extolls the wonder of the famed Pluto mineral water.

“Pluto spring contains three times more sulphureted hydrogen than any other spring on the continent … the air is rich with oxygen the entire year … the sulphureted hydrogen with which the atmosphere is highly charged precludes all possibility of malaria.”


West Baden Springs article asking for workers



West Baden Springs hotel Walls falling apart

This brief story from 1992 was likely buried somewhere in the middle pages, back when West Baden Springs Hotel was practically an afterthought and the walls of the hotel were literally crumbling.

If you had $800,000 lying around 30 years ago to buy the hotel, you could’ve bought the place. As it turned out, we’re pretty happy the Cook family ultimately made the multimillion-dollar investment to bring the hotel back to life.

Tagged In:

Related Posts