Our Stories Resort Blog

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


Inside the Billiard & Bowling Pavilion, Soon Coming Back to Life

January 02, 2023
West Baden Billiard and Bowling Pavilion
What’s old will soon be new again at the Billiard and Bowling Pavilion.


West Baden Gardens
You may have passed by this historic structure without even realizing. It’s tucked in back of the formal gardens at West Baden Springs Hotel, just off the side of the brick road when you take the “back” entrance to the hotel. Like all the other structures on the West Baden grounds, it’s got an interesting past. And, you might be interested to know it has a bright future as well.





Construction workers

First, a little bit about the past….

A holiday birthday at 105 years old.

It opened to hotel guests on Christmas Day of 1917. And was likely a novel luxury to guests during that era, as our Resort Historian, Jeff Lane, explains.

“To have had a separate building like this on the property where bowling was available, I would think that would have been pretty impressive. There had been a bowling structure on the property before this building was built. There was a major fire in early February of 1917 which destroyed all of the wooden structures here in the garden area; there had been an opera house as well as many other structures, and there had been a bowling alley in a portion of one of those buildings.









Pool Hall

The Billiard & Bowling Pavilion also housed a small shooting gallery, which can be seen in the rear of this photo.


This building was designed by Peter Weber, whose fingerprints are all over the West Baden Springs Hotel property.

Weber also designed the Hygeia and Apollo spring structures (both still standing today nearby in the gardens), the West Baden National Bank building (also constructed 1917 and still standing today near West Baden’s arched entryway), as well as the hotel’s porch and east terrace. Weber studied in Berlin, Germany and the Neoclassical or Beaux-Arts style architectural influence shows up in structures like this Billiard & Bowling Pavilion.

Old Billiard and Bowling Pavilion


After the hotel closed in the early 1930s, the Billiard & Bowling Pavilion took on a couple different lives.

With periodic spells of flooding in the gardens causing the wooden bowling alley to warp, it was replaced with a concrete slab during the era when the Jesuits inhabited the hotel. They turned it into a recreational floor for neighborhood kids to use. Later, when Northwood Institute moved in, the students attempted to use the building as a student center.


Old Billiard and Pool Pavilion
Note the supports hanging from the ceiling near the center of this photo. It's believed they hung basketball goals here and also played hoops in this building at some point during the Jesuit era.


The interior has been empty and neglected for possibly more than 50 years. Still, some of the best features remain intact as Jeff points out.

“Of course the arches at the front are still pretty amazing; we can see the brick. The columns that would have led to the bowling alley, they are limestone and they have certainly withstood the test of time. We even see on the ceiling some of the original detailing — the dentals around the edge along the wall, the plaster work on the ceiling which is amazing and beautiful. From any pictures we have in our archives, I don’t know that we can see all these things, so it’s really nice that these features are still present and can be replicated.”

Newer Billiard and Pool Pavilion


And that leads us to the future….

This is one of the few buildings that has not been renovated since the 2004-05 restoration of the property — primarily because it has been susceptible to high-water events in the past.

Yet the Bowling & Billiard has stood the test of time. Its unique construction is part of the reason why. It was constructed on concrete columns that extend below the ground. Between those and the network of concrete beams below the floor slab, the building sits on something solid.

French Lick Resort
Justin Harris, French Lick Resort’s Director of Facilities and a licensed engineer, explains the initial phase of keeping the building high and dry going forward:

“The first step was to protect the building from high water events. We’ve gone through a process of constructing walls with floodgates, and we have a fairly large lift station to pump the storm water out of this area. In essence, we’re creating like a miniature Amsterdam. We may be below sea level, but we’re going to keep the water out and we are going to first test this to make sure there aren’t any old drains or anything that might convey water across the barrier of the flood walls. Once we can do that, then we’ll start on the renovation of this building.

New West Baden Bowling Alley


The plan is to eventually restore the building back to its original use as a bowling alley.

That means six lanes of bowling, a snack shop and a new area for restrooms. It will likely be dressed up as a multi-functional venue that groups can use for indoor or outdoor events. Everything is still in the works with this project, so there could be other games or activities offered in this space as well.

Stay tuned for Billiard & Bowling Pavilion 2.0. Soon you’ll be rolling strikes again in this historic venue, just like the good ol’ days more than 100 years ago.

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