Our Stories Resort Blog

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


See the Newest Relics inside the West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

Who says history can’t evolve into the future?

That’s our mantra at the West Baden Springs Hotel Museum. We first opened this new space last May as a way to showcase some of the relics and stories from West Baden’s colorful and extensive past. And we’re not done yet when it comes to discovering and displaying the old pieces of our past that are continually being discovered.

As the West Baden Museum officially turns 1 year old, here are four of the newest items that are on display. When you’re visiting, stop into the museum (open daily) and take a closer look for yourself.

West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

The Finial

This is the biggie.

It’s in the middle of the museum, it’s taller than most of us (about 6 feet) and it’s literally one-of-a-kind.

West Baden Springs Hotel ExteriorIt dates to 1902 when the hotel was built, and this is the only one of the original 16 finials to exist. These decorative elements adorned the towers of the hotel and were removed by the Jesuits when they occupied the building. This lone remaining finial made its way a few miles down the road to the backyard of a home in Paoli for many years. When the owners of the home sold their residence, they gifted it to historian and author Chris Bundy, who restored it and placed it on his Victorian home in Salem, Indiana. When Chris and Jenny Bundy then sold that home, they donated it to the French Lick West Baden Museum in 2018.

This lone finial survivor was restored, placed in a custom-built case, and is on loan to the hotel courtesy of the FLWB Museum.


West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

Original Lee Sinclair Photo

Tucked in the far back corner of the hotel is an old gem. You could call it a nod to the man responsible for this grand hotel existing today.

It’s an unassuming black-and-white photo. Lee Sinclair, sitting in the atrium of the hotel he once owned. Seems so simple, until you consider what Sinclair accomplished: losing his original hotel in a fire, conceptualizing a stunning new hotel that has stood the test of time, and building his new hotel in just one year.

West Baden Springs Hotel MuseumSinclair is posing with unique animal company (tiger cubs, possibly?) which could be explained by the community’s ties to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus. This photo hung in Sinclair's personal office at the hotel, pictured here. Whether it's the exact same print? Hard to say for certain, but it's very likely as this photo wound up in a stack of framed pictures that were found in storage years later.

Based on Sinclair's age here, this photo appears to have been taken not long before he died in 1916. It’s torn and worn, but this original print has survived more than 100 years. You’ll also notice it has a golden frame compared to the black-framed pictures that surround it. Hey, around here, Lee Sinclair deserves that special golden treatment.


West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

Original Convention Photos

Eventually, the walls of the museum will act as a timeline, telling the story of the hotel’s different eras, from the earliest days of the Mile Lick Inn to the modern restoration of the property.

West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

The wall detailing the hotel’s early days under the ownership of Sinclair and Ed Ballard is the first to be completed, and it includes two original photos of conventions held at the hotel. (Ballard made conventions a huge part of his business during his ownership.) The pictures demonstrate the spectrum of conventions hosted at the hotel – everything from barbers/hairdressers to tombstones – and it’s worth studying these up close to spot all the little details within the atrium’s expanse.

These two photos are originals that were recently acquired from a private estate, proving that pieces of our past still make for new discoveries.

West Baden Springs Hotel Museum

Clay Roof Tiles

From the “never know what you’ll find in the basement when you’re renovating” files, comes this.

These red clay tiles were on the roofs of the original natatorium and bathhouse buildings from 1901 until the 1920s. When initial restoration work began at the hotel in the 1990s, a large number of these tiles were found under the building. Tiles like these are still used today on the roof of the dome.

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. We’ll be adding more to the Jesuit and Northwood eras soon, and if you have relics to provide or loan, drop us a note at marketing@frenchlick.com – we’d love to hear from you!

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