West Baden Springs Hotel, State Route 56, West Baden Springs, Orange County, IN
Significance: The West Baden Springs Hotel is notable as an engineering achievement and as a testament to an opulent social era. The main building was erected in 1901-02 after a disastrous fire destroyed an earlier hotel on the site. The energetic owner of the hotel, Lee Wiley Sinclair, has been given credit for the general idea of constructing a domed circular court surrounded by guest rooms. The actual design was carried out by a young West Virginia architect, Harrison Albright. The dome was designed by Oliver J. Westcott of the Illinois Steel Company in Chicago. The hotel is a six story structure with a 16-sided exterior enclosing two rings of rooms around the domed court which rises the full height of the building. Its principle feature is the dome itself, which is supported 24 steel ribs, and has a diameter of 195 feet. At the time of its construction, its owners, supported by the leading technical journals, claimed it to be the largest dome in the world. The great size and elegant engineering of the dome make the West Baden Springs Hotel a climax in the great era of experimentation in the use of metal and glass during the 19th century. The building also played a significant role in American social history, attracting many celebrities during the first three decades of the 20th century. Guest came at first for the mineral waters available in West Baden, but increasingly during the 1910's and 20's the main attraction at the hotel was gambling. After the hotel closed its doors during the Depression, the building became a Jesuit seminary. Since 1967, it has housed a private college.
Unprocessed Field note material exists for this structure: FN-14
Survey number: HAER IN-2
Building/structure dates: 1902 Initial Construction
National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 74000016
The West Baden Springs Hotel is a national historic landmark hotel in West Baden Springs, Orange County, Indiana. It opened on September 15, 1902, and called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Hotel included a gambling casino and live theater performance every night, as well as opera, concerts, movies, bowling, and billiards. The huge atrium had palm trees, free-range birds and a massive fireplace in the atrium could accommodate logs as long as 14 feet. Outdoors, guests had their choice of a natatorium, two golf courses, horseback riding, baseball, several hiking trails, or bicycling on a covered, double-decked oval track. Hotel's facilities also included a bank and a stock brokerage. From 1902 to 1913 it's 200-foot (61 m) dome covering its atrium was the largest in the world. For thirty years, the hotel was used as Jesuit seminary named West Baden College, an affiliate of Loyola University Chicago. The former hotel's four Moorish towers were removed from the exterior after they fell into disrepair. Truckloads of stone were dumped into the mineral spring pools, then capped with concrete and turned into shrines for the saints. In 1966, the Jesuits sold the property to Macauley and Helen Dow Whiting, who donated it to Northwood Institute, a private, coeducational college. A gala event on June 23, 2007, marked the reopening of the West Baden Springs Hotel, seventy-five years after it closed. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has included the hotel in its Historic Hotels of America program. The American Society of Civil Engineers designated the hotel as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.