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West Baden Springs Hotel

West Baden, a small town in Southern Indiana’s Orange County, is the rather unexpected site of a true architectural wonder: the West Baden Springs Hotel. Built in 1902, the hotel boasts a dome larger than those of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon. In fact, it was the largest in the world until 1963, when the Astrodome was built. The dome, 200 feet in diameter and 100 feet high, was built in 277 days. Restoring it to its original splendor took 30 months between 1996 and 1998.

In addition to the six-story domed atrium, the West Baden Springs Hotel originally featured 700 rooms and natural mineral springs that were used for bathing and drinking. (Advertisements also implied that drinking the water would cure a number of illnesses.) The resort drew celebrities from all around the country, including “Diamond Jim” Brady, Al Capone, mayors from major cities, governors, and even a presidential candidate.

The stock market crash in 1929 caused the hotel to fall on hard times, though. The Jesuits took over the property in 1934 and proceeded to alter the structure, removing much of the original ornamental design work. Later, the Northwood Institute, a hotel management and culinary arts school, made the building its home until 1983. Over the next 13 years, the property was idle, allowing weather and time to take their tolls on a place once known as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

In 1996, the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana purchased the property in the hope of preserving part of it and protecting it from more ruin. Based in Indianapolis, the foundation works to preserve and protect historic buildings and to educate the public on their value.

Forming a joint venture dubbed Blue Sky, Historic Landmarks and West Baden Springs began restoration work on the rest of the hotel in February 2006. By

Today, West Baden Springs offers overnight accommodations — this time in 240 luxury guest rooms—for the first time since 1932. On the hill above the springs, famed designer Pete Dye has created an 18-hole golf course. Mt. Airie, the former Taggart family mansion, is the clubhouse for the new course.

Program 125
The restoration of the West Baden Springs Hotel in southern Indiana, the Crusade for Children telethon, historic Locust Grove, Raptor Rehabilitation of Kentucky, and Louisville Metro’s Office for International Affairs. (#125)