Monday, March 22, 2010
Today we are going to visit Aunt Margie! Aunt Margie lives in a friendly little town nestled in the hills of southern Indiana just a few miles from French Lick, the popular health resort established in 1845, burned down and rebuilt even grander in 1897. It attracted the very well-to-do and the who's who of society. It was sought for its health giving "miracle water" sulfur spring water..bottled later as Pluto Water. I really don't know how they drank it~the smell alone would cure any constipational (is that a word?) condition you experienced. French Lick is still active today with a gorgeous huge hotel and a casino. Just up the road from that is West Baden Springs Hotel, also built at the turn of the century for competition. You are captivated once you step foot inside this National Historic Landmark (NHL) built in 1902. With its one-of-a-kind domed atrium spanning 200 feet, it has been called the "Eighth Wonder of the World." Rooms rise in six tiers around the dome, and balcony rooms provide a panoramic view of the atrium. It boasts the world's first unsupported roof, suspended on rollers over the rotunda. It is magnificent.
West Baden Springs Hotel has gone through many transformations in its lifetime. It was a grand hotel, a war hospital, a seminary for the Jesuits, a college in the 1960's to 1980's called Northwood Institute and then it fell to ruin. It was restored to new rejuvenated life in the 1990's and it is my favorite. In the very early stages of being restored, at Halloween time they gave haunted tours of the building courtesy of the Floyd County Drama Department. Each October we'd make the trek down after work to participate in the wonderful dinner and tour they would give. As I said in my last post I love buildings that are not "finished" and this one had so much soul to it. Down long corridors of empty, gutted rooms we were led, just catching a glimpse of a turn of the century couple dancing in a darkened corner making you wonder if it was your imagination..when you looked again, the apparitions were gone. They led us past the barber shop of the old hotel and you could swear you heard the steely snipping of hair..again a glimpse and the spectre was gone. They took us to the cemetery by the light of the moon where the Jesuits were buried and we saw the wonderful pools and gaming buildings and were told about a raised bicycle racing track that was several stories high. Pavilions for fountains with greek goddess statues that were being restored..Oh how I loved the bare bones. I love it restored now but I miss the raw not-yet-ready for the world's eyes elegance of decay and I miss the sulfur smell of the Pluto Water...somehow they eleviated that cure-all-your-ills rotten egg smell!
By the way, Aunt Margie is 88 next month and she never misses the senior dances every Friday and Saturday nights at the "big hotel" as they call it! I guess it does have healthful qualities!