M.P. D16.6 - 7th Subdivision -

West Baden earned its fame from its mineral springs. Originally known as Mile Lick, the community was renamed West Baden, after Weisbaden, Germany, in 1888. Since the only thing that separates West Baden and French Lick is a boundary line, the two towns share many historical similarities and are locally referred to as “Springs Valley.” The towns were built around lavish resort hotels and in West Baden it was the West Baden Springs Hotel, now referred to as the West Baden Springs National Historic Landmark. It took architect Harrison Albright only 277 days in 1902 to complete the current West Baden Springs Hotel for owner Lee Wiley Sinclair. The structure features a 200-foot domed atrium, the largest free-span dome in the world until the Houston Astrodome was built in 1968.

Until the stock market crash and the Great Depression, the town of West Baden had earned from travelers the nickname of “The Monte Carlo of America.” While it was the West Baden Springs Hotel that brought the rich and famous (and even the infamous gangster Al Capone) to the area, there were other prominent businessmen who left their marks on West Baden. Before it made its way to French Lick, West Baden was the first stop in the area for the Monon Line. Wealthy travelers from cities like Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and routinely made their way to West Baden via the Monon and B&O railroad lines.

-Courtesy Orange County, Indiana Website-

Panoramic View of West Baden, 1912. This was taken from the Springs Hotel. -Courtesy of Pete Pedigo-

 

  

Left: West Baden Springs Resort, date unknown. Right: West Baden Springs 1925.

 

West Baden Springs National Historic Landmark is open year-round for guided tours. The former spa hotel, located about 100 miles south of Indianapolis, was partially restored by Cook Group Incorporated of Bloomington and Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Pictured is the breathtaking atrium, now beautifully restored to its original splendor. The West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden Indiana is one of the most unique architectural structures. Until 1963, when the Astrodome was built, the hotel's dome was the largest in the world, 200 feet in diameter, 100 feet in height. The dome is larger than St. Peter Basilica and the Pantheon. It was built in 277 days in 1902 and required 30 months to restore in 1996-98. The original four towers were recreated and lifted by helicopter in October 1998; this date marks the completion of the restoration.

  

Left: The West Baden depot, circa 1964. Even back then it looks like the structure has seen better days. Right November 1979. Looking at downtown West Baden. Tracks are still visible.

  

Two views of the depot at West Baden in better time. Left: Looking down the mainline towards French Lick. Right: Looking up the mainline towards Paoli.

  

Southern Railroad on the Monon? Left and Right: Southern passenger trains making stops at the West Baden depot. What is interesting about these images are the positions of the locomotives. Did the Southern turn the train on the French Lick wye and back down to the West Baden depot? Sure looks like it.

  

NEW 02-08-2010 Left: Another view of the West Baden depot. Right: One of the common floods which occur from time to time. -Pete Pedigo Collection-

West Baden freight house, date unknown. One of the great shots from the Charles Huffer CD collection, available from the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society. Visit their Company Store and order a copy.

 

 

 

 

  

Left: Right of way shot French Lick Branch mainline and the West Baden depot. Right: Looking East, or towards Paoli along the mainline of the French Lick Branch.

  

Left: Mainline and siding near the enterance to the West Baden Springs. Right: Mainline that ran next to Highway 150 in West Baden.

  

Left: Highway 150 crossing. Abydell Road is too the right. Right: Right of way shot East of the crossing.

 

Front gate of the West Baden Springs, November 1979. Note tracks of old right of way still visible. Also tracks running under the arch on the left side of the picture. These tracks are the remains of the short lived French Lick and West Baden Trolley line which ran from the front steps of the West Baden Hotel, past the French Lick Hotel and into downtown Frenck Lick.

 

 

 

 

  

Railroad north of West Baden. Left: Looking railroad south along the former line about a half mile out of town. The road pictured is on the right of way. Right: Looking railroad north along the right of way from Highway 150 and Abydell Road. The line curved to the left and followed the bank of the stream.

Looking railroad north along the old right of way from in front of the West Baden Springs. The former freight depot and tracks would be off to the left of the photograph.

 

 

 

West Baden 2003. Pictured is the foundation of the former Monon depot. Tracks pictured are the former French Lick Branch mainline.

 

 

 

 

  

Left: Looking railroad north at the former depot location. Right: Looking railroad south, towards French Lick past the old depot location. A spring still runs under the location.

 

  

Railroad south of the former depot location. Left: Looking railroad north from W. Sinclair Avenue. Right: Looking back railroad north towards W. Sinclair Avenue. Pictured also is a switch that people call the Circus Siding. The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, starting in 1918, wintered in West Baden. Today only one building remains that was used by Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, the Show Barn. This siding ends across from the French Lick Depot.

The Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus Winterquarters in West Baden, Indiana. April, 1923. Old Beechwood at the far right. Wagon shed in center. House and smoke house on hill in back. The only remaining structure today is the Show Barn, which is located directly behind Lane's Motel. The Show Barn today houses Qualkenbush's Air Conditioning. Beechwood was the home of Charles Edward Ballard, the owner of the circus, the Homestead Hotel, the West Baden Springs Hotel, the Gorge casino, along with numerous land holdings and real estate throughout the Springs Valley.

 

 

  

The Show Barn, circa 2005. This building currently houses an airconditioning business. Left:Looking at the front facade of the old Show Barn. Right: Looking at the roof of the Show Barn. The Lane Motel is in the foreground.

  

Left: Standing on the siding bridge looking railroad north towards the mainline. Left: Looking at the mainline bridge from the siding bridge.

  

Left: Looking railroad north across bridge on the mainline between French Lick and West Baden. Right: Side view from the railroad north end of the bridge. The roughly one mile of track between French Lick and West Baden are all that remain of the former French Lick branch.

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