French Lick Springs Resort

The hotel provides the public with little information about its history. Our team researches the hotel's past, from the very beginning, verifying its exact opening date and providing an overview of its history up to the present day.?If you have any useful information and would like to share it, please send it to you This is what we know so far (attention: unverified history!): The area called French Lick, Indiana, site of the French Lick Springs Resort & Spa and one of the earliest outposts in the middle-Western wilderness, was first settled more than 200 years ago by French traders. After the discovery of rich mineral springs, which attracted animals who flocked to lick the waters and wet rocks, this valley became known among settlers as "The Lick". The French had ideas about exploiting these lush salt deposits, but because of one obstacle and another, they never did make much progress. Finally, following the Louisiana Purchase Treaty in 1803, in which Napoleon relinquished claims on that part of the frontier, the French abandoned their trading posts at The Lick. British settlers moved in about 1812. Despite continued Indian resistance, they succeeded in establishing a permanent fort. Indian incidents continued, however. One of the first recorded was the slaying of Irishman William Charles, who was attacked by Indians outside the fort. His remains are rumored to be buried somewhere beneath the front lawn of the resort. In 1832, all the lands surrounding the actual mineral springs, which had been reserved for production of salt, was offered for public sale. About 1,500 acres - including all the large springs - were purchased by a Dr. William A. Bowles. Within several years he opened the first French Lick Springs Hotel, a ramshackle, three-story frame building. It was an immediate success. People flocked from hundreds of miles to partake of the "miracle waters". They carried the mineral water away in all sorts of jugs and canvas containers. "Doc" Bowles had struck it rich. In the 1850's, as North-South tension mounted, Bowles took time out from subversive activities to help charter the town of French Lick. Just before the Civil War, Bowles was arrested, court martialed, convicted of treason and sentenced to death. President Lincoln, however, quietly commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Bowles spent the war in a Federal prison in Ohio. He returned to French Lick in 1865 and managed the hotel until his death in 1873. French Lick Springs thrived under various managements until 1897 when a disasterous fire destroyed most of the old frame buildings. Shortly thereafter the ruins were purchased by a syndicate which called itself the French Lick Springs Hotel Co. - headed by the then mayor of Indianapolis, Irish immigrant Thomas Taggart. It was under Taggart's imaginative rule that French Lick Springs rocketed to international prominence. First he rebuilt a new main wing. He had the Monon Railroad lay a special spur and run daily trains between Chicago and the front entrance of the hotel. He later designed a championship golf course (still later, a second). He modernized and expanded the baths and began bottling "Pluto Water" in concentrated form for national distribution. With an expansive and luxurious spa (and after Taggart had been named Democratic National Chairman in 1904), the elite of politics and society suddenly "discovered" French Lick Springs. It was at this hotel, too, in 1917 that tomato juice was first served, by world famous chef Louis Perrin. Taggart insisted that the resort maintain a rigidly elegant dedication to health and recreation - although he himself was no teetotaler, he never permitted liquor on the premises. The first bar was not opened, in fact until after Repeal, some years following the old man's demise. The wealthy celebrities who descended upon the little town in the Indiana hills each spring and fall came (1) to take "the cure", (2) to play, (3) to conduct business and (4) to gamble. Taggart always disclaimed any connection with plush gambling casinos throughout the valley. It never was however, officially explained how, in flagrant violation of state law, two big gambling rooms operated across the street from the hotel, perhaps half a dozen others catered to lesser hotel guests and common folk and, indeed at one time there was even a combination dice room and bowling alley right in the middle of the hotel's own Japanese gardens, near the Pluto Spring. In any event, French Lick Springs was to become as well known for it's resort facilities. The last casinos were shuttered in 1949. One of these buildings was taken over by the American Legion. Taggart, who served briefly as a U.S. Senator by appointment, had three more wings added to the hotel in the next 20 years. Taggart, who described himself as a hotelman first and a political hobbiest second, grew in stature until he was the acknowledged power behind Democratic politics in the U.S. Simultaneously, French Lick Springs developed a reputation as the unofficial party headquarters. It was there in Taggart's hotel in 1931 that Franklin Roosevelt rounded up support at a Democratic governor's conference for his party's presidential nomination. Tom Taggart died in 1929. His son - the only boy among six children - Thomas D. Taggart, carried on. With the Depression, however, the popular French Lick Springs began to decline. World War II brought a momentary revival. In 1931, amid brilliant chandeliers and velvet drapes, FDR announced his intention to become President of the United States. The balloons and confetti are long gone, but the air of excitement and anticipation lingers in the Grand Colonnade Ballroom. In 1946 young Tom Taggart sold out to a New York syndicate. Today, French Lick Springs Resort rests on some 2,600 acres in the breathtaking Hoosier National Forest. Newly acquired by Boykin Lodging Company, the resort eagerly embraces a "New Beginning". The current facility includes 470 rooms and boasts two superb golf courses, the Valley Course and the scenic, Donald Ross designed, Country Club Hill Course. Badminton, volleyball, horseshoes, shuffleboard, croquet, stables, and two swimming pools (including a spacious bubble enclosed one) are other activities offered. Additionally, excellent horses, tennis courts, mineral baths and massages await the pleasure of guests. The hotel's experienced staff is prepared to handle business meetings of any size up to 1,000 guests in some twenty-two function rooms, plus a 22,000 sq. ft. convention center. Facilities also include dining rooms, lounges, bowling alleys and a game room. A rich and colorful history included such famous names as John Barrymore, Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, President Roosevelt, The Trumans, and The Reagans. All were honored guests at the French Lick Springs Resort. They walked in the rose gardens, they drank brandy on the veranda, and they relaxed in the mineral springs. And can too.
Franklin D. Roosevelt
470 Rooms
Jack's Steakhouse Ice Cream Parlor Derby Bar Le Bistro
Golf, tennis, Spa, Ranch, bicylce rental, boating, fishing, bowling, croquet, horseback riding, history tours, kid's Club, minigolf, skiing, swimming, trolley tours
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Our Select Member Hotel

French Lick Springs Resort
Country: USA
City: French Lick
Opening date: 1902

Note from the Host

General Manager Scott Spurlock


8670 West State Road 56
Indiana 47432 USA, French Lick

Tel: +1-812-936 9300
Fax: +1-812-936 2100

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