French Lick Springs Hotel, Indiana Stan Turkel

French Lick Springs Hotel, Indiana

( words)

The first hotel was built on this site in 1845 by Dr. William Bowles as a health resort to take advantage of the natural sulphur springs and mineral water. The original hotel burned down in 1897 but was rebuilt on a grander scale by Thomas Taggart, the mayor of Indianapolis (and later a U.S. Senator). The Monon Railroad built a spur directly to the hotel grounds with daily passenger service to Chicago.

Casino gambling, although illegal, flourished at the resort. In its heyday in the Roaring Twenties, the surrounding Spring Valley had 30 hotels and 15 clubs. At the time, it was a lively community for gamblers, politicians, sport figures, entertainers and gangsters. The town got its name from the French traders who founded it and the salty mineral deposits that attracted wildlife. During the Prohibition years, French Lick had 13 casinos, all of them illegal. Famous guests who visited French Lick included Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Adlai E. Stevenson, the Marx Brothers, Joe Louis, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, Douglas MacArtur, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello.

In the 1950s, Sheraton acquired the six-hundred room French Lick Springs Hotel for a million dollars for 1700 acres of land, the makings of an artificial lake, a shooting range, bridle paths, sulphur baths and two championship golf courses. After extensive remodeling, air-conditioning and modernizing, Ernest Henderson, President of Sheraton, wrote that "the renovated resort is definitely one of the brighter stars in the Sheraton constellation." However, despite hotel-sponsored jazz and music festivals featuring Duke Ellington and Arthur Fiedler conducting the Boston Pops, the Sheraton French Lick Springs Hotel never fulfilled Henderson's prediction. Some 50 years later in 2006 under new ownership, the French Lick Springs Resort reopened after a two-year historic renovation of its 443 guestrooms, restaurants, casino, spa and golf course.

The 1917 Donald Ross golf course at the French Lick Resort reopened in September 2006 unveiling a $4.6 million restoration of a famed course where Walter Hagen won the PGA championship in 1924. Similarly, Betsey Rawls walked off the 72nd hole in 1959 with an LPGA Championship defeating Patty Berg. Mickey Wright won the tournament there a year later. Notable celebrities who played the course include Bing Crosby, General Douglas MacArthur, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Joe Louis, and many other noted professional and amateur golfers through the decades.

The French Lick Resort's new casino is as luxurious and as big as the original. The 84,000 square-foot casino features 1,200 slot machines and dozens of blackjack, roulette, craps and poker tables. The Resort has eight new restaurants, six-lane bowling, indoor tennis, riding stables and promenade shops. The casino was built in the shape of a riverboat and is surrounded by a moat (in accordance with the 1993 state law which permits gambling only on riverboats). French Lickers call it the Boat in the Moat. The French Lick Springs Hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

* excerpted from my book "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi" (AuthorHouse 2013)

 

 

About Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley Turkel, CMHS

Stanley Turkel was designated as the 2014 Historian of the Year by Historic Hotels of America, the official program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. This award is presented to an individual for making a unique contribution in the research and presentation of history and whose work has encouraged a wide discussion, greater understanding and enthusiasm for American History.

Turkel is a well-known consultant in the hotel industry. He operates his hotel consulting practice serving as an expert witness in hotel-related cases, providing asset management and hotel franchising consultation.

Prior to forming his hotel consulting firm, Turkel was the Product Line Manager for worldwide Hotel/Motel Operations at the International Telephone & Telegraph Co. overseeing the Sheraton Corporation of America. Before joining IT&T, he was the Resident Manager of the Americana Hotel (1,842 Rooms), General Manager of the Drake Hotel (680 Rooms) and General Manager of the Summit Hotel (762 Rooms), all in New York City.

He is certified as a Master Hotel Supplier Emeritus by the Educational Institute of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

Stanley Turkel is one of the most widely-published authors in the hospitality field. More than 275 articles on various hotel subjects have been posted in hotel magazines and on the Hotel-Online, BlueMauMau, HotelNewsResource and eTurboNews websites. Two of his hotel books have been promoted, distributed and sold by the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute ("Great American Hoteliers: Pioneers of the Hotel Industry" and "Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels East of the Mississippi"). A third hotel book ("Built To Last: 100+ Year-Old Hotels in New York") was called "passionate and informative" by the New York Times. His fourth hotel book was described by the New York Times: "Nostalgia for the City's caravansaries will be kindled by Stanley Turkel's... fact-filled... "Hotel Mavens: Lucius M. Boomer, George C. Boldt and Oscar of the Waldorf".

All of these books can be ordered from the publisher by visiting www.stanleyturkel.com.

 

Contact: Stanley Turkel

[email protected] / 917-628-8549

 

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