“These hotels were the Disney World of their time,” said Chris Bundy, author of West Baden Springs: Legacy of Dreams. “In those days, it was assumed that if you could afford to come to America [for vacation], you would go to French Lick. It was that well-known overseas.”
Connected by the Monon Railroad to the Midwest’s largest cities, the world’s sports and movie stars, power politicians and wealthy elite came to the area in southern Indiana to unwind, dine, gamble, golf and ride horseback.
But all that changed with the 1929 stock market crash and the dawn of the Great Depression. Worst hit was the luxurious West Baden Springs Hotel. Despite three high-flying decades in operation and its recognition by some as “the eighth wonder of the world,” its owners couldn’t find a buyer for the property. Ultimately they donated the massive and lavish facility to an order of Jesuit monks.