West Baden Springs Indiana earned its fame from its mineral springs.
Originally known as Mile Lick, the community was renamed West Baden, after Weisbaden, Germany, in 1888.
The West Baden Springs Hotel, at it's hey day, was known as the 8th wonder of the architectural world.
The buildling was designed by Harrison Albright and constructed in 1902.
The public areas of this magnificent structure have been historically
RESTORED to their 1917 grandeur.
West Baden and French Lick share many historical similarities and are often referred to as "Springs Valley."
The towns were built around lavish resort hotels. The West Baden resort was called the West Baden Springs Hotel,
and now is referred to as the
West Baden Springs National Historic Landmark.
It took architect Albright 277 days (in 1902) to complete the 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.
West Baden was the first stop in the area for the
Monon Railroad Line.
"Thoroughly Hoosier, the Monon (formally known as the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway) at its peak totaled 603 miles..."
West Baden and French Lick developed, much like the art colony of
as the public boarded railroads in search of culture and recreation. Nashville, in Brown County, attracted the artists in the late 1800's known as the "Hoosier Group" which included
T.C. Steele, John Ottis Adams, William Forsyth, Otto Stark and Richard Buchner Gruelle.
In the early 1880s, several Indiana artists sought training abroad. Art schools were available in Indiana, but success required European training. Munich offered affordable education. That, and the state’s Germanic roots, led most of Indiana’s young painters there.
Following their studies abroad, Adams, Forsyth, Stark and Steele returned to Indiana and transformed Indiana art.
These artists specialized in the idea of painting en plein air, or out in the open. Joined by Gruelle, the artists—collectively known as the Hoosier Group—became significant proponents of this new style of painting in the Midwest and were widely considered the most noteworthy regional school in the country.
Back in the days when railroad was king, Helmsburg was the railroad stop for Brown County, "art colony of the midwest".
When the Illinois Central came through the farm of John Helms about 1906 bringing freight, mail, and passengers, he built a large livery stable to transport people to the county seat at Nashville. Several families began moving in nearby, and soon other business enterprises sprung up, including stores, and sawmills. The little settlement grew and was called Helmsburg, now the home of the internationally know "For Bare Feet Sock Factory".
If someone from Indianapolis wanted to visit the quaint village of
Nashville, Indiana, they could catch the Indianapolis Southern and ride to Helmsburg, where a throng of men hollering like carnival barkers, solicited the business of hauling people and baggage to the county seat.
At least three different “hack” lines competed, and tourists then, as now, enjoyed a weekend getaway to
Brown County Indiana.
In 1905 T.C. Steele had made trips to little known Brown County in search of new painting inspiration. He came away with the realization that there was inexhaustible material in the county for his landscape painting work. In 1907 he bought land there, near Belmont, on the way to Indiana University, for the
"House of the Singing Winds".
Thus began the era of the art colony made up of the
noted "Hoosier Group" of American Impressionist painters. Steele, fellow artists and followers made the train trip to Helmsburg as the rich and famous of the same era made the train trip to West Baden.