Hotel History

For nearly 170 years there has been a lodging establishment operating at the current site of French Lick Springs Hotel. It all began in 1845, when Dr. William Bowles, a physician from Paoli, Indiana, opened the first French Lick Springs Hotel. Bowles used his knowledge as a physician to explore the healing properties of the abundant mineral springs in this area of the country.

 

Bowles’ enterprise was prosperous and continued to thrive under various owners. In 1901 the outgoing mayor of Indianapolis, Tom Taggart, along with a small group of investors, formed the French Lick Hotel Company and bought the property. It was under Tom Taggart's imaginative direction that French Lick Springs Hotel made great strides in décor, development and transportation. He enlarged the east wing, now known as the Spa Wing, using the yellow "French Lick Brick," scagliola (faux marble) and Italian mosaic floors. He also encouraged the Monon Railroad to lay a special spur and run daily trains between Chicago and the front entrance of the hotel.

 

Taggart modernized and expanded the mineral springs for which the hotel was becoming famous. He built pavilions to shelter them and added a new bath building on the current site of the Spa at French Lick Springs Hotel. He brought electricity, a fresh water system and a trolley line to the town. He built a new bottling house to bottle water from his Pluto Spring for national distribution.

 

While French Lick Springs Hotel was expanding, the game of golf was gaining popularity the world over. In 1907, Taggart hired Tom Bendelow to design the hotel’s first championship golf course, known at the time as "The Valley Course." Just ten years later, Taggart commissioned Donald Ross & Associates to design and build "The Hill Course."

 

Also in 1917, the world famous chef Louis Perrin first served tomato juice. As luck would have it one morning he was out of oranges and could not serve the traditional orange juice. Needing to serve some sort of juice at breakfast, Chef Perrin squeezed tomatoes and the rest is history. With Taggart serving as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, French Lick Springs Hotel developed a reputation as the unofficial headquarters of the Democratic Party. In 1931, Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up support at a Democratic Governor's Conference, being held at French Lick Springs Hotel, for the party's presidential nomination.

 

In 1946, Thomas Taggart, Junior sold French Lick Springs Hotel. Over the next nearly 60 years French Lick Springs Hotel was owned by five companies operating out of five different states, none of which was Indiana. It wasn’t until 2005 when French Lick Springs Hotel was purchased by COOK Group, Inc. The COOK Group, a global medical device manufacturing company, headquartered in Bloomington, Indiana, that stepped in to preserve both French Lick Springs Hotel and West Baden Springs Hotel. Under the direction of Bill, Gayle and their son, Carl Cook, both hotels and their grounds received a multi-million dollar renovation returning them to the grandeur of the days of Taggart and uniting them as one resort. In 2006, French Lick Springs Hotel reopened after an extensive renovation and new addition, French Lick Casino. The original 1917 “Hill Course” was reopened and restored as The Donald Ross Course. With the completion of the West Baden Springs Hotel restoration in 2007 French Lick Resort was born.