Restoring the Legend: The French Lick Springs Hotel (2007)
DVD; approx. 58 minutes
The colorful history and elaborate restoration of the French Lick Springs Hotel.
The program traces the magnificent history of the hotel—from its days as a spa and unofficial headquarters for the National Democratic Party—to its decline after World War II—and finally to the multi-million dollar restoration that has recently been completed along with a casino, an additional golf course and full spa features.
Though the hotel itself dates back to 1845, even before the charter of the town of French Lick, it was the end of the 1800s before it grew to international prominence. Managed by Thomas Taggart in the early 1900s, the hotel became famous for its mineral spring Pluto Water and for its championship golf course, designed by Donald Ross. Taggart wanted to make the hotel a relaxing spa where people would stay for weeks at a time and return frequently.
Co-producer Ron Prickel notes that the hotel location was originally selected specifically because of the spring there and the “medicinal value” of the water. “There wasn’t really much in the way of medicine but it was rejuvenating. The Pluto Water was bottled and shipped all over the world. Their slogan was ‘If Nature Won’t, Pluto Will,’” Prickel said.
The hotel attracted famous people from politicians to movie stars. “Bing Crosby was there. Abbott and Costello did a big war bond drive there; the 1924 PGA tournament was there. In its heyday, the hotel had any amenity that was available in recreation at the time.
The program devotes significant time to the hotel’s history, along with the years of work that went into the restoration.
Painstaking attention was paid to detail in the restoration while also adding to the hotel. The Pluto gazebo and spring houses were restored, where visitors can still take a Pluto Water bath. In addition, the spa area was improved to include all modern amenities. The old conference center, where Roosevelt visited, has been turned into a buffet restaurant and a new conference center for larger meetings has been added with a walkway to the casino.
Prickel and co-producer Gino Brancolini said viewers may be in awe of the extreme attention that was paid to detail in the restoration. “It’s something someone could have done, restored it, and it wouldn’t have been as elaborate. But this was done right,” Prickel said. “It was done because the people involved wanted it done well,” Brancolini added. “The goal is to make it the premiere resort area in the Midwest and maybe the country. They have put a lot of effort to return it to the grandeur they once had.”