History and family fun at French Lick Resort

French Lick Springs Hotel | French Lick Resort | Indiana

French Lick Springs Hotel

Only thing I knew about French Lick, Indiana, is that it’s the hometown of NBA legend Larry Bird, and that French Lick is kind of a funny name. Turns out, French Lick is home to a gorgeous, grand resort with an intriguing history that, today, is a dream for vacationing families.

The name. Before going any further, let’s talk about the unusual name of the town, French Lick. As the story goes, early settlers to the area were French traders. When they arrived, the area was teeming with wildlife and active mineral springs (this will be a recurring theme). Instead of drawing water from other natural sources, the wildlife gravitated to the mineral springs, reportedly seen “licking” the liquid gurgling from the ground. The French allegedly were so tickled by this that they named the area after themselves (French) and the pastime of the local wildlife that the French found to be so humorous  (Lick).

The springs. The two hotels that make up French Lick Resort today were originally built to capitalize on the abundant mineral springs. Doctors claimed the spring waters had healing properties and knew that if people caught wind of it, they would come in droves. And come in droves they did for the healing powers of the mineral waters, which purportedly remedied ninety-two different ailments ranging from alcoholism to syphilis. Active springs still bubble up from the ground today but they’re not nearly as bountiful as they were a century ago.

The history. The original French Lick Springs Hotel first opened its doors in 1845. Over the next several decades, the hotel would undergo major transformations and ownership would change hands. But it’s former Indianapolis mayor Tom Taggart that is credited most with advancing the hotel to its current state of grandeur. Taggart built pavilions to shelter the mineral springs that made the hotel famous. He also introduced electricity and a fresh water system to the hotel. Even more notable was Taggart’s influence to get the Monon Railroad to lay a special spur and run daily trains between Chicago and French Lick. Passengers were able to board and disembark the train directly at the front entrance of the hotel.

West Baden Springs Hotel | French Lick Resort | French Lick, Indiana

West Baden Springs Hotel | Courtesy of French Lick Resort

West Baden Springs Hotel is the second property that makes up the French Lick Resort. The site’s original structure was built in 1855 but was destroyed by fire in 1901. Then-owner Lee W. Sinclair took the rebuilding opportunity to construct the hotel of his dreams, fashioned after Europe’s grandest spas. Sinclair’s new hotel opened in June of 1902. Over the next several decades, like the French Lick Springs Hotel, ownership of West Baden switched hands, even landing under the possession of the Jesuit order of priests. In 1974, West Baden was listed as a National Historic Landmark, but, unfortunately, the property fell into disrepair and fell victim to the elements. In January 1991, a portion of the hotel’s exterior wall collapsed under the buildup of ice and water. After years of construction, and new owners and investors, both French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs Hotels were returned to the splendor first envisioned by Lee W. Sinclair. In 2006, French Lick Springs Hotel reopened; West Baden Springs Hotel followed shortly after in 2007, and the French Lick Resort was born.

The present. Today, French Lick Resort is one of the Midwest’s premier family travel destinations. With long lists of amenities and activities like golf, biking, live entertainment, casino gaming, and full-service spas, it’s impossible to not enjoy your time at French Lick Resort. I could go on and on here about all the fun my family and I had at the resort over spring break, but this post would turn out to be longer than the resort’s history. Instead, I’ll feature all the family fun in subsequent posts. There’s plenty of fun to go around!

My family and I were guests of French Lick Resort. I was in no way swayed by the majestic properties and insane amount of fun to write positively about the resort. All opinions, as always, are my own.

Related Posts

17 Responses to History and family fun at French Lick Resort

  1. Lesley May 17, 2015 at 9:49 am #

    Wow! What an amazing property and family-friendly too! I’m adding it to my 2016 bucketlist.

  2. Dana May 17, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    The resort looks gorgeous! It’s fascinating that it was originally built to capitalize on the mineral springs.

  3. Kate May 17, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

    Wow! Who knew there’d be such a place in Indiana? I certainly didn’t expect that! Can’t wait to read about what you did here with your family. The area around the resort looks gorgeous!

  4. Valentina May 17, 2015 at 12:11 pm #

    WOW! This looks like a wonderful resort! And loved the history description! Already included in our wish list. Thanks for the suggestions!

  5. Sarah Ebner May 17, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    This really does sound like a wonderful place to stay – it looks stunning too. And I love the history behind it as well. Great read.

  6. Jolanta aka Casual Traveler May 17, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    Wow, that is one massive place! What’s under the big dome? It’s nice that they renovated it, instead of letting it go to complete ruin. Looking forward to reading about their activities!

  7. Katja - globetotting May 18, 2015 at 9:43 am #

    What a fascinating place! I’m always a big fan of hotels with an interesting history, thanks for the recommendation!

  8. Brenda May 19, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    I love the look of this resort! My husband is such a huge Larry Bird fan, therefore would love to visit I’m sure. Will be keeping this place in mind if we ever go to Indiana

  9. Karl May 19, 2015 at 7:15 pm #

    As soon as I heard French Lick I thought about Bird too. Who would have known? If I had seen that pic stand alone my first guess would have been some where in central Europe. That place looks awmazing.

  10. The Adventure Ahead May 20, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    We are always on the hunt for family friendly adventures – looks fantastic!

  11. Pola (Jetting Around) May 20, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    That looks impressive! Such a piece of Americana, which I am a sucker for. Do they still run trains from Chicago?

  12. Allison May 20, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

    I had no idea that such a lovely place existed. The odd name of the town makes it even better. We’d love to visit this resort if we have an opportunity.

  13. lola May 26, 2015 at 3:47 pm #

    OH MY! This place looks like a spa in Budapest. How fabulous and that it’s a family destination too.

  14. Velysia Zhang July 8, 2015 at 2:53 am #

    French lick, what an unusual name 🙂

    • Francesca July 8, 2015 at 8:13 am #

      ‘Tis an unusual name, but there’s a history behind it!

  15. Erin Klema | The Epicurean Traveler December 28, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    What a beautiful property!

Leave a Reply

Back To Top