Southern Indiana Living

JAN-FEB 2018

Southern Indiana Living magazine is the exclusive publication of the region, offering readers a wide range of coverage on the people, places and events that make our area unlike any other. In SIL readers will find beautiful photography, encouraging s

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Jan/Feb 2018 • 14 Pictured: (page 13) Carriage rides at French Lick Resort; (this page) the French Lick Scenic Railway; (right hand page) the gardens at the West Baden Springs Hotel. V isitors to French Lick West Baden can try their luck at a Ve- gas-style casino, take an excur- sion on the French Lick Scenic Railway, eat in multiple restaurants, shop in a wide variety of establishments, play golf, aĴend dinner theater in the former estate of basketball legend Larry Bird, vis- it the historic French Lick and West Baden Springs hotels and more. Tucked in the hills of Hoosier Na- tional Forest in Orange County, French Lick West Baden is a classic tourist des- tination with a rich and colorful history. The French Lick West Baden Museum, a must stop for tourists, captures all that with its detailed exhibits. One of its most popular features Larry Bird, according to museum director PaĴy Drabing. The museum's most elaborate dis- play is an amazing diorama depicting the Hagenback-Wallace Circus, which win- tered in the town from 1915 until 1929. Crafted over 40 some years by Peter Gor- man, the 1,100-square-foot scale model includes over 150,000 pieces, and Gorman tweaks the display annually. Drabing, who has served as the mu- seum's director for a liĴle over a year, as- sembled an in-depth display featuring the town's African-American heritage. The museum also houses extensive exhibits detailing the history of French Lick hotel, which is on the National Register of His- toric Places and West Baden Springs hotel, a National Landmark. There are displays of the town's early casinos, its famous Pluto and Sprudel waters and the works of brothers Henry and Ferdinand Cross, who received national acclaim — Henry with his paint brush and Ferdinand with his hammer and chisel. French Lick West Baden Springs is most widely recognized as Bird's home- town. The city also aĴracted national at- tention in 2006, with the opening of the French Lick Resort Casino, the state's 10th casino in the modern legalized area. French Lick — once known as The Lick — was originally a French trading post built near a spring and a salt lick. It became a fortified ranger post in 1811 and the town was founded in 1857. Its post office has been in operation since 1847. West Baden was founded in the 1850s and named after the spa town Baden-Baden in Germany. Spas at French Lick Resort in French Lick and West Baden carry on the tra- dition begun in the 1840s when sulfur springs gained popularity for supposed health benefits. By the later half of the 19th century, French Lick was nationally fa- mous as a spa town. Today's spas feature modern skin care and body treatments, manicures and massages while the earlier ones promoted the mineral waters' laxa- tive properties. (Pluto water's slogan was "When Nature Won't, Pluto Will.") Foreshadowing its future in today's gaming industry, in the early 20th cen- tury, the town featured casinos, that with the plush hotels and spas, aĴracted such celebrities as composer Irving Berlin, Joe and Rose Kennedy, Harry Truman, Rich- ard Nixon, the Reagans, Louis Armstrong, Hoagy Carmichael and Lana Turner. Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his intention to run for president at a National Governor's Convention held in French Lick and the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox baseball teams held spring training there in the 1940s to con- serve rail transport during World War II. French Lick's circus history is echoed today at nearby Wilstem Ranch, said Kristal Painter, finance manager at the visitors center. An African elephant herd (three females) will be at the ranch March 11 through Nov. 19. "The public can experience the elephants in several ways," Painter said. There is a spa session that will allow visitors to assist in bathing

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