Practically located in obscurity within Indiana's scenic Orange County is one of the nation's most unusual landmarks. An architectural milestone when it was built in 1902, the West Baden Springs Hotel remained the world's largest self-supported dome until the Houston Astrodome was built six decades later. Today, many Hoosiers remain unaware of its existence, though word of mouth generates new visitors every year. When someone enters the grand atrium the first time, and every time thereafter, their eyes naturally pan upward to see how natural light floods the rounded structure. The spectacle of skylights, murals, and the centered chandelier prove too much to ignore. People are always milling in the atrium, or looking out from their rooms, half of which face into the central hub, providing a one-of-a-kind view for guests. One might wonder how such a beautiful building, sitting a few hundred yards back from Highway 56, operates with so little fanfare. Truth be told, the building has survived by changing hats a few times and stumbling upon some good fortune. When one-sixth of the building crumbled to the ground in a heap, some caring preservationists stepped in to ensure the West Baden Springs Hotel survived in some fashion. As bathtubs, plumbing, and other evidence of its former inhabitants literally hung from the upper floors, exposed for the world to see, these people knew the building required major stabilization or the outer portion of the building would collapse entirely. Such a save required concerned preservationists, but it also required funding. Ultimately the people of Orange County had the final say in whether or not the hotel would open because their votes decided if the age-old taboo of gambling returned to the Springs Valley. Such a beautiful landmark certainly deserved to be saved, and many heroes contributed to the West Baden Springs Hotel surviving after it rose from the ashes in 1902.
About Patrick J. O'Brian
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Published January 1, 2011
by Fideli Publishing Inc..