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An Autumn Walk Through Woods in West Baden

arches and autumn!

Gateway to a previously un-shared photo gallery…

Twice each year my wife Anne and I drive down to southern Indiana. Usually it’s for the sake of visiting relatives, helping family keep in touch, doing something nice for others, that sort of thing. Usually it consists of one three-hour drive down slow highways behind lackadaisical drivers, four to six hours of sitting and chatting and letting the older folks enjoy each other’s company while we might or might not nod off, then another three-hour drive home. We’re adult enough to accept not every weekend can be a convention or even a trip to the movie theater.

Dateline: October 24, 2015. My aunt suggested we break routine and get together for a bit of Indiana tourism. We headed out to the twin towns of French Lick and West Baden. When I was a kid we drove through them frequently but rarely stopped in either of them except for gas. Fast-forward four decades later, and now each town has a special attraction to boast as their own. For West Baden, it’s the enormous West Baden Springs Hotel, a structure with a history dating back to 1855 filled with frequently changing ownerships, periods of disuse, extensive restoration funded by multiple donors, and a new life today as a premier getaway in the southern Indiana area.

Once upon a time in the early ’80s my aunt took us inside for a quick look around. As I recall, beneath its large dome was a massive rotunda exquisitely detailed by proud artisans in styles hearkening to ages of yore. Back then we didn’t carry cameras around. We have no record of that visit. I thought it was a wonderful idea to return and see what’s been done with the place.

One little problem: upon our arrival we learned the entire facility had been rented out for the day for a fancy wedding. No uninvited visitors were allowed inside.

So this Saturday afternoon exploratory jaunt turned into a brisk autumn walk around the grounds, viewing the exterior features and digging the fascinating colors that nature shows off in southern Indiana every year ’round this time. Not quite the full West Baden Springs experience, but it would have to do.


entrance arches!

That gateway from the outside, with value-subtracting HOTEL CLOSED sign.

West Baden hotel!

That dome, plus bonus minarets. It’s probably still awesome inside. We wouldn’t know.

hotel and trees!

A less showy side of the hotel, with another HOTEL CLOSED sign out front for killjoy emphasis.

Autumn trees!

On the bright side: autumn splendor.

Autumn trees 2!

More autumn along the roadside. Our viewing was interrupted every time a car drove by and we had to get off the road and wait in the grass.

brick street!

The brick driveway leading to the hotel from the main road.

Aspera Virtus!

Along one walkway is one owner’s family crest. The Latin “ASPERA VIRTUS” works out to something like “Strength in Adversity”.

southern Indiana!

Unlike the tedious flatlands of northern Indiana, the southern Indiana horizon always looks like a continuous wall of trees, It’s what we were given instead of mountains.

red flowers!

Across the brick street from the hotel is a well-kept courtyard with overt signs of gardening.

Flowers!

More red flowers, more of Mother Nature accessorizing for fall.

fountain!

Fountain in the center. Temperatures were warm enough that water was still flowing and I was sweating inside my jacket.

me in autumn!

Me strolling among the evergreens. This would look cooler if, instead of trees, I were walking away from a big explosion.

colonnade rotunda gazebo!

Colonnade rotunda gazebo thing.

bowling pavilion!

Farther out on the property is a 7500-square-foot building that was once a bowling pavilion. As of 2018 plans are underway to convert it into a wedding venue. As of 2015 it was a big spooky chamber.

mystery grave!

From the ’30s through the ’60s, the hotel was a Jesuit seminary. They were a few owners ago, but Saint Ignatius Cemetery remains in place for its three-dozen-plus decedents. Upkeep is taken care of to this day, but we kept a distance because at the time we had no idea what we were looking at and weren’t looking for the day to turn too Halloween-ish on us.

More to come…

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