Orange County  


French Lick


B039 French Lick, IN The area called French Lick, Indiana, one of the earliest outposts in the middle-Western wilderness, was first settled more than 200 years ago by French traders. After the discovery of rich mineral springs in 1778, which attracted animals who flocked to lick the waters and wet rocks, this valley became known among settlers as "The Lick". The French had ideas about exploiting these lush salt deposits, but never did make much progress. Finally, following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, in which Napoleon relinquished claims on the territories west of the Mississippi, the French also abandoned their trading posts at The Lick. British settlers moved in about 1812 and succeeded in establishing a permanent fort.

3051 French Lick, IN B039 French Lick, IN: French Lick Springs Hotel

In 1832, all the lands surrounding the actual mineral springs, which had been reserved for production of salt, was offered for public sale. About 1,500 acres, including all the large springs, were purchased by a Dr. William A. Bowles. Another property, Mile Lick, about one mile to the north, later became known as West Baden Springs. Within several years Bowles opened the first French Lick Springs Hotel [left, no. 3051, and right, no. B039]. It was an immediate success. In the 1850's, as North–South tension mounted, Bowles took time out from subversive activities to help charter the town of French Lick. Just before the Civil War, Bowles was arrested, court martialed, convicted of treason and sentenced to death. President Lincoln, however, quietly commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. Bowles spent the war in a Federal prison in Ohio. He returned to French Lick in 1865 and managed the hotel until his death in 1873. French Lick Springs thrived under various managements until 1897 when a disasterous fire destroyed most of the old frame buildings. Shortly thereafter the ruins were purchased by a syndicate which called itself the French Lick Springs Hotel Company headed by the then mayor of Indianapolis, Thomas Taggart. A new main wing was built for the hotel and soon daily trains operated by the Monon Railroad ran between Chicago and the main entrance of the hotel. Two championship golf courses laid out in the following years added to the spas popularity. 3051 French Lick, IN

B039 French Lick, IN: Pluto Spring

B039 French Lick, IN: Proserpine Spring The mineral baths were modernized and in short time the waters of the Pluto Spring [left] were bottled in concentrated form for nationwide distribution. The third picture on tumbler no.B039 shows Proserpine (Beauty) Spring [right].

The elite of politics and society "discovered" French Lick Springs" after Taggart had been named Democratic Chairman in 1904. Taggart always disclaimed any connection with plush gambling casinos throughout the valley. It never was however, officially explained how, in flagrant violation of state law, two big gambling rooms operated across the street from the hotel, perhaps half a dozen others catered to lesser hotel guests and common folk and, indeed at one time there was even a combination dice room and bowling alley right in the middle of the hotel's own Japanese gardens, near the Pluto Spring. In any event, French Lick Springs was to become as well known for it's resort facilities. The last casinos were shuttered in 1949. One of these buildings was taken over by the American Legion.

Taggart, who served briefly as a U.S. Senator by appointment, had three more wings added to the hotel in the next 20 years. Taggart, who described himself as a hotelman first and a political hobbiest second, grew in stature until he was the acknowledged power behind Democratic politics in the U.S. Simultaneously, French Lick Springs developed a reputation as the unofficial party headquarters. It was there in Taggart's hotel in 1931 that Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up support at a Democratic governor's conference for his party's presidential nomination.

With the Depression, however, the popular French Lick Springs began to decline. World War II brought a momentary revival, but in 1946 Taggart's son sold out to a New York syndicate.

Today, French Lick Springs Resort rests on some 2,600 acres in the breathtaking Hoosier National Forest. Newly acquired by Boykin Lodging Company, the resort eagerly embraces a "New Beginning". The current facility includes 470 rooms and boasts two golf courses, the Valley Course and the scenic, Donald-Ross-designed, Country Club Hill Course.

[Text adapted from http://www.Frenchlick.com/index.cfm/name-history]

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