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Exploring the History and Charm of the French Lick Hotel

The French Lick Hotel is a grand resort located in Southern Indiana, known for its luxurious accommodations and rich history. In this blog, we will delve into the fascinating past of this iconic hotel and explore the reasons why it has remained a popular destination for generations of visitors.

A Brief History Of The French Lick Hotel

Origins As A Health Resort

The French Lick Hotel, located in the town of French Lick, Indiana, has a rich history dating back to the mid-19th century. Originally built in 1845 as a small inn, it was purchased by Dr. William Bowles in 1855 and transformed into a health resort.

Dr. Bowles believed that the natural mineral springs in the area had healing properties, and he began promoting French Lick as a destination for those seeking relief from various ailments. The hotel quickly gained a reputation as a place where people could come to improve their health and well-being.

Over the years, the hotel expanded and underwent several renovations, but its focus on health and wellness remained a constant. In fact, during World War II, the hotel was used as a rehabilitation center for soldiers returning from the war.

Today, the French Lick Hotel continues to offer a variety of spa services and wellness programs, keeping alive its origins as a health resort. Visitors can enjoy everything from massages and facials to fitness classes and nutritional counseling.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the French Lick Hotel as a health resort, visit their website for additional information.

Gambling And Prohibition Era

During the Prohibition Era, the French Lick Hotel became a popular destination for those seeking to indulge in illegal gambling and alcohol. The hotel’s secluded location in the hills of southern Indiana made it an ideal spot for speakeasies and underground casinos. The hotel’s owner at the time, Thomas Taggart, was a prominent politician who had strong ties to the Democratic Party. He used his influence to protect the hotel from law enforcement and keep the parties going.

One of the most notorious events that took place during this time was the 1929 meeting of organized crime bosses known as the “Atlantic City Conference.” The conference was held in secret at the French Lick Hotel and was attended by some of the most notorious gangsters of the era, including Al Capone and Lucky Luciano. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the future of organized crime in the United States and to divide up territories among the various criminal organizations.

Despite the illegal activities that took place at the French Lick Hotel during this time, it remained a popular destination for wealthy and influential individuals. Many celebrities of the era, including Bing Crosby and Joe Louis, were known to frequent the hotel and its underground casinos. The hotel’s reputation as a playground for the rich and famous only grew during the Prohibition Era, cementing its place in American history as a symbol of excess and indulgence.

Today, visitors to the French Lick Hotel can still see evidence of its storied past, including the underground tunnels that were once used to transport alcohol and the original casino equipment that was used during the Prohibition Era. The hotel has been restored to its former glory, offering guests a glimpse into a bygone era of American history.

Rescue And Restoration

After its heyday in the early 20th century, the French Lick Hotel fell into disrepair and was eventually abandoned. However, in the late 1990s, a group of investors led by Bill Cook purchased the property with the intention of restoring it to its former glory.

The restoration process was a massive undertaking that required extensive research and attention to detail. The team worked tirelessly to preserve as much of the original architecture and design as possible while also modernizing the hotel to meet contemporary standards.

One of the biggest challenges facing the restoration team was the hotel’s iconic dome. The dome had been damaged by years of neglect and weather exposure, and restoring it required careful planning and execution. The team ultimately decided to remove the dome and rebuild it from scratch, using historic photographs and blueprints to ensure accuracy.

The restored French Lick Hotel opened its doors in 2006, featuring 443 guest rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space, and a variety of dining and entertainment options. Today, the hotel is once again a premier destination for travelers seeking luxury accommodations and world-class amenities.

Year Event
1997 French Lick Hotel purchased by Bill Cook and investors
2003 Restoration officially begins
2006 French Lick Hotel reopens after restoration

For more information on the history of the French Lick Hotel and its restoration, visit

The Charm Of The French Lick Hotel

Architecture And Design

The French Lick Hotel is a perfect example of the grandeur and beauty of American architecture from the early 20th century. The hotel was designed by the renowned firm D.H. Burnham & Company, who were responsible for many iconic buildings across the United States.

The hotel’s design features a mix of styles, including Beaux-Arts, Colonial Revival, and Georgian Revival. The building’s exterior is adorned with ornate details, including intricate carvings, elegant columns, and a stunning dome that towers over the surrounding landscape.

Inside, the French Lick Hotel is just as impressive. The lobby features a soaring ceiling, a grand staircase, and luxurious furnishings that transport guests back in time to an era of opulence and elegance.

The hotel’s rooms are equally stunning, with high ceilings, plush bedding, and elegant decor that reflects the building’s rich history. Many of the rooms offer breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

If you’re interested in learning more about the architecture and design of the French Lick Hotel, be sure to visit their website at There, you can find information about the hotel’s history, as well as photos and descriptions of its stunning architecture and design.

Luxurious Accommodations

The French Lick Hotel offers luxurious accommodations that are sure to make any guest feel pampered and relaxed. The rooms are elegantly designed with plush bedding, high-quality linens, and comfortable furniture. Guests can choose from a variety of room types, including standard rooms, suites, and villas.

Each room is equipped with modern amenities such as flat-screen TVs, complimentary Wi-Fi, and mini-fridges. The bathrooms are spacious and feature marble countertops, high-end toiletries, and plush towels. Some rooms also offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

In addition to the luxurious rooms, the French Lick Hotel also offers a range of services and amenities to enhance guests’ stays. These include a full-service spa, a fitness center, an indoor pool, and multiple dining options. Guests can indulge in fine dining at 1875: The Steakhouse, enjoy casual fare at Power Plant Bar & Grill, or savor a cocktail at Pluto’s Pizzeria.

Room Type Price Range Features
Standard Room $200-$300 per night One king or two queen beds, marble bathroom, flat-screen TV, mini-fridge
Suite $400-$500 per night Separate living room, king bed, marble bathroom, flat-screen TV, mini-fridge
Villa $800-$1000 per night Multiple bedrooms, full kitchen, private balcony or patio, flat-screen TVs, mini-fridges

For those looking for a truly unique and luxurious experience, the French Lick Hotel offers the Penthouse Suite. This lavish suite features a grand piano, a private terrace with stunning views, and a spa bathroom with a whirlpool tub and steam shower. It is truly the epitome of luxury.

Activities And Amenities

French Lick Hotel is a perfect place for those who are looking for a peaceful and relaxing vacation. The hotel offers a wide range of activities and amenities that cater to the needs of all guests.

For those who love golf, the hotel has two championship golf courses that offer a challenging yet enjoyable experience. The Donald Ross Course and the Pete Dye Course are both designed to test the skills of even the most experienced golfers. The hotel also has a driving range, practice green, and a pro shop where guests can purchase golf equipment and apparel.

If golf isn’t your thing, the French Lick Hotel has plenty of other activities to keep you busy. The hotel has a full-service spa where guests can indulge in a variety of treatments designed to relax and rejuvenate the body and mind. The spa features a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool, as well as a variety of massage and facial treatments.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, the hotel has several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Guests can also go horseback riding or take a carriage ride through the beautiful grounds of the hotel.

In addition to these activities, the French Lick Hotel has several amenities that make it a great place to stay. The hotel has several restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines, from casual dining to fine dining. The hotel also has a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, and a game room where guests can play billiards, ping pong, and other games.

Activity/Amenity Description
Golf Courses The Donald Ross Course and the Pete Dye Course are both designed to test the skills of even the most experienced golfers.
Spa The spa features a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool, as well as a variety of massage and facial treatments.
Hiking Trails Several hiking trails that offer stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Restaurants Several restaurants that serve a variety of cuisines, from casual dining to fine dining.
Fitness Center A fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment.
Indoor and Outdoor Pools Guests can enjoy swimming in both indoor and outdoor pools.
Game Room A game room where guests can play billiards, ping pong, and other games.

The French Lick Hotel is truly a one-of-a-kind destination that offers something for everyone. With its world-class amenities and activities, it’s no wonder why so many people choose to stay at this historic hotel.

Famous Guests And Memorable Moments

Notable Visitors

Over the years, French Lick Hotel has played host to many famous guests from around the world. Some of the most notable visitors to the hotel include:

Visitor Name Occupation Date of Visit
Larry Bird Basketball player and coach 1987-2000
Franklin D. Roosevelt 32nd President of the United States 1928
Michael Jackson Pop singer 1994
Jesse Owens Olympic athlete 1936
Marilyn Monroe Actress and model 1954

Aside from these famous individuals, the hotel has also been the site of several memorable moments throughout history. One such moment occurred in 1931 when gangster Al Capone arrived at the hotel for a weekend getaway. During his stay, Capone reportedly spent time playing cards and enjoying the hotel’s amenities.

In addition to Capone’s visit, French Lick Hotel has also been the site of numerous political events. In 1945, the hotel hosted the Democratic Governors’ Conference, which was attended by several prominent politicians including Harry S. Truman and Adlai Stevenson.

Today, French Lick Hotel continues to attract visitors from all walks of life. Whether you’re a history buff or simply looking for a luxurious getaway, this iconic hotel has something for everyone.

Historical Events

The French Lick Hotel has a rich history filled with memorable moments and historical events. One of the most notable events occurred in 1931 when the hotel hosted the Chicago Cubs for their spring training camp. The team stayed at the hotel for several weeks, practicing on nearby fields and playing exhibition games against local teams.

During World War II, the hotel was used as a military hospital, treating wounded soldiers who had been brought back from the front lines. The hotel also served as a training center for the Women’s Army Corps, providing a place for women to learn basic military skills before they were deployed overseas.

In 1959, the hotel played host to a meeting between two legendary figures: boxing champion Muhammad Ali and civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. The two men met in secret to discuss their shared beliefs and strategies for achieving racial equality.

Throughout its history, the French Lick Hotel has also welcomed many other famous guests, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Bing Crosby, and Al Capone. These guests have left their mark on the hotel, and their stories continue to be told to this day.

Year Event
1931 Chicago Cubs Spring Training Camp
1942-1945 Military Hospital and Women’s Army Corps Training Center
1959 Meeting between Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King Jr.

Entertainment And Culture

The French Lick Hotel has a rich history of hosting famous guests and entertaining visitors with various cultural activities. The hotel has been a popular destination for celebrities, politicians, and socialites since the early 1900s. Many famous entertainers have performed at the hotel’s venues, including the legendary jazz musician Louis Armstrong, who played at the hotel’s ballroom in the 1930s.

Throughout the years, the French Lick Hotel has also hosted numerous cultural events, such as art exhibits, theater productions, and film screenings. The hotel’s grand ballroom has been transformed into a stage for many performances, including plays by renowned playwright Tennessee Williams.

One of the most memorable cultural moments at the French Lick Hotel was the filming of the classic movie “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” In the movie, the hotel was portrayed as the fictional “Kellerman’s Resort,” where the Griswold family went on their disastrous vacation. The iconic scene where Chevy Chase falls off his chair while watching the dance performance was filmed in the hotel’s ballroom.

Entertainment and Culture Events Year
Louis Armstrong performs at the hotel’s ballroom 1930s
Tennessee Williams’ plays staged at the hotel’s grand ballroom 1950s
“National Lampoon’s Vacation” filmed at the hotel 1983

Today, the French Lick Hotel continues to host cultural events and provide entertainment for its guests. Visitors can enjoy live music, comedy shows, and other performances at the hotel’s venues. The hotel also features an art gallery that showcases works by local and regional artists.

For those interested in the history of entertainment and culture at the French Lick Hotel, there are several resources available online. The hotel’s official website ( provides a detailed timeline of the hotel’s history, including its famous guests and cultural moments. Additionally, the Indiana Historical Society ( has a collection of photographs and documents related to the hotel’s history and its impact on the region.

Planning Your Visit To The French Lick Hotel

Accommodations And Reservations

When planning a trip to the French Lick Hotel, one of the most important aspects to consider is accommodations and reservations. The hotel offers a variety of room options, including standard guest rooms, suites, and villas, all of which are designed to provide guests with a comfortable and luxurious stay.

To make a reservation at the French Lick Hotel, guests can visit the hotel’s website or call the reservations department directly. It is recommended to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons, as the hotel tends to fill up quickly.

For those looking for a unique and extravagant experience, the hotel also offers a selection of specialty suites, such as the West Baden Dome Suite and the Presidential Suite. These rooms feature stunning views, spacious living areas, and luxurious amenities.

Room Type Price Range (per night)
Standard Guest Room $200 – $300
Suite $400 – $600
Villa $800 – $1200

It’s worth noting that the French Lick Hotel also offers a wide range of packages and deals, which can include accommodations, dining, spa services, and more. These packages can be found on the hotel’s website or by contacting the reservations department directly.

Dining Options

When it comes to dining options at the French Lick Hotel, guests will have no shortage of choices. From casual eateries to upscale restaurants, there is something for everyone’s taste buds.

One of the most popular dining options is 1875: The Steakhouse, which offers a fine dining experience with a menu featuring premium cuts of beef, fresh seafood, and an extensive wine list. For those looking for a more casual dining experience, The Power Plant Bar & Grill serves up classic American fare in a laid-back atmosphere.

In addition to these options, the hotel also has several other dining venues, including Sinclair’s Restaurant, which offers a farm-to-table dining experience using locally sourced ingredients, and The Grand Colonnade Restaurant, which features a buffet-style dining experience with a wide variety of options.

For guests who want to grab a quick bite or a cup of coffee, there are also several cafes and coffee shops located throughout the hotel, such as The French Lick Mercantile Co. and The Power Plant Cafe.

No matter where guests choose to dine at the French Lick Hotel, they can expect delicious food, excellent service, and a memorable dining experience.

Activities And Attractions

When planning a visit to the French Lick Hotel, it’s important to consider the various activities and attractions available in the area. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures or indoor entertainment, there’s something for everyone.

One of the most popular attractions near the hotel is the French Lick Scenic Railway. This historic train takes passengers on a scenic tour of the surrounding countryside, offering stunning views of the forests, hills, and valleys. The railway also offers themed excursions throughout the year, such as the Polar Express during the holiday season.

For those who enjoy the outdoors, the nearby Hoosier National Forest provides ample opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting. The forest covers over 200,000 acres and features numerous trails, lakes, and streams.

If you’re interested in history, be sure to visit the nearby Indiana Railway Museum. This museum showcases the history of railroads in the region, with exhibits on locomotives, passenger cars, and freight trains. Visitors can also take a ride on a vintage train through the scenic countryside.

Activity/Attraction Description Website
French Lick Scenic Railway Historic train tour of the surrounding countryside
Hoosier National Forest Hiking, camping, fishing, and hunting in over 200,000 acres of forest
Indiana Railway Museum Museum showcasing the history of railroads in the region, with vintage train rides

In addition to these attractions, the French Lick Hotel itself offers a variety of activities for guests. The hotel features two championship golf courses, a casino, a spa, and numerous restaurants and shops. There are also daily guided tours of the hotel’s historic architecture and artwork.


Whether you are a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or simply seeking a luxurious getaway, the French Lick Hotel is a must-visit destination. With its captivating past, opulent accommodations, and endless activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy. Book your stay today and experience the magic of this iconic resort for yourself!

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