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Indiana and neighboring towns of Orleans and Paoli

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  • West Baden Springs Hotel
  • 8670 West State Road 56 - French Lick
  • Indiana 47432 - United States
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West Baden Springs

Once considered the world's eighth wonder and Carlsbad of America, an Indiana legend now lives again in a fine work of historical fiction. Set against the Stock Market Crash of 1929, West Baden Springs tells the human drama of those at the great domed hotel during the event that would close its doors forever. The regional novel West Baden Springs was written to promote restoration of this historic national landmark. Since its publication in 1988, the novel has been distributed throughout the state of Indiana, may be found in virtually every public library in the state to include many university libraries, and has sold over five thousand copies. Several sponsors, supporters and distributors have been involved with the novel, most recently being Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana and Cook Group, Inc. This partnership has been undergoing a monumental restoration as outlined in the recent PBS broadcast "Save of the Century." Spending exceeds 31 million.

West Baden Springs Storyline Synopsis

We spend most of our lives learning how to control ourselves, confident that our lives and surroundings are orderly and predictable. At any moment, however, that confidence can be shattered as was the case in the October of 1929 Stock Market Crash. Pieces of ticker tape meant the smashing of lives and of public confidence. West Baden Springs opens decades after this tragedy. A great domed hotel with eight Byzantine towers reminiscent of the famed Blue Mosque of Istanbul lies in ruin, neglected, isolated, and completely forgotten in the Southern Indiana wilderness, testament to the 1929 economic destruction that is central to the characters and storyline. The climate of optimism that brought the stock market to dizzying heights also pervaded the lives of everyone in the 1920's. Never had the promise of a fabulous fix on the future looked so bright. Never had there been a feeling that good times would last forever.

Returning back in time, the storyline action begins in the first week of September 1929. Upon the recent death of her father, John Everett, Lillian Everett, a young woman of 22 is now owner of the fabled resort spa West Baden Springs. Lillian's mother, Katia Randreninoff Everett, had been of the Russian aristocracy and was found dead mysteriously at a 1920 reopening celebration of the hotel following World War I. Of further intrigue concerning Lillian's mother had been the strange disappearance of the famous Randreninoff family jewels from Russia just before the Russian Revolution when Katia and Lillian as a child had made a daring escape back to West Baden Springs following a family visit.

As the new owner of West Baden Springs, Lillian is determined to keep the hotel locked in the era of her parents. Their fortitude had built the architectural marvel against the advice of leading architects; their style had maintained the hotel as the epitome of Edwardian fashion and elegance. Even as late 1929 no sign of the crass "Jazz Age" had permeated West Baden. Lillian is adored and admired by an audience of loyal, established patrons unaccustomed to mixing with the nouveau riche of the Jazz Age. These old friends of Lillian's parents consider Lillian the most beautiful, accomplished, and sophisticated woman in America, just as they had thought of Lillian's mother.



Only discord between Lillian and the hotel's manager, Rimsky, slightly challenges her picture perfect life at West Baden Springs. Like Lillian's mother, a refugee of the Russian Revolution, Rimsky had once been a powerful land baron and seems reluctant about taking orders from a young woman, undermining Lillian whenever possible. His arrival at West Baden had always remained a mystery to Lillian, but his special blend of old world magic seems to satisfy guests. This first week of September Lillian is busy planning her wedding to the famously handsome and dashing Chicago businessman and stock market champion Braxton Kingsley, with the wedding only a week away. Lillian is confident that her future husband's business savvy will keep Rimsky in line. That evening Braxton meets the "Old Guard" for the first time.

Those of the prominent old families who have long patronized West Baden are easy to distrust and question the quick wealth brought on by the stock market. Braxton appears evasive and uneasy. Another who clearly does not mix with the Old Guard there is Zelda Fairfax, an ostentatious and brazenly spoken woman who had appeared at West Baden during the time of Lillian's courtship to Braxton, claiming to be an old and trusted friend of Lillian's mother. Lillian, thinking only with her heart, is certain that Braxton will complete her storybook life at West Baden Springs and pays little attention to the obvious uneasiness between the West Baden establishment and Braxton and Zelda, and for that matter, a group of high-spirited college friends who had befriended Lillian upon her engagement to Braxton.

Distrusting the whole scenario is an obscure young waiter, Hans who has long had a crush on Lillian. Hans overhears a conversation between Braxton and Zelda that furthers his distrust. To pacify the suspicious Hans, Braxton offers Hans a business manager position. Hans accepts the position hoping this will enable him to seek evidence against Braxton. In Chicago with Braxton, during this week before the wedding, Hans finds no such evidence, but is instead besieged by a frenzy of people spellbound by the big bull stock market. Nevertheless, Hans decides to warn Lillian; but she adamantly rebuffs Hans and his lowly status, dismissing his motives as jealousy.

From the moment Braxton places the ring on Lillian's finger, in the grandest wedding in Indiana history, Lillian's fairytale slowly begins to unravel. Rain inundates the outdoor wedding. Inside, Zelda and Lillian's college friends briefly disrupt the Edwardian elegance with a brazen jazz band. At Braxton's insistence, Hans accompanies the two on a Paris honeymoon, claiming the importance of the new business manager. This creates double unrest for Lillian. Not only must she face Braxton's obvious neglect during the honeymoon, but also she must surpress to Hans his doubts about her marriage. The Paris of elegance and charm is not hers, but rather, Braxton forces Lillian in the company of crass and exceedingly impolite expatriate intellectuals. A Paris of blaring Jazz, flappers, smoke, and darkness show no respect for Lillian and even contempt which culminates in a lurid episode of Braxton's infidelity. Lillian must make a walk of ignominy and humiliation through a jeering crowd, all aware of the lurid affair.

Still tenaciously clinging to idealism, However, Lillian is certain things will change upon their return to West Baden Springs. This is not to be. Zelda greets the couple with an outlandish welcome-home party the likes of which the hotel has never seen, just as though the Paris jazz had followed them home, only tenfold. During the month hiatus, Zelda had transformed the elegant hotel into a giant, outrageous speakeasy, with all new clientele. Lillian immediately calls the sheriff, but to no avail. Just as in Paris, Lillian's gracious mannerisms are mocked and derided. Hans sees that Lillian is distressed and enlists his help. Together, they investigate and discover that Braxton is a bootlegging gangster whose only reason for marryi8ng Lillian had been to obtain West Baden Springs for liquor sales, far from his competition in Chicago. Zelda is his accomplice.

Under the terrible threat of gang violence, Lillian decides to temporarily play along the speakeasy game until Rimsky can find a way to thwart Braxton's audacious enterprise. Rimsky head for Chicago, while Lillian learns to imitate the flapper crowd. She succeeds marvelously and even threatens Zelda's position as queen of the flapper set. Braxton show love interest in the new Jazz Age Lillian. All the while, however, Lillian hates and despises the whole vulgar, common crowd and is determined the West Baden return to Edwardian elegance. With nerves frayed, Lillian holds on in a desperate struggle. By alerting Braxton's bootlegging gangster competition in Chicago, Rimsky successfully drives Braxton, Zelda, and all gangsters from West Baden Springs. Disguised as waiters, Al Capone's men open fire on a group in a private dining room, creating the sensation that would become known as the "West Baden Springs Massacre." This further keeps the Old Guard away but ever increases the number of nouveau riche fascinated with gang violence and stock market speculation. But with the threat of further gang violence lifted, Lillian is confident that West Baden will gradually revert to the old ways. Not ever interested in what has happened to Braxton or Zelda, Lillian finds love interest in Hans.

All attention suddenly shifts to the hotel's brokers' branch office where the stock ticker tape begins a desperate plunge over the course of several days, creating widespread panic throughout the hotel. Fortunes are smashed and suicides from falling from the Byzantine towers are common. The big bull market is dead. It had been more than the climax of a business cycle; it had been the climax in mass thinking and mass emotion that affected attitudes on life. The distraught hotel guests empty in droves, leaving a haunting silence.

Shaken by the panicked guests, Lillian strangely enough, somewhat welcomes the silence as a chance to win back the Old Guard and return West Baden Springs to former glory. With renewed idealism, Lillian embarks on a silly Shakespeare review under the auspices of a former college professor and a touring group. This same show had been performed that week before the wedding with even Braxton and Zelda in the cast. Preoccupied with the show and her new love interest in Hans, Lillian is stunned when Braxton and Zelda reappear. Having lost everything in the stock market crash, they argue incessantly and blame each other for their misfortunes. Zelda's long resentment towards Lillian is unleashed, appearing drunk with spite and jealousy. Zelda mocks Lillian's Shakespeare review but nevertheless, with much sarcasm, insists that she and Braxton return to their parts in the show. At rehearsal, Zelda begins her lines on stage as Lady

MacBeth but suddenly lapses into an intense and deranged condemnation of West Baden Springs, revealing her lowly origins and her desperate but futile search for acceptance at the hotel during the years of Lillian's mother. While she sobs profusely, Braxton appears on stage and brutally slaps her. Zelda throws herself around Braxton, taking a revolver away from his shoulder harness. She confesses her love for him and threatens death should her love go unrequited. Braxton mercilessly mocks and scorns Zelda until he fires a shot through her head.

Braxton's fury towards Lillian now knows no bounds. He discovers her involvement in precipitating the West Baden Springs Massacre and blames Lillian and her sanctimonious hotel for Zelda's death. Ruined and broken, Braxton looks to Lillian for revenge. On Braxton's insistence that the Shakespeare review continue, Lillian finds herself on stage in Desdemona's death scene opposite Braxton's Othello, but only he and Lillian are aware that the playacting has ended while other watch unfazed. Fleeing for her life against Braxton's raging fury, Lillian is then relentlessly chased throughout the desolate hotel grounds. Hiding in a bathhouse and still pursued, Lillian manages to turn a valve that floods and drowns Braxton in a torrent of scolding hot spring water. The local authorities add Braxton and Zelda's deaths to the long list of stock market crash-induced suicides.

Five Old Guard ladies finally arrive back at West Baden Springs ostensibly to comfort Lillian. This, however, turns into a disaster for Lillian. The ladies are distant and extremely unsympathetic, blaming Lillian for defiling her parents' and the hotel's good name. Lillian orders the ladies to leave. With Lillian despondent over the episode, Hans suggests that Lillian sell the hotel and the two go off together to make a new start on life, to which Lillian strongly considers. But during a routine county inquest into Braxton's death, evidence begins to mount against Lillian until it seems virtually insurmountable. Rimsky now plays his last had, revealing to Lillian that his interest in West Baden Springs all along had been to obtain possession of the fable Randreninoff jewels that he was sure Lillian's mother had hid at the hotel during the Russian Revolution. He confesses to having killed Lillian's mother in the process of trying to find the jewels. Only recently he reports to having found the priceless jewels hidden among confusing mosaic floor throughout the hotel. With Lillian and everyone else now finally out of his way, Rimsky may begin excavation on the project. With one last final and vengeful struggle for the old, elegant West Baden Springs of her parents, Lillian shoots Rimsky.

As the police await Lillian, she confesses to a distraught Hans her relief at finally realizing how much alike she had been to those she had opposed during the past months, all struggling for a bright fix on the future no matter what the cost, all demanding life on their own terms. West Baden Springs had sheltered Lillian with dilutions of grandeur and she would leave the hotel to realize her full sympathies and to negotiate life on a more compatible basis. The hotel's story reverts decades later to forlorn neglect. West Baden Springs will forever remain abandoned and forgotten within encroaching wilderness until nature comes into her own again.

Orange County - State of Indiana

Relive history in French Lick West Baden or make your own by overnighting at our grand historic resorts. Choose a secluded cabin in lush forests, or relax in a quaint inn or bed and breakfast. Experience family friendly and themed accommodations or the quiet of a floating cabin.

Dining experiences range from the gourmet to lakeside picnics and hearty family fare. Shop a local farmer's market for the perfect red tomato and slice it slowly for lunch. Experience gourmet dining in a hidden nook, with white linens and glinting silver. The cities of French Lick- West Baden offer a dining experience for families, couples and individuals looking for a great meal at a great price. Establishments offering fare from fine dining as well as fast food are available to meet the needs of all budgets and taste buds.

Whether arriving with children, or not, French Lick West Baden offers family fun activities for the young, and young at heart. Spend the day splashing away at the newly-opened Big Splash Adventure Indoor Water Park, sit back and take in the views aboard the fully-restored French Lick Scenic Railway, get your heart pumping on the water while challenging yourself to skiing or tubing on Patoka Lake where you can get up close and personal with a bald eagle or other native wildlife. French Lick Resort offers a variety of activities ‘Just for Kids’ and ‘Just for Teens.’

A golf enthusiasts paradise. Few things get the blood pumping like the mention of Donald Ross, Pete Dye and Tome Benedelow in the same sentence. Nowhere else in the world can a golfer plan courses designed by each of these noted and prolific designers at one resort destination.

Engage all your senses while sampling some of our outdoor activities while in French Lick West Baden. Taste some of our local produce from one of the area farm markets. Feel the snow glide under your skis on the winter snow at Paoli Peaks. Smell the freshly manicured, pristine greens at one of our world-class golf courses. Hear the bird calls and other native wildlife while on a hike in the Hoosier National Forest. Or just sit back and see the beautiful scenery while on a boat ride on Patoka Lake.

In French Lick West Baden, you’ll find enough outdoor activities to captivate as many (or few) of your senses as you desire.

Aside from many scenic and historic wedding locations in the area, the French Lick Resort offers breathtaking sites for weddings of any size. Whether under the dome or under the stars, you’re in for an unforgettable day.

Multiple facilities in the French Lick West Baden area offer conference facilities that are conducive to idea exchange, problem solving and retention of learning free from the distractions of daily business life. Venues range from resort hotel properties to wooded retreats and lakeside escapes.