Tonight I needed to get out of the house.
So I threw the camera in the truck and headed west.
I eventually ended up in Mineral Wells.
I need to go back when I have the time to spend photographing this town "right." There’s a lot more to see.
Mineral Wells is an odd little town of about 15,000 people out in Palo Pinto county once famous for the "medicinal" powers of the many nearby mineral springs that gave the town its name. For example, water from the "Crazy Well" was said to be able to cure mental illness, among other maladies. I have heard people say that one of the minerals in the water in particularly elevated concentrations is lithium, so there may be something to that belief…
It’s hard to drive through the town without noticing this building. This is the Baker Hotel. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the place:
In 1926 construction began on the Baker Hotel, which would offer therapeutic baths and massages to the many visitors. Built in the style of the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the Baker is not quite Art Deco, but still a product of the Roaring 20s. Construction was completed in late 1929, and the Baker opened for business on November 22, 1929. [From Bo: Notice the bad timing — this was less than a month after the stock market crash at the beginning of the Great Depression!]
T.B. Baker, a wealthy hotel businessman, spent $1,250,000.00 to build the famous hotel. Some of the famous names to appear on the Baker Hotel guest list include Judy Garland, Clark Gable, the Three Stooges, Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird, Roy Rogers, Will Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Martin, General Pershing, Dorothy Lamour, Sammy Kaye, Jack Dempsey, Helen Keller, and Ronald Reagan.
The building has 14 stories (which puts it on the international list of skyscrapers), 452 rooms, two complete spas, and claimed to be the second U.S. hotel with a swimming pool and the first Olympic-size swimming pool in the United States.
The famous Big Bands of the era, such as the Dorsey Brothers, played the Sky Room at the top of the hotel or in the first floor Brazos Room. Lawrence Welk spoke of his times at the Baker early in his career. Guy Lombardo is another Big Band leader who also played the Baker. In addition to this, many celebrities stayed at The Baker including Welk, Judy Garland, Clark Gable, The Three Stooges, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans. A local legend also contends that Bonnie and Clyde stayed in the hotel one one occasion under an alias.
The building was in constant use from 1929 to 1963, including a three year period during World War II in which it served as military dependent quarters. The building sat vacant for two years until 1965, when a group of Mineral Wellians re-opened the Baker, but it would not last. The final guest checked out in 1972 and the Baker quickly began to deteriorate.
Supposedly the building is haunted. I especially like the story from TexasEscapes.com about the ghost on the 7th floor:
The stories of ghosts and hauntings began in the Baker long before it ever closed. A porter who worked there during the 1950’s and 1960’s was the first known to witness the ghost of the woman on the seventh floor. She was possibly the mistress of the hotel manager. Distraught from her affair she jumped to her death from the top of the building. The year of the incident has not been verified but the room she stayed in, apparently quite comfortably, was a suite on the southeast corner of the seventh floor. Many have reported smelling her perfume and her spirit is said to be quite flirtatious with men she may fancy.