Mineral Wells is about an hour west of the DFW area. It became famous in the late 19th century for its "healing" natural mineral water. This from the Mineral Wells Chamber of Commerce:
In 1877, James Alvis Lynch, his family and 50 head of livestock left Denison, Texas, and headed west for a drier climate--and thus relief from malaria. Both James Lynch and his wife, Armanda, also suffered from rheumatism. When the family got news of Comanche attacks further west, they decided to settle down where they were, in a valley tucked among the hills of Palo Pinto County.
Although the location the Lynch family decided to settle in was quite beautiful, it was four miles from the only water source, the Brazos River. By the summer of 1880, a well driller named Providence agreed to drill a well in exchange for some of the Lynch family’s oxen. At first, the water’s funny taste worried the family, so they watered their livestock with it for a time to test its safety. Soon after the family began to drink from the well, they found they were feeling better.
News of the “healing” water spread quickly. Neighbors began trying the water, and within a month strangers were showing up on the Lynch property, asking about the water. Almost immediately people were coming by the thousands to try this magical drink. Lynch’s well produced 100 gallons per day, so he was forced to have guests sign a declaration affirming that they were sick and in need of the water. With the popularity of the water spreading, the town of Mineral Wells was laid out in the fall of 1881, with Mr. Lynch naming himself the first mayor.
Mineral Wells Mineral Water
Several wells were drilled soon after the city was laid out, but the most famous mineral water well brand was the Crazy Water from the Crazy Well. The well is currently located at the Crazy Water Retirement Hotel. The well received its name because, the story goes, a demented elderly lady drank from the Crazy Well twice every day and overcame her illness. The crazy lady story could well be true, because in Mineral Wells most of the mineral water wells have a significant amount of lithium, which is used to treat various mental and mood disorders today.
Stories of Mineral Wells' healing waters brought tourists from around the world in the early part of the 20th century. Soon bathhouses, drinking pavilions and spas began to open to cash in. The trains that brought visitors also helped the mineral water companies distribute their products outside of the area. Entrepreneurs found more a more efficient way to ship the waters--namely by shipping the minerals only in crystal form. Those who bought the crystals could add them to their water and instantly have Mineral Wells mineral water.
During the Great Depression, mineral water companies suffered due to the luxury nature of their product and a trip to Mineral Wells. On top of this, the Food and Drug Administration began to closely monitor medical advertising, which limited the claims local water companies could make about the water. During this time there, were also many medical advances, lessening interest in natural healing. Most of the water companies closed by the 1940s, but one company still remains, the Famous Mineral Water Company. Founded in 1904, it is the only place in Mineral Wells where you can sit at the bar, order a mineral water and enjoy the taste that built this city.
Pretty cool shit, huh? Mineral Wells was quite the fad place to see and be seen in back in the day. It drew an impressive list of celebrities and even maybe a couple of outlaws. And to house such esteemed patronage a grand hotel was needed and thus the Baker Hotel was born. When I was a drug courier back in the 90's, part of my route led through Mineral Wells and I'd pass by this noble, rotting structure wondering just what the hell it was. Seemed obvious to me it had a story to tell and if you click on the link above you'll see it has quite a tale to tell.
A few tidbits:
Work began on the hotel in 1926 but was stopped after Mr. Baker made a trip to California. He had visited a hotel with a swimming pool and decided the new Baker Hotel must have one in the front of the hotel. The hotel site was then moved back and the existing structure of the basement was kept and the swimming pool was placed on top of the site where the hotel was to be built. This allowed the area under the pool to be utilized as work areas for the hotel and also a changing area for guests was placed under the pool.
The pool was an Olympic sized above the ground pool to be filled with the curing mineral waters. It was the first swimming pool built for a hotel in Texas. The Baker Hotel was to be 14 stories with 450 rooms for guests and was the first skyscraper to be built outside a major metropolitan area. The hotel was said to be a "Spanish Revival Commercial High Rise."
Mr. Baker had many modern ideas for the hotel such as circulating ice water for the guest rooms which he used in many of his other hotels. The hotel was to be fully air conditioned which was a novelty during this time. Also the lights and fans were controlled by the key lock on the guest's room doors. When the guest left the room and locked the door the lights and fans went off. Valet doors were also installed so the guests might place clothing to be cleaned in them and not be disturbed by the employee that came to remove the items for cleaning.
The Baker Hotel official site has that along with a wealth of other information. The hotel was closed in 1963 and that's when it started its downhill slide into its present condition. As you can tell from the top photo I took, it's currently for sale and I ran into a couple and a mom while I was taking photographs. The girl told me it would take $25,000,000 to restore the place and I believe it. She said she often went into the Baker in the seventies and even then it still retained much of its former glory. The reason they were visiting that day was to show it to her mom. That's when the other reason the Baker is famous came up: its ghosts.
The mother said she was at Sunday school in the church just across the street on the day the mistress of the hotel manager committed suicide by jumping from the seventh floor. It is said the woman haunts the place to this day. The story of that and other ghosts was strong enough to lure in professional ghost trackers who claimed to find all sorts of ghostly evidence. These stories, however, are not enough to scare the local teenagers who continually break in and vandalize the place. I don't blame them, though, the place is like a magnet, just begging for exploration.
And even after all these years, it has drawn me back as well. Entering the city limits we have the fantastic luck to come across Woody's and the "Best hamburger in Texas":
Mineral Wells also offers one stop shopping strip malls like many small towns in Tejas:
Along with the prerequisite tractor store:
But it's the Baker that dominates the, uh, skyline:
We go up the steps:
And onto the surrounding walkway:
We find a door with a hole to stick our camera through!
We find this little gem:
We travel back down to find an overpass connecting to the pool area:
From other angles:
We go around the outer wall to the backside:
From under this tunnel you reach the back loading dock area:
I could have easily made it over the wall into here:
The exhaust pipe takes us to the roof:
Heckuva perch there:
A solarium was built on the roof:
But this sad little sight sorta summed it all up for me. Who knows what past glory this entryway had, possibly to a glamorous bar where many famous feet once stood:
Click here if you want to see the entire photo set.
Here's a fascinating and compelling video walk-through of the hotel and into many of its famous areas by some hopeful restorers in 2009:
A couple of comments I gleaned from another Baker Hotel video. You Tube has quite a few actually.
[bevykona] i lived there the summer of 1969 in a suite on the 9th floor, after our house burned. i have seen places in this hotel that many have not. it was a gorgeous building until those "in charge" in mineral wells, allowed folks to come in and remove fixtures and the very molding with sledge hammers. idiocy has run amuck in mw as long as i have know about the town. and i lived there a very long time. so now, the baker is an albatross full of wonderful memories... but trashed by ignorance.
[texasangel27] I actually worked in the hotel for 2 yrs several years ago when the bottom floor was open to an antique shop and a restaurant. Yes it is VERY haunted. Not a day went by that we didn't see something and yes Bonnie and Clyde stayed there along with John Wayne, the 3 Stooges, Marilyn Monroe, JFK and anyone who was anyone then. It was after all the very first resort hotel in the country.