One of the most famous abandoned buildings in Texas is the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. The Baker opened for business in 1929 at a cost $1,200,000. It was one of the largest and most prominent hotels in the state.
The resort included 450 rooms, 2 ballrooms, and a salon. It also featured its own bowling alley and swimming pool. Visitors flocked to the hotel from all over the country, and its extravagant dinners and parties were the talk of Texas. The Baker entertained countless movie stars, singers, and politicians.
Back in those days, the Baker would probably rival anything in Las Vegas today.Roy D. Walke, Former Assistant Manager
Unfortunately, this iconic landmark has been closed for years. The hotel is now a shadow of its former self and represents an era gone by. Both the building and landscaping are in disarray. Entrances are boarded up, windows are broken, and the interior has badly deteriorated.
But even in disrepair, the colossal Baker still impresses its guests. Touring the grounds, it’s fun to imagine what life was like at this fabulous resort almost 100 years ago. If these old walls could talk, I’m sure we’d learn some fantastic tales that took place here.
History of the Baker Hotel
Only 6,000 residents lived in Mineral Wells in 1929, yet the 14-story Baker rivaled luxury hotels in Chicago and New York. So how did this small town in Texas land such a prestigious hotel? The answer lies in how Mineral Wells got its name. In the late 1800s, the area’s original settlers claimed that a local water well contained healing powers. They believed the minerals in the water could improve a person’s health and even cure arthritis and other ailments.
News traveled fast about the healing water, and the region became popular after more water wells were drilled. Settlers created the town of Mineral Wells in 1881. The water became known as Crazy Water when a mentally-ill woman claimed the mineral water helped her regain her sanity.
The popularity of Mineral Wells increased year after year. By the early 1900s, thousands of people were visiting Mineral Wells each year. Not just for health reasons, but for rest and relaxation. The town became filled with spas and bathhouses, restaurants, and ice cream parlors. Tourists could also go boating and hiking at Lake Mineral Wells. In 1914, a man named Ed Dismuke founded the Famous Mineral Water Company to sell Crazy Water to passing tourists. The business is still open today.
A luxury resort called the Crazy Water Hotel was built in 1914, but fire completely destroyed the 4-story hotel in 1925. To fill its void, an entrepreneur named Theodore Brasher (T. B.) Baker decided to build a massive hotel and spa, naming the resort the Baker Hotel. The building’s design was inspired by the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, a hotel designed by the same architect. The Crazy Water Hotel was also rebuilt, but not of the same size and scale of the Baker.
The Baker thrived during the 1930s, even though it opened two weeks after the great stock market crash of 1929 that led to the Great Depression.
Activity at the Baker Hotel continued at a hectic pace despite The Depression. Cattlemen came to Mineral Wells to regain their health and the widows came to marry them.National Register of Historic Places
Modern medicine advanced during the 1940s, and the demand for the town’s mineral water declined along with the number of hotels guests. As Mineral Wells lost its popularity as a resort town, business declined steadily throughout the 1950s. The Baker Hotel eventually closed in 1963. Local investors reopened the resort for a short time but were not able to keep the hotel profitable. The Baker Hotel served its last guest and closed for good in 1972.
Touring the Hotel Grounds
A nice thing about the Baker is how accessible it is. You can drive up and park right next to it. Street parking is available on the north and west side of the property. The city of Mineral Wells encourages visitors to stop and take a look around.
You are free to explore the property on a self-guided tour. But for safety reasons, visitors are not allowed inside the hotel or in the outdoor pool area. It’s disappointing not to explore the interior, but that doesn’t mean the Baker isn’t worth checking out. Every side of the building has unique features that tell a story.
The building’s architectural style is a mix of arches, red clay tile, and decorative ironwork known as Spanish Colonial Revival. This style became trendy with homes and commercial buildings in the early nineteenth century.
The Grand Entry and Lobby
If you’re short on time, begin your tour at the hotel’s main entrance next to East Hubbard Street. The steps lead to the entryway of the hotel lobby.
The doors are boarded up, but you can peek inside through the plexiglass windows. Weather and vandals have taken their toll on the lobby over the last decade. There is water damage on the ceiling, and people have broken in and sprayed graffiti on the columns of the mezzanine floor.
You can still see what’s left of the intricate designs on the walls. Two of the original chandeliers still hang from the dome-shaped ceiling. The arched entrance on the far end of the room leads to the Brazos Club, a large entertainment venue that offered live music and dining.
The Outdoor Balcony
An arched balcony wraps around two sides of the building. The balcony facing the pool is blocked off. But you can access the side facing Hubbard Street that has excellent views of downtown.
Many of the building’s original fixtures still remain. Maybe one day these rusty light fixtures can be restored to their former glory.
Back Entrance to the Hotel
There is a narrow street that runs on the north side of the building that resembles an alley. You’ll find a decorative entrance to the back side of the hotel.
The Cloud Room
The famous nightclub called the Cloud Room was located on the top floor of the Baker. According to the Fort Worth Telegram, music streamed from the hotel rooftop and could be heard all over town.
A small footbridge over the hotel driveway leads to the fountain and pool area. The driveway leads to a courtyard behind the building where guests would check-in and unload their luggage.
The Fountain and Pool
The fountain and the Olympic size pool were featured attractions at the hotel. The Baker was the first hotel in Texas to offer a swimming pool. Guests came here to relax and swim in the legendary mineral waters of Mineral Wells.
T.B. Baker originally planned to build the hotel building where the pool is located. Construction began in 1926 and the hotel foundation and basement was completed that same year. But during a trip to California, T. B. stayed at a hotel with a swimming pool. The pool impressed him so much that he decided the Baker needed to have one. So the pool was built on top of the basement, and the building site for the hotel was moved to its present location.
The rich blue colors of the fountain and pool have faded over time. The fountain actually appears to be in decent shape, but the pool is in dire need of a makeover. The deep end appears to collect rainwater, moss, and other debris.
The Inner Courtyard
The back of the building includes a driveway and courtyard area. This might have been where guests would check in before parking their car across the street inside the hotel’s garage. I would assume valet parking was offered here.
The courtyard isn’t immediately visible from the street. But you can peek over a wall and a chainlink fence to have a look. Like other parts of the hotel, weather and vandals have wreaked havoc to this area.
Will the Baker Hotel ever be Reopened?
As you might imagine, the renovation of the Baker Hotel would be a huge undertaking. But that’s exactly what a group of investment firms plan to do. The firm estimates $63,000,000 will be needed to complete the project.
Financing will come from bank loans and private investments, and the plan is also supported by tax revenue from the City of Mineral Wells. Millions of dollars have been raised, but the firm still lacks the capital to begin construction. You can keep up with any progress being made on the group’s Facebook page. Let’s hope one day the Baker returns to its former glory.
|Address:||200 E Hubbard St, Mineral Wells, TX 76067|