Tuesday, July 13, 2010

When Nature Won't...Pluto Will

Our anniversary travels took us to southern Indiana, where I came across a curiosity I had never before investigated. The resort towns of French Lick and West Baden in Indiana grew up around natural mineral springs, and visitors the world over came to "take the waters." One foyer of the French Lick hotel had dozens of pictures of famous visitors on the walls--Glenn Miller, Clark Gable (swoon), President Roosevelt (who earned his party's nomination there), Irving Berlin, and Al Capone, among many other politicians, actors, musicians, and athletes. The two hotels are beautiful, and have both been recently renovated in the spirit of the turn-of-the-century grandeur in which they were created

Nestled in the interior of the hotel's grounds is the whitewashed gazebo housing Pluto Spring. Named for the Roman god of the underworld, the likeness is fitting--the spring's sulpherous odor is anything but pleasant. Though the spring isn't used any longer, visitors can peer down the well and catch a good, hearty wiff of the world-famous water. Pleasant gardens and tranquil forests frame the scene, and one could just about feel idyllic when you read the inscription on the inside of the spring house. In old-fashioned black script reads Pluto Water's famous slogan "When Nature Won't, Pluto Will!"

You see, I had never before quite realized just what "taking the waters" meant. The key mineral in the famous spring? Epsom salt, which is a natural laxative. That's right, in the days of yore, lack of "pep" and "verve" was often due to being just plain bound up. Not only did vacationers relax and um, refresh themselves in French Lick and West Baden, but a plant bottled and distributed the water nationwide.

Fortunately, there were other things to see and, ah, do in the area, including enjoying dixieland music on the front porch of the French Lick hotel:

And taking a gander at the huge domed atrium of the West Baden Springs hotel, once called the Eighth Wonder of the World:

Of course, a few hours in these places and story ideas featuring wealthy heiresses or rakish businessmen enjoying the cool breezes on the verandahs or dining in curtain-swathed rooms were running through my head. And then I imagined these characters bound up and was less inclined to explore them further...


Cat said...

Thank you, Rowenna, these are wonderful pictures. I've just finished reading So Cold the River by Michael Koryta and this is the setting for the novel although I I thought Pluto Water was fictional.I was going to do some googling but you've done it for me.
That ceiling is even more magnificent than I imagined.

dolleygurl said...

Gorgeous pictures. That ceiling is amazing! I hadn't the faintest idea what "taking the waters" meant - but now it all makes sense! Thanks!

Sarah said...

Fascinating pictures and history. One of my coworkers spent her honeymoon at the West Baden Springs hotel, and it's within driving distance, so maybe one day I'll make it there.

Rowenna said...

Cat--so cool that a book has been written with Pluto Water as a main "character"--fascinating!

Dolley--The atrium was even more incredible in person, was so relaxing just to sit inside and enjoy all the naturl light pouring in!

Sarah--you should make the trip sometime--it's great for a long weekend (though much longer and you may run out of things to do, it's a pretty quiet area). Check out the Pioneer Mothers trail in the Hoosier Nat'l Forest if you go--it's one of the Midwest's only old-growth forests.

Ax said...

Pretty, I wanna go!