Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Lets Talk About...Oatman, Arizona

Oatman, Arizona, you say?  Yes, it exists and is considered one of the last "ghost towns", but this town has a population of people.  Granted the population is about 100.  Another piece of the demographic are the burros.  Yes, I said...burros.  Burros rule this town and have actually become the tourist attraction for this town.  They roam the streets.  They beg for carrots from tourists.  They are treated as children of Oatman, Arizona.

Take a trip back in time.  A lot of the stores do not take plastic.  Have cash ready!
Take a step back in time and you will enter 1902 when gold was discovered in Oatman, Arizona.  The Drulin Hotel was built in 1902 to accommodate the newest folks with gold fever.  This hotel is still open today.  In the first decade this mining town yielded at least $3,000,000.  Hard to believe today when you take the 5 minute stroll up the main drag.

The main drag in Oatman, AZ.
In 1915, big gold was found in the amount of $14.5 million.  This town is on the Route 66 piece of history. Due to this, the town was able to hang on even after a fire.  Then WWII came along and other metals were needed.  With this the gold mines were shut down and Route 66 was refitting a new roadway, this time not including Oatman, AZ.

Later with Laughlin, Nevada coming into being as a gaming destination on the Virgin River, Oatman started to see life again by the 1980s.  In 1995, the gold mine was re-opened, however the price of gold was so low that the mine was shut down again.  Now, Oatman is back on Route 66 and the burros are the big attraction.

Oatman pride and sense of humor.
Locals of Oatman noticed that the burros once used to haul gold were an attraction to tourists who stopped along the way.  Now, Oatman boasts burros that are friendly and will eat carrots from your hand.  All of the cute shops along the main drag sell small bags of carrots for a couple dollars to the tourists.  As soon as you walk out of a shop you are met with some loving asses wanting to be fed.

A little freaked out by my entourage of asses, but charmed just the same.

There is also an old western style gun fight held for the tourists with requests for donations.  These donations help keep this once thriving gold mine town from really becoming a true ghost town.

Don't hit the car!
This post contains pictures from visiting Oatman, Arizona after taking a jet skiing trip in Laughlin for the weekend.  I checked out the Oatman asses, had a beer, bought a few trinkets and checked Oatman off of my random list of places to see.

Burro feeding time.
More nostalgic photo ops from the town revived by jackasses.
Some love for Cacti in Oatman.  Pretty incredible species.  Too bad they do not survive my "black" thumb.
Baby burros are marked with a red circle on their forehead.  This indicates they are not old enough to consume the carrots.
Just go with it!
Much of the information above was obtained while touring Oatman, Arizona and chatting with store owners.  Also, listening to the live "western gun fight" provided additional Oatman history.  Other holes were filled in by reading about Oatman on the website:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

French Lick and West Baden, Indiana

I have to love my job!  I get to travel to many places and often come across some awesome places.  One such place was French Lick Resort and West Baden Hotels in Indiana.  There is so much history at these properties and intriguing stories, I almost do not know where to start.

How about with the mineral springs.  These properties were originally built by two separate owners and were based on being a medicinal retreat for people that were looking for magic treatment for all that ailed them from the spring waters.  It was found later that the spring waters were not healthy and people were becoming addicted based on the ingredients (lithium salt) in the spring water wells.  The springs were shut down and new owners eventually came in.  Now there is one owner of both.

West Baden was a military hospital at one time.  French Lick Resort was an illegal gaming resort.  The only way to reach these properties was via train.  Once the LAW came and shut down the gambling, they would get back on the train and leave.  Then...the gaming resumed.  Many mobsters would hide out here as it was a long way for the law to get to from Indianapolis.

Here are some pictures that I took during my time at these historical properties.

West Baden Resort
Atrium Lobby at West Baden
In an effort to beat each other, the separate owners of West Baden and French Lick were constantly trying to outdo the other.  The Atrium lobby has been called the 8th Wonder of the World.  It was the first free standing dome of its size and was the only one until the Astrodome was built.  No one thought it was going to actually stand.  They brought in a bridge architect and engineer to complete the project.

Angels that were found in a room at the top of the atrium.
The Angel Room was located at the top of the Atrium and is believed to be of Italian descent.  A lot of rehabilitating was happening and the painters on the project were Italian.  It is said that by painting angels at the highest point of a building, your building will be protected.  The Angel Room is not accessible by guests as a ladder on the outside of the dome is necessary to view this room.

Rockwood Fireplace

Information on the fireplace from  "The fireplace located in the atrium was part of the original construction in 1902. It is huge and reportedly will accommodate a fourteen-foot log. The height is a little over five feet.The fireplace, which was originally brick, was replaced with a pictorial scene, attributed to the Rookwood Pottery Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. The fireplace is covered in a special type of pottery material.

It has a scene of an elf-like character known as Sprudel, which was the trademark as well as the brand name of the medicinal water sold by the hotel. Sprudel is depicted in the scene at a break in the hillside where the healing waters cascade down the rocks. Under the limb of a nearby catalpa tree, the West Baden Springs Hotel is visible in the background.

The chimney to the fireplace in the atrium is concealed in the column or pillar to the left as a person faces the fireplace. The pottery has been cleaned, and it now gleams. The estimated value of the fireplace is reported to be in the millions of dollars. The fireplace is considered to be irreplaceable."

West Baden: The springs are covered now, but were located at points surrounding this space.
In the constant battle between the owner of West Baden and French Lick, the West Baden owner decided to name his springs by odd numbers.  The perception being that he had more springs on West Baden than French Lick. 

Lobby Ceiling at French Lick
 You will find in the lobby of French Lick, ceiling murals of this beauty everywhere.  There is opulence in this lobby that attract many visitors.

French Lick at Night
French Lick at night with the moonlight reminds me a bit of an institution.  Spooky, but cool with lots of stories yet to be revealed.

French Lick Springs
French Lick Spring Water was known as Pluto.  West Baden Spring Water was known as Sprudel.  This is a picture of the preserved spring well.  It is covered and no longer allowed to be used.  Pluto Spring water was known to be a very effective laxative.  It was very popular in the early 20th century.  "When Nature Won't, PLUTO Will." 

The finding of lithium in the waters of the mineral spring wells shut them down in 1971.

French Lick Photos of previous visitors
Amongst these notable visitors were Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable, Lana Turner and Al Capone.  Al Capone often used French Lick as a hiding place from the law.

View from The Mansion at the Pete Dye golf course
As one of the many amenities at the French Lick and West Baden Resort is a golf course with incredible views.

The Mansion at the Pete Dye Golf Course
The Mansion can be booked with a reservation.  Very few rooms and a tribute to history, this property still uses skeleton like keys to access rooms.  Even if you are not actually staying at the Mansion or golfing, there is a great Brunch.

West Baden Stables
Another amenity available is the West Baden Stables.  The stables hold a large collection of horses that can be used for horseback riding in the open, green fields.  There are also petting goats and a lovely gift shop with vintage souvenirs.

With great history, stories and amenities, this post only touches on the history and recreation that can be had in French Lick, Indiana.  I had never heard of this place, but will never forget it.  I would love to check out the Angel Room!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Visiting a historic site is always humbling and is often pretty quiet.  This is exceptionally so when visiting a historic site that was a war zone on American soil.  It is often hard to imagine that the Civil War happened between Americans.  Gettysburg, PA is a national historic site with cute shops and restaurants.  Even with these amenities, it is hard to visit this place and not imagine wartime and the loud boom of cannons.

In 1863, a battle took place in Gettysburg like none other known in American history.  More casualties are counted in the three days of the epic Gettysburg battle than any other American wartime.  A third of the regiments were killed or wounded during this period of the Civil War.

I am both proud and chilled to have walked the battlegrounds of our forefathers who created the reality we live today with great sacrifice.

Eternal Light Peace Memorial
Little Round Top

Pennsylvania Memorial to the Soldiers and Women who Supported the Soldiers

View from inside the Pennsylvania Memorial to the Soldiers and Women who Supported the Soldiers.  This picture was taken by my friend, Linda Carman.
Gettyburg from on top of the Pennsylvania Memorial to the Soldiers and Women who Supported the Soldiers.
Kentucky memorial to Lincoln.
Site of the Gettysburg Address.
Gettysburg at sunset.
If given the opportunity, make time to see historical sites.  Not just for the importance, but for the feeling and empathy that will encompass you at the end of the day...if you open your mind to it.