Being a centerpiece in Mineral Wells, the Baker Hotel was the only resort opened by Theodore T.B. Baker. It boasted top of the line amenities and attracted many famous actors and comedians and some notable politicians, all who wanted the luxury and mineral springs that the resort offered. It was opened in the midst of the Great Depression in 1929, and did not shut its doors for good until 1972. Now, it is still Mineral Well's largest landmark and there are hopes to restore the Baker Hotel to its former glory.
The Baker Hotel
was open to the public in 1929, in the middle of downtown Mineral Wells, at the
beginning of the Great Depression as a hot spot for tourists who were seeking
the healing mineral waters and the luxury amenities that it had to offer. The
building still stands as the only thing in the skyline of mineral wells, and
the most famous skyline in the area. It was visited by many famous celebrities
and politicians from the 1930’s to the early 1970‘s when its doors closed for
good. The original owner, Theodore “T. B.” Brasher Baker, was a hotel tycoon and
entrepreneur who developed the Baker Hotel. Standing 14 stories high, it was the
first skyscraper built outside of a major U.S. metropolitan area and cost
around $1.2 million, and was fitted with most of the progressive technological
advancements of the time.
T. B. Baker was the
most prominent man of the South’ according to The San Antonio Newspaper. He was
competing with other families such as the Hiltons and the Moodys who had the
National Hotel Company to build Texas hotel empires. The
Baker Corporation was a casualty of the Great Depression, and in 1952 T. B. Baker handed over the deed to the Baker Hotel over to his nephew, Earl Baker, who
managed the hotel until his 70th birthday in 1963: when he followed
through with his vow that he was going to shut down the hotel if he was unable
to find a buyer. After a couple of years, the Baker Hotel reopened for a brief
stint due to local businessmen who wanted to keep it alive until it finally
closing its doors for good in 1972.
The presence of
the Baker Hotel made Mineral Wells a tourist town because of the healing mineral
water spa that it contained and it housed the first Olympic sized pool in a hotel
in the United States. If it was not for the hotel and the army base, Fort
Wolters, the town of Mineral Wells would not have been as successful as it was. According to
the Texas Historical Association the Baker Hotel was known as one of the
country’s most glamorous resorts for more than 25 years, and the hotel was
designed to take full advantage of the mineral springs that were in the hotel
and to accommodate the guests that wanted the mineral waters perceived healing
Baker Hotel, and the overall economy in Mineral Wells started to decline in the
1950’s when the war was over and the FDA denounced mineral waters to be an
effective form of medicine. Without the
healing of the mineral waters, the Baker Hotel started to be more of a living
landmark at the time, rather than an oasis for ailments.
The inside of the Baker Hotel is not
open to the public now, but it has a rich history of being haunted and there
are now tours and informational signs put up on the outside of it for people to
reminisce and learn more about the ongoing project to revamp the hotel. Even
though the hotel has now been closed for decades, its significance and
reputation still make it a place that people passing through make a point to
visit and see what once was.
There have been efforts to reopen the hotel by an investment group that
will use grants and a percentage of local taxes to renovate the hotel. At less than
half of the rooms, the developers are trying to restore the Baker Hotel to its
original state, and their goal is to revive the hotel and bring back in a flux
of tourism that the town has once seen.