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HAVE A DRINK OF CRAZY WATER

Hi, Caroline Clemmons here. My friend Celia Yeary is allowing me to include in this post an article she did for Sweethearts of the West this week about Mineral Wells, specifically about the Crazy Water there. There’s a Crazy Water Festival, this year from October 7-9th, 2012. But the Crazy Water is sold year round and then there’s the Crazy Water Hotel and the Baker Hotel, and BatWorld.   Thanks for sharing with me, Celia.

I’ll start with Celia’s portion of today’s post and include her map of Mineral Wells’ location for non-Texans:

In 1877, James Lynch and his wife, Amanda, left the North Texas town of Denison, Texas with their nine children and fifty head of livestock. The Lynch’s were searching for a drier climate because their family had been in poor health. Both James, who was fifty, and Amanda suffered from rheumatism. 
 

Hills of Palo Pinto County

As they traveled, news of Comanche attacks further west stopped their journey. On Christmas Eve, 1877, one of their oxen collapsed and died after crossing the Brazos River and lightning struck  another. They decided to settle down where they were, in a pretty valley tucked in the hills of Palo Pinto County.

James Lynch Family Cabins and Well

Mr. Lynch purchase eighty acres of land and began to settle. From 1877 until the summer of 1880, the Lynch’s hauled water from the Brazos River to their land, some four miles away. That summer Mr. Johnny Adams happened upon the Lynch Ranch. Mr. Adams, a well driller, agreed to drill a well on the property for Mr. Lynch in exchange for a yoke of oxen.

James Alvin Lynch

At first the Lynch’s were hesitant to drink the water, because it had a funny taste and they were afraid it might be poisoned. Hauling water four miles, though, was difficult, so they began sampling the water. Finding that it was not harmful, the Lynch’s began drinking the well water. An unexpected thing happened. Mr. and Mrs. Lynch’s rheumatism was cured, and Mr. Lynch, once frail and gaunt, began putting on weight. In fact, the entire family became healthier. 

News of the improvements in the health of the Lynch family spread fast. Neighbors began trying the water, and within a month strangers were coming to the Lynch Ranch inquiring about it. Mr. Lynch began selling the water for five cents a quart. The water grew in popularity very quickly, and by the end of the year 3,000 people at a time were camping on the Lynch property.

The town of Mineral Wells was laid out on the ranch in the fall of 1881, and Mr. Lynch became the town’s first mayor. People arrived by the hundreds, and by November it looked like a small army had moved in. A boom town had sprung up. Because of the enormous demand, Mr. Lynch and others began to dig more wells.

Crazy Water Pavillion

The water got its name of “Crazy Water” from an elderly lady who suffered from a form of dementia and sat by the well all day, asking people to draw her up a pail of water. The water apparently had some positive effects on the “crazy lady’s” illness, and soon others were lining up for the water. The well was named the “Crazy Well” and a pavilion was built at the site. Today, the Crazy Water Retirement Hotel sits on that spot on Main Street.

Crazy Water Company Today

The Crazy Water Company became the most well known of the Mineral Wells water companies. Today, visitors can find the Crazy Water Company a couple of blocks behind the Crazy Hotel.

Crazy Water Crystal Plant

 
The Crazy Water Crystal Plant was built in 1919. “Crazy” water was boiled down until only crystals remained. These crystals became an early version of “instant food” to be dissolved in water. The crystals were sold all over the world.
 

Mineral Wells Today

Please read these notes from Celia:

NOTE #1: A significant amount of lithium can be found in some of the town’s wells, indicating that the “Crazy Water” story may have significance. Lithium is used today to treat some mental illnesses.

NOTE #2: As a very young man, my daddy worked in the Crystal Plant. When he met Mother, I believe he was working there at the time. My mother, as a young girl, worked in the basement laundry of the famous Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. They courted by going to dances held for young adults. My daddy always said of Mother: “Another fellow took her to the dance, but I took her home.”

Celia Yeary, Texas author

NOTE #3: I was born in Salesville, a small village eight miles north of Mineral Wells. I grew up in West Texas, but all through the years, we traveled back to Minerals Wells and Salesville to visit both sets of grandparents. I’ve known about the Crazy Hotel and the crazy water..and the Baker Hotel..my entire life.

Celia Yeary-Romance…and a little bit ‘o Texas 
http://www.celiayeary.blogspot.com
http://www.celiayeary.com
http://sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Celia-Yeary-Author/208687145867971         

Caroline’s notes: In those prone to form them, the mineral-laden water hastens formation of kidney and gall stones. Otherwise, they are reputed to be beneficial for many conditions. Crystals are still shipped worldwide.

Other mineral water companies operated in the area. I have an old bottle from Wizard Wells, but nothing is left ot that community except ruins.

 

Baker Hotel

Now for my portion of this post. First, the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings. I love the place, and especially like that style architecture.

The Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells, TexasI was fortunate to tour the Baker Hotel on a Heritage Society Tour several years ago. My family had driven by the hotel many times when we traveled West on Highway 180 from the DFW Metroplex, and I was impressed with the architecture and size. I didn’t make it up to the bell tower, but I did see Mr. Baker’s large suite. Seeing inside the hotel saddened me. One speculator had almost gutted the place selling off fixtures, carpets, and anything marketable. After that, he deserted the hotel. Then vagrants and vandals moved in. For years, freinds of the Baker have tried to find investors to purchase and restore the hotel to its former beauty.

At one time, “the Baker,” as locals call it, had a full spa, solarium with tanning beds, ballrooms, meeting rooms, restaurant, swimming pool, bowling alley under the swimming pool, garages, and big name celebrities entertaining guests. Several notable celebrities made the Baker a temporary home during their visits to the city’s health spas; the star studded guest list included the likes of Glenn Miller, Lawrence Welk, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, and future U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson. It is even rumored by local historians that legendary outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow may have spent a night or two at the Baker.

As the lobby looked in 1929The lobby as it looks today.

 

The story of the Baker Hotel begins in 1925, when citizens of Mineral Wells, concerned that non-citizens were profiting off of the growing fame of the community’s mineral water, raised $150,000 in an effort to build a large hotel facility owned by local shareholders. They solicited the services of prominent Texas hotel magnate Theodore Brasher Baker, who had gained notoriety by designing and building such grand hotels as the Baker Hotel in Dallas, the Hotel Texas in Fort Worth, and managed the Connor Hotel in Joplin, Missouri. Construction began the following year on the grand and opulent structure; it would rise fourteen stories over Mineral Wells, house 450 guest rooms, two ballrooms, an in-house beauty shop, and other novelties such as a bowling alley, a gymnasium, and an outdoor swimming pool (added to the plans by Theo Baker after a visit to California). Completed three years later with a cost in 1929 dollars of $1.2 million, the mammoth building instantly dominated the city skyline and was the first skyscraper built outside a major metropolitan area

Swimming pool with garages and bowling alley underneath

It boasted extravagant creature comforts such as an advanced hydraulic system that circulated ice water to all 450 guest rooms, lighting and fans controlled by the door locks that shut off and on automatically when the guest left or arrived in their rooms, and a valet compartment where guests could deposit soiled laundry that was accessible by hotel staff without them ever even having to enter the guest’s room. The hotel was fully air conditioned by the 1940s, which added to its appeal as a top-notch convention attraction, offering a meeting capacity of 2,500 attendees; a remarkable number considering that Mineral Wells was home to only approximately 6,000 residents in 1929. Even though it opened mere days after the 1929 stock market crash, the Baker enjoyed immense success throughout the 1930s, largely due to Mineral Wells growing reputation as a top tier health spa destination.

Molding on balcony overlooking lobby

T.B. Baker began to suffer financial difficulties in the early 1930s, eventually declaring bankruptcy in 1934. He passed control of the Baker Hotel to his nephew Earl Baker, who had served as the hotel’s manager as well as managing director of Baker’s Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. Despite its owner’s financial problems, the Baker Hotel continued to thrive throughout the mid 1930s. As the decade came to a close, however, Mineral Wells’ reputation as a health spa was in decline; advances in modern medication and the discovery of antibiotics such as penicillin began to lead local doctors, who had been encouraging patients to partake in the area’s therapeutic waters, to invest more confidence in medicine. Business began to suffer, until a second boom in the Baker’s popularity began when the Fort Wolters military base opened nearby in October, 1940. It was home to the largest infantry placement in World War II, and the hotel enjoyed its greatest popularity and success as a result; throughout World War II, the transient and permanent population of Mineral Wells hovered near 30,000, a large number of them making their temporary homes in the Baker.

After the war ended in 1945, Fort Wolters was closed and business suffered. A smaller renaissance came in 1951 when the Wolters facility was reopened as a helicopter base, and the Baker hosted the Texas Republican Party conventions in 1952 and 1955, and the Texas Democratic Party held their convention at the Baker in 1954. Aside from these successes, business declined steadily through the 1950s and the proverbial final nail was driven by Earl Baker himself when he announced that he would be closing the hotel after the passing of his seventieth birthday in 1963. True to his word, Baker shuttered the building on April 30 of that year, bringing an end to thirty years of service to Mineral Wells and surrounding areas. The hotel re-opened in 1965 when a group of local investors leased the structure from the Baker family, but the revival would be brief and marred by the death of Earl Baker of a heart attack in 1967 after he was found unconscious on the floor of the cavernous Baker Suite. In 1972, the Baker closed its doors for the last time and though several groups have made offers to rehabilitate the structure (the most recent.

Who is the ghost rumored to haunt the halls? I didn’t encounter her on my tour, but others report seeing the ghost of a woman.

Contractors have been surveying the place for about a year now, sizing up everything from its electrical and plumbing systems to its compliance with modern-day building and fire codes. If they get started remodeling the place this spring as planned, it’ll be ready to open in spring 2013. The estimated $54 million price tag to get the place up and running again includes outfitting it for business as a modern spa and hotel. Plans are to reduce the number of rooms and add even more luxury.

I eagerly look forward to the time when this beautiful old building is restored.      

Thanks for reading!

Caroline Clemmons, www. carolineclemmons.com, http://carolineclemmons.blogspot.com

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2 Comments

  1. Celia Yeary says:

    Caroline–we make a good tag-team, don’t we? When I did the Crazy blog, I wanted to include the Baker…actually, I began with the Baker and abandoned it…but found I became more interested in the crazy water and the Lynch family. Thanks! so much for adding my photo, etc. It looks very good–oh, I love old photos, and those you have are just magnificent.

  2. Mike Tanner says:

    crazy water hotel being closed by city today

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