Lost Images of West Baden Springs

In 2005, the West Baden Historical Society received two boxes of glass negatives from the Paoli Public LIbrary Board. The negatives had been found at Indiana University in 1991 and given to the library in the county seat.

At this point, no one knows exactly how they came to IU or who took the photographs. Two people pictured have been identified to date and we're hopeful that many more will be "found."

The Historical Society has had the negatives cleaned and scanned. Many required some restoration work. Their first public presentation was at the Annual Banquet on April 19, 2006.

A book of the images is in the works! Check back here for details.

News articles about the Lost Images of West Baden Springs

First Baptist Church (Colored), Founded in 1909
More photos of the church on the Small Town Photographs site

Church History

The First Baptist Church was established in West Baden Springs, Indiana in 1909 for the African American community, many of whom worked at the West Baden Springs Hotel. The Reverend CR Parrish served as the first pastor and was also one of the founding fathers.

Land on which the building stands was acquired in 1909 from Lee W Sinclair, owner and operator of the world-famous West Baden Springs Hotel and president of the West Baden Springs Company. Although freely given by Mr. Sinclair, a stipulation in the deed to the land stated that it did not include gas, oil, or mineral rights.

Mr. Sinclair's interest in having the First Baptist Church built was to accommodate the many black waiters, maids, porters, chefs, and other hotel employees who came to West Baden Springs from Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, and other southern states.

In 1992, the church was donated to the West Baden Historical Society. As the last surviving member of the church, Mrs. Dorothy Smith signed the deed, which converted the church and its property to the Historical Society. In the agreement of transferal, the Historical Society agreed to make a contribution to a trust fund held in safekeeping for the upkeep of the Knights of Pythias Cemetery, where many church members are buried.

 

Restoration

The West Baden Historical Society is making progress toward the restoration of the First Baptist Church. When restoration is complete, it may be used as a museum, performance and meeting space, and a wedding chapel.

To date, the foundation and roof have been replaced and the exterior has been painted. Recently, broken windows were replaced and all windows were covered with protective materials. 

Beginning in the fall of 2007, the Springs Valley High School’s Building Trades class, under the direction of Mike McCullough, will remove damaged and historically inappropriate materials from the interior of the church.

 

You can help!

Donations are very much appreciated and necessary to continue restoration of this important piece of the Valley's history. Your tax-deductible donation may be sent to:

West Baden Historical Society
PO Box 284
West Baden Springs IN 47469

Volunteers are also appreciated! Please contact us if you have time and talents to contribute.

 

Museum

Memorabilia of the West Baden and French Lick area is on display in the lobby of the West Baden branch of the Springs Valley Bank & Trust Company. Jeffrey Lane is the curator.