While going through some old photos, I found this collection that I had shot on February 1, 2003 and thought I'd post it since The Baker Hotel has been making quite a bit of news as of late.
This was one of those days that I probably would never forget, even if I didn't have pictures to remind me. It was an unseasonably warm Saturday morning, that was quickly shattered by the sounds of Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrating over North Texas as it was re-entering the atmosphere. While most people I know were glued to the television or making plans to head east to pick up Shuttle parts, I decided, along with my partners in crime, John Lewis and Jamin Mitchell to head west out to Mineral Wells.
For those that don't know, The Baker Hotel is the largest structure in the small town of Mineral Wells and the first skyscraper in the country built outside of a metropolitan area. Opening in November of 1929 and standing 14 stories over the west Texas prairie, it was one of the first hotels in the country to offer novelties such as a bowling alley, a gymnasium, and an outdoor swimming pool. 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 quickly made Mineral Wells a destination location.
But what really drew people to the hotel was the top tier health spa that resided on the 3rd floor and the magical healing powers of the mineral waters that were used in it. Several celebrities were known to frequent The Baker and rejuvenate in it's mystical health spa, and this helped the hotel thrive through the 1930's. In 1940 Fort Wolters opened near by and this gave a second resurgence in prosperity to The Baker, and the hotel served as temporary housing for the more then 30,000 people that began calling Mineral Wells it's home. But when the war ended in 1945, Fort Wolters shut down and this began a slow but inevitable decline in the popularity of Mineral Wells as a whole. Over the next 20 years The Baker's doors would open and close just a couple of times before finally being sealed shut in 1972. Since then the building has sat vacant, haunting the skyline of what used to be considered one of the hottest destination spots in Texas.
The day we headed out there, The Baker wasn't our main priority, Fort Wolters was. And after scouting a few locations around the base we headed into town to check the hotel out. Luckily there was a Girl Scout Troop inside setting up for a ghost hunt, which his what the hotel is now mainly used for. After a little bit of negotiating, we were given a quick tour and then allowed to roam wherever we wanted. This was the only time I've been inside, and I've been longing to return and spend some quality time documenting the inside.
Over the past couple of years there has been a major push to restore the hotel, and unlike past attempts, this time it actually looks like it may happen. Be sure to take a look at the following links for more information and an amazing documentary by Kevin Pruitt called Ballad of the Baker.
The Elevator Doors.
Over the Marquee.
The staff elevator. One of the stories about the hotel is that Mr. Baker caught his wife cheating on him with someone on the hotel staff. He confronted this staff person, threw them down the shaft and used this elevator to smash them.
Lock boxes at the day spa desk.
Various tables through out the day spa.
A nice relaxing colonic table.
The steam room. There are stories of a disgruntled employee locking some fellow employees in here and cranking the valves up until they died.
Slots behind the front desk for the 450 rooms.
Looking up one of the stair wells.
The hallway to the Cloud Room on top of the hotel.
The Cloud Room stage.
The elevator power panels and motors just below the bell tower.
In the bell tower.
This is the reported room that Bonnie and Clyde stayed in when they would visit the hotel.
And just because it would probably never be seen again:
Some shots from Fort Wolters: