Conceived during the Roaring Twenties, the Baker Hotel and Spa opened in 1929 as a resort destination. This “Grand Lady” of Mineral Wells was built by T.B. Baker and designed by prominent Texas architect Wyatt C. Henrick. The hotel was constructed to take full advantage of the town’s famed mineral waters. The Baker Hotel’s towering presence and luxurious Art Deco style reflected the era’s aspirations and the booming popularity of health resorts.
The Baker Hotel, which was modeled after the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, cost more than $1 million to complete and guests enjoyed a lavish grand opening on November 22, 1929. For more than 25 years the Baker reigned as one of the country’s most glamorous hotels. Consisting of 14 floors and 450 rooms, the Baker offered the finest resort hotel services. The entire second level was reserved as the bath and massage floor. Services offered at the Baker Hotel consisted of a doctor’s office, mineral baths, steam rooms, salt rubs, hot packs, manicures, and facials. A number of the treatments the Baker offered were prescribed by doctors and were believed to cure everything from rheumatism to eczema. Other amenities included a private club complete with fine dining and dancing, a drug store, upscale boutiques, a beauty salon, a barbershop, and babysitting services.
Another big draw for the Baker was the variety of big-name entertainers offered nightly at the hotel. Names like Herby Kay, Paul Whiteman, and Lawrence Welk all graced the Baker’s stage a time or two. On the coattails of these great entertainers came great audiences, which almost always included a famous face. Some of the famous names to appear on the Baker Hotel guest list include Judy Garland, Clark Gable, the Three Stooges, Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird, Roy Rogers, Will Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, Mary Martin, General Pershing, Dorothy Lamour, Sammy Kaye, Jack Dempsey, Helen Keller, and Ronald Reagan. A local legend also contends that Bonnie and Clyde stayed in the hotel on one occasion under an alias.
The building was in constant use from 1929 to 1963, including a three-year period during World War II in which it served as military-dependent quarters. The building sat vacant for two years until 1965, when a group of Mineral Wellians re-opened the Baker, but it would not last. The mid-1960s ushered in a time of change for the nation and resort travel was at a steep decline. The American lifestyle had changed throughout the years and it was because of this and other factors that the Baker ceased operation as a hotel. The Baker’s ground floors were utilized by merchants for a few years longer, but eventually, the majestic hotel succumbed to the changing times. Its doors were locked in 1972 and the Baker quickly began to deteriorate. Ten years later, in 1982, The Baker Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
THE BAKER TODAY
In recent years, the Baker Hotel has risen from its slumber with an ambitious and transformative renovation project. The revitalization efforts aim not only to restore the hotel’s former glory but also to usher it into the modern age while preserving its historical significance. Spearheaded by dedicated architects, preservationists, and community members, the renovation project is a labor of love, meticulously preserving the Art Deco elegance while incorporating modern amenities and sustainable features. The project is not just about renovating a building; it’s about revitalizing a piece of Mineral Wells’ soul and providing a renewed space for both residents and tourists to create lasting memories.
There have been various inquiries made about the declining hotel. However, it wasn’t until 2008 that a group of developers, led by Laird Fairchild from Hunter Chase Capital Partners in Southlake, showed serious interest in reviving the hotel. Fairchild, along with Chad Patton, another partner in the renovation process, has devised an elaborate financing plan. This includes obtaining grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Historical Commission, as well as federal and state tax credits. Another significant source of funding is the EB-5 visa program, which allows international investors to gain temporary residency in the US by investing $500,000 in a US business.
To further fund the renovation, the residents of Mineral Wells have also been called upon to contribute to the Baker Hotel project. In May 2014, they voted in favor of implementing a 4B economic development sales tax, which aims to generate $4 million. Specifically, one-eighth of a cent of the city’s sales tax will be allocated to support the Baker Project. If all goes as planned and the necessary funding is secured, the renovation could potentially commence as early as 2018.
The Baker Hotel Development Partners, LLC and its affiliates — in conjunction with support from the city of Mineral Wells — will revive the 14-story Spanish Colonial Revival tower to feature a fully-renovated collection of 165 guest rooms and amenities — including a spa, convention, and business facilities, event ballrooms, and restaurant, coffee shop, and retail options. The local mineral springs that once drew celebrities from around the world, will be utilized again, along with modernized amenities adapted to the lifestyle of the modern-day guest. Blending historic architectural design with new technology, the hotel will offer expanded guest rooms and gracious public spaces to host weddings, special events, conventions, and sojourning weekenders.
Be sure to mark your calendars for 2025 because the Baker Hotel is making a grand comeback!