Known to some as the “Grand Old Lady of Mineral Wells,” the Baker Hotel is a relic of the past, steeped in local history and heritage, and for some locals it remains a hope for the future. Situated in the heart of historic downtown Mineral Wells, the Baker is a marvel to behold. Standing 14 stories high and rising over 180 ft. into the air, this imposing structure commands attention for miles around. Built by southern hotel tycoon T.B. Baker and designed by master architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, the hotel is modeled after the Arlington Hotel of Hot Springs, AR. It was originally built as a resort and health spa, based upon the perceived therapeutic effects of the local spring water.
Located 50 miles west of Fort Worth, the hotel opened its doors in 1929, just two weeks after the great stock market crash. The hotel’s popularity as a curative mineral spa played a part in bolstering the local economy, shielding the city of Mineral Wells from the worst of the Depression. The Baker was the first skyscraper erected outside of a metropolitan area, and is home to one of the first Olympic sized swimming pools in Texas. In its hey day, hotel amenities included two opulent ballrooms, a beauty parlor, barbershop, bowling alley, gym, and 450 rooms. The health spa also housed an array of bizarre pseudo-medical equipment, intended to cure hotel guests of their ailments, while the basement is outfitted with an old Civil Defense fallout room.
The style of the building has been described by local historian John Winters as “Spanish Colonial Revival Commercial High-rise”, but today it looks like the setting of a vintage horror film, resplendent with busted windows dotting the stone exterior. Vacant since the 70’s, the Baker has since become a squatter’s paradise, as well an object of fascination for adventure seeking teens. A cactus has implanted itself above the front entrance and 40 years worth of graffiti decorates the interior, while debris crowds the once-magnificent hallways. Some witnesses even claim that ghosts roam the deserted hallways, specters of former employees and tenants who checked in, but never checked out.
Today, the Baker seems a far cry from the luxury resort of yesteryear, which attracted notables such as Marilyn Monroe, president Lyndon B. Johnson, Clark Gable, and Judy Garland. It’s even rumored that the legendary Bonnie and Clyde have stayed a night or two in the Baker. Yet, despite the rich history surrounding this iconic building, it remains a casualty of the boom-to-bust cycle that has historically affected this area. The advancement of modern medicine dramatically undercut the hotel’s credibility as a curative health spa and although the opening of nearby Fort Wolters during WWII sustained the hotel throughout the 40’s, once the war ended the hotel began to decline. Eventually the army base closed and the local tourism industry dried up, signaling the end for the hotel – the Baker closed its doors for the last time in 1972.
Despite its run-down appearance, the hotel continues to captivate locals and visitors alike. There have been several attempts to revive the hotel since its closure, and currently a team of developers and investors wants to transform the Baker into a modern luxury resort and retail center. Unfortunately the Baker is not open to the public, however that has not stopped many thrill seekers from exploring the hotel’s interior (which is considered trespassing). Our official opinion is — enter at your own risk!
Mineral Wells has a lot more to offer than just the hotel. The city is situated on the beautiful Brazos River, offering the perfect opportunity to rent a canoe and explore the surrounding area. Mineral Wells is also home to the Clark Gardens Botanical Park, Mineral Wells Fossil Park, and is only minutes away from Possum Kingdom State Park, a summertime favorite for lake lovers across North Texas. In sum Mineral Wells has it all – a little history, a little mystery, and a whole lot of character, all waiting to be discovered by you!
**Photo Credit: Nadia Caffesse