In 1877 James A. Lynch and his family settle in a
Valley 48 miles west of Fort Worth. Tired of hauling water from the nearby Brazos River, Mr. Lynch had a well
dug on his property. The water had a funny taste and at first was believed to be poison. Mrs. Lynch continued
to drink the water and found it did not harm her, in fact, the water seemed to cure her rheumatism. The word
spread and many came to see if they could also receive a cure.
The third well dug was made famous from the fact that a woman who suffered epilepsy drank the water daily. Legend says that after she drank the water she was cured and they named the well the Crazy Woman Well, later just the Crazy Well.
The town was originally named Ednaville but after the waters began to draw people, the town was renamed Mineral Wells. Many pavillions and hotels were built so that the thousands who came there had a place to stay. The Damion, Fairfield Inn, the Hexagon, the Oxford, the Period, and the Piedmont Hotel are just to name a few.
The Crazy Water Hotel was built where the Crazy Well is. After the first hotel burnt down, the Collins brothers from Fort Worth, Texas rebuilt the Crazy Hotel and planned to market the water.
Meanwhile a group of citizens in Mineral Wells didn't like the fact that outsiders were going to make a profit from their waters. They raised money to build their own hotel. That's when they got T. B. Baker to build the Baker Hotel.
Theodore Brasher Baker was born July 11, 1875 in Washington, Iowa. He was the youngest of 5 living children to William and Leoramia (Grayson) Baker.T. B. had three brothers, Martin C. Baker, W. R. Baker, Michael R. Baker and a sister Myla Baker. T.B. went to elementary school at Cawker City, Kansas. He completed High School in Beloit, Kansas. T.B. first business venture was a steam laundry in Beloit, Kansas. He later sold his interests to his partner Mr. Hegberg. His father was in the hotel business and T. B. Baker started his own career as a night clerk at the Ave Hotel in Beloit, Kansas. He was there for 18 months. He then went on to manage the Greenwood at Eureka, Kansas, The Whitely at Emporia, The Goodlander at Fort Scott, Kansas, The Kingfisher at Kingfisher, Oklahoma, and the Connor at Joplin, Missouri.
While vacationing in San Antonio in 1915 he acquired the lease on the St. Anthony Hotel, which began his operation in Texas.
While managing the Greenwood, T.B. married Miss Mayme Crawley, a native of Knoxville, Tennesse. They had one daughter Mary Louise Baker, she was born November 5, 1905 but she died in July of 1907.
The Connor, In Joplin, Missouri was opened in 1908 after almost 2 years construction. The Connor was a grand symbol of prosperity of the period in the mining boomtown that was Joplin. The 240 room hotel, featured an Italian white marble staircase overlooking the spacious lobby. Several cafe's, dinning rooms, billiard rooms, a barbershop and many other amenities were available at the Connor. The hotel closed for good in 1969. The building was finally demolished in 1978. The Conner didn't go quietly though, as part of the building fell on several men, killing them, while the building was being set up for demolition.
The St. Anthony Hotel was built in 1909 and is 10 stories high. This was the first fully air - conditioned hotel in the world. The grand front portico has floor-to-ceiling doors. The lobby, reminiscient of European luxury hotels, has white marble floors with fine paintings, European furnishings and bronze statues. The Lobby is known as The Peacock Alley. In 1924 T. B. Baker sold the St. Anthony to acquire the Gunter Hotel, also in San Antonio. The St. Anthony is today a Wyndham Historic Hotel and is a National Historic landmark in the middle of downtown San Antonio, Texas.
His next hotel in 1916 was the Menger, in San Antonio, Texas with 250 rooms. The Menger is the oldest hotel west of the Mississippi and has been in continual operation since it's opening. This hotel was orginally built in 1859 by Irish brewery proprieter William Menger. He built an Inn so his patrons could sleep off their drunkeness, and so they wouldn't fall off their horses on their way home. Teddy Roosevelt was known to recruit his Rough Ridders at the Bar in the Menger. Seven additons have since been added and today has 300 rooms. The Menger is now a Sterling Hotel, and on the list of National Historic Hotels of America.
In 1921 the Texas Hotel was opened in Ft. Worth, Texas with 600 rooms and was the only 15 story structure in Ft. Worth at the time. The firm of Wyatt C. Hedrick designed the hotel. The Texas hotel is on the National Register of Historic places and is now a the Radison Plaza Hotel. Ginger Rogers got her start in show business at this hotel by winning a Charleston dance competion at the Texas Hotel. The Texas Hotel hosted President John F. Kennedy on November 21, 1963, the night before his assassination in Dallas, Texas.
The Stephen F. Austin in Austin, Texas opened in 1923 with 250 rooms and was 10 stories tall. Five more floors were added by 1938. The architect firm of Wyatt C. Hedrick also designed this hotel. The Hotel is known as the "Stephen F." by native Austines. The hotel is in the heart of downtown Austin and was the social scene for legislators, businessmen, and educators. One of the features of the hotel was that it had running ice water in the rooms. The Stephen F. Austin is now an Inter-Continental Hotel.
1924 was the year T.B. Baker took over the Gunter in San Antonio, Texas with 550 rooms. The firm that built the Hotel Adolphus in Dallas designed this Hotel. The Hotel was built in 1909 and was the first steel structure built in San Antonio and at the time was the largest structure in San Antonio. Jot Gunter purchased the site for the hotel in 1907 at a cost of $190,000.00. Along with other investors the 8 story, 301 room hotel was built. Mr Gunter died before the Hotel was completed, the investors named the hotel The Gunter to honor Jot Gunter. The hotel was a place for cattleman to gather. The hotel had a seperate reception room for women with a private entry. The Hotel had it's own laundry, heating plant, barber shop, and water system with an artesian well in the basement. In 1917 a 9th story was added. in 1926 three more stories were added, included was the "Gunter Roof" with a Japanesse Garden. The Gunter was the home to the Army and Air Force during both World Wars. Earl M. Baker, nephew of T. B. Baker, son of M.C. Baker, was manager and later owner of the Gunter. The Hotel is now the Sheraton Gunter Hotel.
The following year 1925, T.B. opened the famous Baker Hotel in Dallas with 700 rooms. The Hotel was designed after the Peabody Hotel in Tennesse. This 18 story building was L shaped amd located in the middle of downtown Dallas, Texas. T. B. Baker's, nephew Fenton J. Baker, son of W. R. Baker became the manager and owner of this Baker. In 1948 he sold the Dallas Baker but remained there to work for many years. The Dallas Baker was famous for the 18th floor ballroom known as the Peacock Terrace. This room could seat up to 500 people, with a dome capped ceiling it had 6 crystal chandeliers. Many of the Big Bands played there and was the night spot to be. Saddly the Dallas Baker was demolished to make room for another building.
The Galvez in Galveston, Texas opened as a Baker Hotel in 1929. Built in 1911 at a cost of one million dollars after the great storm of 1900. The hotel faces the Gulf of Mexico and was named for Bernardo de Galvez the Spainish govenor in colonial times. The orginal building had a barber shop, candy shop, drug store, soda fountain and a gentlemen's bar and Grille. In 1918 the hotel was host to 400 guests a day and the room price began at $2.00 a night. In 1920 the hotel held it's first bathing beauty contest with contestants Joan Blondell and Dorothy Lamour participating. The Galvez, a premier Gulf Coast resort facility, was a seaside spa of presidents and celebrities from around the world. The hotel is now a Wyndham Historic Hotel.
The Edson in Beaumont, Texas was built by T. B. Baker and opened in 1929 with 250 rooms and was 20 stories high making it the tallest building in Beaumont. The Hotel opened on the Eve of the "Great Depression" but was inspired by the 1920's oil boom. The rooms had ceiling fans, servidors, running ice water, shower and tub baths. The building was bought by the Gulf States Utilites in 1955 and was used as headquarters until 1982. Gulf States gutted and walled up the bottom two floors. It now houses government offices and some Gulf State Ultilities offices.
The Thomas Jefferson Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama opened in 1929 as a Baker Hotel with 350 rooms and is 21 stories tall. It is located on 2nd Ave and 17th Street. Soon after the opening the "Great Depression" began. Burt Ordorff opened the new Thomas Jefferson Hotel as manager. Many businesses closed in the area and it became increasing difficult to keep the hotel open. The hotel was not in walking distance of anything and the hotel closed in 1983. Downtown Birmingham is being rediscoved and the hotel is to be converted into 65 luxury condos and 305 hotel units at a cost of $20 million. The renovation is to begin September of 2005 and should be completed by 2007. The building will be renamed "Leer Tower". The four condo layouts will be named for four U.S. presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and George Washington. The rooftop will now include a swimming pool where a water tower once stood.
The Goodhue Hotel in Port Arthur, Texas opened as a Baker Hotel with 160 rooms and 11 floors. It was located at Waco Ave and the North West corner intersected with 5th Street. The Petroleum Room on the 2nd floor was the scene of a press conference with Janis Joplin on KJAC-TV. She was in Port Arthur, Texas at the time for her 1960 Class reunion of the Thomas Jefferson High School she attended when she lived in Port Arthur. In August of 1990 the hotel was demolished and remains a vacant lot today.
Mineral Wells, Texas was starting to grow because The mineral waters were beginning to be known world wide as a cure all for many types of illnesses. The water was big business. Nine citizens of Mineral Wells got together to raise money to build a large resort hotel. They raised $150,000.00 with the help of 253 stockholders.
All they needed was someone with the know how to get the project started. T. B. Baker of the Baker Hotels was contacted in 1925 and agreed to take over the project for the stockholders. Mr. Baker was one of the most sucessful entreprenuers in the state of Texas at the time. Familiar with the mineral bath concept in Mineral Wells, this gave T. B. Baker an opportunity to have a different kind of hotel catering to people seeking the benefit of the curing waters. The Mineral Wells Hotel Company was formed and headed by T.B. Baker. Wyatt C. Hedrick was hired as the architect to design the Hotel after the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, another hotel known for it's water and baths. The Mineral Wells hotel has similar designs to the Arlington Hotel. Mr Hedrick was not an architect but a structual engineer. Because of the lack of licensing back then he was able to work as a architect and practice that profession. Work began on the hotel in 1926 but was stopped after Mr. Baker made a trip to California. He had visited a hotel with a swimming pool and decided the new Baker Hotel must have one in the front of the hotel. The hotel site was then moved back and the existing structure of the basement was kept and the swimming pool was placed on top of the site where the hotel was to be built. This allowed the area under the pool to be utilized as work areas for the hotel and also a changing area for guests was placed under the pool. The pool was an olympic sized above the ground pool to be filled with the curing mineral waters. It was the first swimming pool built for a hotel in Texas. The Baker Hotel was to be 14 stories with 450 rooms for guests and was the first skyscraper to be built outside a major metropolitan area. The hotel was said to be a "Spainish Revial Commercial High Rise." Mr. Baker had many modern ideas for the hotel such as circulating ice water for the guest rooms which he used in many of his other hotels. The hotel was to be fully air conditioned which was a novelty during this time. Also the lights and fans were controlled by the key lock on the guest's room doors. When the guest left the room and locked the door the lights and fans went off. Valet doors were also installed so the guests might place clothing to be cleaned in them and not be distrubed by the employee that came to remove the items for cleaning. The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, opened it's doors November 9, 1929 and it's grand opeining was November 22, 1929 just two weeks after the great stock market crash. Even though this was a dark time in history the hotel opened with great fanfare with Tal Henry and his North Carolinas-Victor Recording Orchestra, cabret acts, a big dinner and dancing in the ballroom. The hotel continued to do well throughout the great depression bringing cattlemen to regain their health and widows to marry them. The Baker Hotel cost $1.2 million to build and employed a good deal of the population of Mineral Wells. The hotel was planned to host conventions to bring people to Mineral Wells and had a meeting capacity of 2,500 in a city with the population of 6,000. The first convention was the Texas Federation of Women's Clubs held November 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th in 1929 before the grand opening. This was just the first of many, many conventions. Many people would come for the conventions and stay for the baths and water. Burt Orndorf was the first manager of the Mineral Wells Baker Hotel and vice president of the Baker Hotels. He had started with the Baker Hotels in 1926. Henry Love was the assistant manager, and was born and raised in Ft. Worth, Texas. He joined the staff in 1920 at the Texas Hotel and later became the assistant manager of the Dallas Baker Hotel. The Baker Hotel of Mineral Wells had three areas for dancing and had some of the largest names of the time performed there. Jack Amlung, Herbie Kaye, Guy Lombardo, Mary Martin, Lawrence Welk, and Paul Whiteman, all performed at the Baker Hotel. The Ballroom on the 12th floor was named the cloud room because of the painted clouds on the ceiling and was busy every weekend with one band or another and became the place to be. The list of celebrities that might be found staying at the Baker at one time or another includes: Alvin Barkley, Clyde Barrow, Pat Boone, Jack Dempsy, Marlene Dietrich, Dale Evans, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Samuel Goldwyn, Jean Harlow, Lyndon Johnson, Carolyn Jones, Sammy Kay, Helen Keller, Dorothy Lamour, Dr. Charles Mayo, Gisele Mckinzie, Tom Mix, Clint Murchinson Sr., Bonnie Parker, General John J. Pershing, Sam Rayburn, Will Rodgers, Roy Rogers, Elliot Roosevelt, the Three Stooges, and Sophie Tucker. J. W. Neel, the owner of Maxwell House Coffee was fond of the Baker Hotel. U.S. Senator Ed Moore of Oklahoma was said to of visited the Baker so much that if you needed him that's where you would find him. In 1932 the Baker began to have money problems. The Baker never closed it's doors. The Hotel reorganized as the Resort Hotel Company with nephew Earl Maynard Baker helping to run the Hotel.
Myla Baker, T. B.'s sister lived at the Gunter in San Antonio. She was born September 17, 1879. Myla was 5'4" tall and had brown hair and brown eyes. On May 8, 1933 she moved to the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. She occuppied a suite on the 7th floor using rooms 714, 716, and 718. She would take trips alone to Europe and buy items to decorate the different hotels. She also helped at the hotel with different charity events. T. B. Baker decided to pass control of the Baker Hotel to his nephew Earl due to financial problems.
Earl M. Baker had already worked at the Baker as manager and also ran the Gunter Hotel in San Antonio. Earl was married to Gladys with two daughters, Dorothy Ann and Betty Jean, but kept a mistress named Virginia Brown at the Baker. Virginia had a suite of rooms on the 7th Floor. Virginia is said to still be there and often you will smell her perfume in her suite and throughout the hotel. When T. B. passed the Baker on to Earl he had Earl agree to make up a trust for his T.B.'s sister Myla agreeing to pay her $9,000.00 a year from the dividends of the Gunter Hotel. On October 13, 1940 Ft. Wolters was located in Mineral Wells and became the largest infantry replacement center during WWII. During this time the Baker Hotel was at it's peak and the population of Mineral Wells was well over 30,000. After the war Ft. Wolters reopened as a helicopter training center for the Air Force, this brought new life to the Baker Hotel during 1951. The state Republican convention was at the Baker during the years of 1952 and 1955. The Democratic convention was held during 1954 at the the Baker Hotel.
Earl Baker said that when his 70th birthday came he would close the doors of the Baker. True to his word on April 30, 1963 Earl closed the doors of the Baker Hotel. This put 250 people out of a job and ruined the social life of the citizens of Mineral Wells. In August of 1963 the Hotel went up on the auction block. Bidding was very light and nothing really came of it. In 1965 a group of local leaders formed the Civic Developement Corporation and reopened the Hotel paying Earl Baker monthly checks for the hotel. While visiting the hotel on December 3rd of 1967 Earl Baker was found in the Baker Suite on the floor after having a heart attack. He was rushed to the nearby Nazareth Hospital but died later that day. The Baker Hotel closed in 1972 due to slim profits. Today the Baker Hotel of Mineral Wells sits empty waiting for someone to give it new life. The stores on the ground floor were available to rent out and the lobby floor was rented out for weddings and meetings. Tours were given by volunteers well versed in the hotel's history. Saddly the roof of the hotel is in need of repairs and leaks have caused great damage to the "Grand Old Lady" of Mineral Wells. Many people fall in love with the Baker and have the desire to repair her but sadly to restore her would cost about thirty million dollars. So The Baker sits waiting for the day that someone will again restore her to her glory. Perhaps apartments, offices, a museum or even a retirement home would be a good choice to continue the life of the Baker. The current owner of the Baker Hotel is Greg Horn of Phoenix, Arizona.