What to Know
- Known as the 'Grand Old Lady of Mineral Wells,' the Baker Hotel originally opened in 1929, just days after the stock market crashed.
- Developed by T.B. Baker for a reported $1.2 million, the first air-conditioned hotel in Texas boasted an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
- The Baker Hotel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
In its prime, The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells was the place to see and be seen.
Celebrities like Judy Garland and Clark Gable, dignitaries like President Lyndon B. Johnson and everyday Texans were drawn to the luxury resort and its healing waters.
But after closing in 1972, the hotel began a slow decline, reminding Mineral Wells of its past and what it could still be again.
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Now, developers say the time for talk is over and on Thursday, a $65 million restoration project will begin to bring this piece of Texas history back to life.
Like so many, developer Laird Fairchild, was drawn to the Baker Hotel from the moment he saw it.
"I drove by this magnificent building and fell in love it," said Fairchild.
But unlike others who have dreamed what the Baker could become, Fairchild had access to capital, know-how and patience to tackle what he says will be one of the biggest private restoration projects in Texas history.
Together with the city of Mineral Wells and seven other owners and developers, it has taken Fairchild more than 10 years of financing and bureaucratic red tape to begin a restoration project of this size.
"I don't know if it's anything other than just a deep passion we all had," said Fairchild. "But it's really the citizens of this town. They fell in love with this idea of supporting this group and they saw our passion and we saw their passion."
In 2014, Mineral Wells voters approved reallocating a portion of the city's sales tax to the project and Governor Greg Abbott designated the project and downtown Mineral Wells as an 'Opportunity Zone' that provides tax incentives.
The plan is to open the restored Baker Hotel & Spa in the fall of 2022.
"It's going to look very similar to the day it opened its doors in 1929," said Fairchild.
What comes next is a nine to 12 month demolition and abatement process as the hotel is transformed from its original 450 guest rooms to 157 rooms and suites with a special focus on what originally drew guests to the Baker -- the waters of Mineral Wells.
A spa will return, though it will be updated and enlarged to consume the entire second floor, and without the "colonic irrigation" room the hotel once boasted.
Guests will even be able to stay in the rooms where local legend has it Bonnie & Clyde once hid from the law and the suite where original owner T. B. Baker installed a secret door to hide liquor during Prohibition.
Laird is most excited about restoring what's known as the "Cloud Room."
At 14 stories high, the top floor ballroom once played host to big bands, dances and state political conventions and has a view that stretches for miles across Palo Pinto County.
The hope is it again becomes an attraction for corporate events and weddings.
There will be a restaurant, lounge, coffee shop, the restored pool and a museum area on-site dedicated to the Baker's 90-year history.
"There is a story here," said Fairchild. "You can feel how important this project is to the citizens of this community and really to Texas history."
The principal owners and developers along with representatives of the City of Mineral Wells will gather on the steps of the Baker Hotel Thursday to celebrate the beginning of the restoration project.
A documentary film crew will follow the entire three-year restoration project.