| Texas Haunted Places
A Brief History
The stories of
ghosts and hauntings
The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells
began in the Baker long before it ever closed.....
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up of bridge and entrance
Photo courtesy Jason Grant
a very lavish hotel, the huge Baker
was the site of many wonderful times. Set in the backdrop of the bustling
early twentieth century, the Baker
was a reflection of all that America was. The hotel, born at the beginning
of the great depression, survived the financial hardships of the era
to witness the greatest war mankind has ever seen.
Becoming one of the state's most lavish resorts, the Baker
built a magnificent reputation that attracted people from all walks
of life for one reason or another. One may find the history of the
grand old hotel very interesting. That history could well be a key
to some of its permanent guests.
In 1914 the Crazy Water Hotel
was erected and became the center of activities. But a devastating
fire in March 1925, destroyed most of the building. It was then that
a man by the name of T. B. Baker, a wealthy hotel businessman, decided
to build a grand hotel in Mineral
Wells based on the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Baker owned several hotels throughout Texas
at that time, including the St. Anthony, the Gunther, and Menger
in San Antonio,
the Stephen F. Austin in Austin,
the Texas Hotel in Ft.
Worth, the Baker in Dallas,
the Goodhue in Port
Arthur, the Galvez in Galveston,
the Edson in Beaumont,
and the Sterling in Houston.
Construction began in 1926 and was it was completed in 1929, at a
cost of $1,250,000.00. The facility magnificently reflected the spirit
of the "roaring twenties". It's fourteen storiestowered over the small
town of 7,000 residents like a brown brick giant. It had 460 rooms,
two complete spas, and what is said to be the first Olympic-size swimming
pool in the United States. It rivaled any hotel in New York or Chicago.
Baker Hotel c. 1948
TE Postcard Archives
Many celebrities visited or performed at the Baker,
according to old hotel registers. The Baker
hosted the Three Stooges, Clarke Gable, Judy Garland, Will Rogers,
Marlene Dietrich, General Pershing, L.B.J., Jean Harlow, Sammy Kaye,
Jack Dempsey, Sam Rayburn, Helen Keller, Ronald Reagan and Mary Martin,
just to name a few.
According to an article in "Palo Pinto County History Vol. 1", a waiter
recalled a $2.00 tip given to him by outlaws Bonnie
Parker and Clyde Barrow, although he didn't recognize them at
Many "Big Bands" blasted out their tunes from the "Sky Room" at the
top of the building or in the first floor "Brazos Room." Lawrence
Welk remembered his "starting out days" at the Baker
when he still had difficulty with English. Other entertainers of the
time that visited the Baker
included Guy Lombardo, Paul Whiteman, Dorothy Lamour, and later, Pat
World War II
ushered in a new era for the hotel with the growth of nearby Fort
Wolters. The base eventually became the largest infantry replacement
base in the country, with 30,000 soldiers passing through it's gates
in 1942 alone. The Baker
was then at its peak, catering to both civilians and military personnel.
Life in America, however, began to change by the 1950's. The FDA crackdown
on inflated advertising on cure-all tonics and mineral waters changed
the way we viewed medicine. New antibiotic drugs and preventive medicine
soon became the healthcare mainstream as the need for mineral waters
began to fade. The interstate highway system in the late 1960's re-routed
the main flow of traffic out of Mineral
Wells and I - 20, 14 miles south, cut off a major financial artery
to the town.
In 1952, Mr. T. B. Baker, retired. Since he had no children, he left
his hotel empire to his nephew, Earl Baker who was already a successful
part of the business. Earl Baker lived in San
Antonio and said he would continue to operate the Baker in Mineral
Wells until his 70th birthday. True to his word, on April 30th,
1963, the Baker closed
its doors. But not for long. A group of civic leaders managed to re-open
the hotel in 1965, but with very little profit, the hotel closed for
good in 1970.
In a strange twist of fate, Earl Baker was visiting the hotel for
one last time on December 3, 1967 when he suddenly died of a massive
heart attack. It was as if the hotel dealt him a vengeful blow for
the years of declining glory and subjugated neglect.
In 1973, the Army closed Fort Wolters - yet another major blow to
the Mineral Wells
economy. By the late 1970's the city had lost one third of its population.
The oil and gas industry moved in and sparked some hope, but by 1985
it too went bust -leaving the town once again desperate for an economic
Although the city of Mineral
Wells has recovered to a small degree, it's once beautiful hillsides
are slowly being depleted by brick plants and the factory-dependent
town survives on an economic base, far below yesteryear's glory days
and the fame of its healing waters.
The Ghosts of the Baker Hotel
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© Bob Hopkins, Weatherford