Category Archives: 1920s: Construction & Opening

D.W. Griffith: A Little Bit of Hollywood in Mineral Wells

D.W. Griffith, Crazy Water Hotel Roof ~1929

D.W. Griffith, Crazy Water Hotel Roof ~1929

Legendary Hollywood movie director D.W. Griffith was an early pioneer of film in America, known for his silent movies between 1908-1924.  Some of our nation’s very first movie stars like Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin starred in Griffith’s films. He is also largely credited for inventing many important features of the craft, including the “close up,” the “fade out” and the moving camera.  Griffith was the first to attach a camera to a moving vehicle (and even to a custom-built elevator!) in order to get moving action shots and wide, panoramic views.

However, Griffith’s work was not without controversy, and his famous film “The Birth of a Nation” was criticized as being highly racist.  He was also not able to make the jump from silent films into “talkies” in the early 30s – and his films with full sound failed to resonate with audiences and critics.  It’s possible that his unfortunate situation may have lent some inspiration to the 1952 musical comedy “Singin’ In the Rain.”

According Richard Schickel’s biography of Griffith, the director visited Mineral Wells “to dry out” during the “last spring of the decade.” The year was 1929, just before the Baker Hotel opened in November.  Griffith stayed at the Crazy Water Hotel according to telegraph records, and there’s a great picture of him standing on the roof of the Crazy Water (Photo taken from “Time Was in Mineral Wells” by A.F. Weaver).

Local folklore has it that the “WELCOME” sign on East Mountain inspired the famous “HOLLYWOOD” sign, and that D.W. Griffith has some connection to that. Unfortunately the timeline doesn’t match up, and the legend is likely a false one.  However, it is true that the big white Mineral Wells “WELCOME” sign on East Mountain went up in 1922, a year before the famous “HOLLYWOODLAND” sign in 1923. It’s also true that Mineral Wells was a resort mecca for Hollywood types back in the ’20s.

So who knows? Maybe there’s a little Hollywood magic in Mineral Wells.

Hollywood Sign, Welcome Sign

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Video: Baker Preservation Society

A great video showing what the hotel looked like then and now.

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A Poem for the Baker

The following poem and love letter to the Baker Hotel by W.S. Genaro originally appeared in the November 20, 1929 Grand Opening edition of the Mineral Wells Index

Special thanks to Sheri Glover for sending this my way!

——

Psychologists tell us our dreams will come true,
If we hold to a pattern and steadfastly do,
Those things that will tend towards making them real,
That is, catch the spirit—then act as we feel.

If you’ve tried this, you know that the theory is sound
And everywhere proof of its workings are found.
One wondrous example of which I might tell;
The Magnificent Mineral Wells Baker Hotel.

We pass through its portals—we’re awed—and we seem,
Not awake, but just having a wonderful dream!
O’er come by its splendor we’re under the spell
Of this dream house, the Mineral Wells Baker Hotel.

All the architect’s cunning and artisan’s skill,
Have been lavished upon it, and gaze where you will,
The picture is gorgeous and restful as well,
In the marvelous Mineral Wells Baker Hotel.

If we ponder a moment in truth we must find,
It was once but a picture in somebody’s mind;
Just a dream that’s come true—that worked out so well,
That its fruit is the Mineral Wells Baker Hotel.

All who visit our city for pleasure or health,
Are convinced that men of vision and wealth;
Have planned for their comfort and wonderfully well,
In building the Mineral Wells Baker Hotel.

We have reason for pride in our prospects today,
We who live in this haven of health, rest and play;
We believe in the future of Mineral Wells,
And are proud of the Baker and Crazy Hotels.

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The Model for The Baker: The Arlington

So the story goes, on a visit to the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, T.B. Baker was so inspired by the look of the Spanish Revival style hotel that he asked his Fort Worth architect Wyatt C. Hedrick to create a similar design for the new resort in Mineral Wells.

The Arlington Hotel that is still operational today was built in 1924, on top of the ruins of the previous two Arlington Hotels – the first was razed to build the second, and the second burned in a fire in 1923.

You can certainly see striking similarities between the two hotels, from the bell towers, to the winged layout, to the vaulted veranda promenade on the lower level.

There are, however, some notable differences aside from the presence of only one bell tower atop the Baker. Other innovations that are unique to the Baker include a lavish rooftop terrace and ballroom, a swimming pool, full air conditioning and ample retail store space along the street level.

Note: While some information about the Baker states that the architect Wyatt C. Hedrick also designed the Arlington hotel, there does not appear to be any historical documentation to confirm that. The architect officially on record for the Arlington Hotel is George R. Mann, who also designed the Arkansas State Capitol Building.

The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs Arkansas

The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs Arkansas

The Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells Texas

Baker Hotel, Mineral Wells Texas

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The Lobby: Then and Now

The first photograph below shows what the lobby of The Baker Hotel looked like when the hotel was first completed in 1929.  It was likely taken at night, since the bank of windows on the upper right were designed to let in quite a bit of natural light during the daytime.

The second photograph was taken in May 2013 through a crack in the window.  (Note: If you decide to visit the building, you can get some photos like these from the outside. Please respect the no trespassing signs – for your own safety as well as for the preservation of the building!)

Baker Hotel Lobby, Mineral Wells, Texas (1929)

Baker Hotel Lobby, Mineral Wells, Texas (1929)

Baker Hotel Lobby, Mineral Wells, TX (May 2013)

Baker Hotel Lobby, Mineral Wells, TX (May 2013)

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