It doesn’t mean what it used to, that word “awesome”.
“Awesome” used to be reserved for something truly extraordinary, unusual, or unexpected. Today, it’s mostly used as a synonym for “cool”. Often followed by “dude”.
But “awesome” is the word that came to my mind when I walked into the atrium of the West Baden Springs Hotel in West Baden, Indiana. It was quite literally a jaw-dropping moment. And that’s not just hyperbole. My jaw dropped – literally.
It’s a circular atrium, 200 feet in diameter, and 100 feet in height. Until 1955 it was the largest free-spanning dome in the world. The resort was built in 1902 to rave reviews and was called “The Eighth Wonder of The World”. It eventually fell into disrepair, and was completely renovated in 2006 to the state it’s in today.
The rooms ring the atrium in a giant 5-story circle, some rooms facing the atrium, some facing the outside. Compass roses have been inserting into the carpeting of the circular hallway, to help keep you oriented as you walk to your room.
And yet I had no idea this even place existed. Maybe that’s because it’s way out in the middle of Nowhere, Indiana. And I mean nowhere – the nearest city of any size is Bloomington, almost an hour and a half drive away, mostly on two-lane roads.
When I travel, I often make it a point to seek out historic or architecturally significant places to visit. Earlier this year Karen and I visited Charleston, South Carolina and covered a lot of ground touring that most historic of American cities.
We hadn’t planned on seeing any historic buildings on this trip – in fact, we hadn’t even planned to visit West Baden Springs.
Our weekend getaway was originally going to be at the nearby French Lick Resort. But the French Lick hotel was booked up that weekend and our reservation specialist suggest the West Baden Springs Hotel instead. “Actually, it’s a nicer hotel“, she said.
That turned out to be the understatement of the month.
Karen and I are “planners”; we like making reservations and arranging tours and scheduling tee times and getting all of our ducks in a row when we travel. But we always leave space for the serendipity of something unexpected and wonderful, like the West Baden Springs Hotel.