A Tour Through Mineral Wells' Baker Hotel As It's Prepped for Its Makeover
|Photos by Patrick Michels|
|There are holes in the walls of the storied hotel, and the beds are trashed and stained from seeping water (and worse), but developers hope to reopen the Baker in 2013.|
Rawlings is a managing partner with HHCC, the Austin-based contractors charged with giving the place a 21st Century reboot, and making Mineral Wells a weekend tourist destination once again.
After Robert first mentioned that Jeff Trigger, the man who resurrected the Stoneleigh, was working on the Baker next, Rawlings was one of the first to reply to my emails asking for more details (along with Kevin Pruitt, who's making a documentary about the job, and architects Kurt and Beth Thiel, with whom we'll post a Q&A early next week). The place is a towering concrete albatross around Mineral Wells, looming over a town that doesn't look to have changed much since its heyday as a wellness getaway. The hotel closed in the early '70s, and despite a few attempts to put the place back in business, it's been empty since then -- except, of course, for 40 years of squatters, taggers, kids, security guards, cats, bats and raccoons, some of which were still hanging around on my walk through the 14-story hotel on Wednesday.
Jump for a photo tour through the hotel ruins, past old spa machines, through hotel rooms, up into the bell tower and down into the basement. And don't worry, I'll warn you before you reach the mummified cats.
We enter through the old record shop entrance on the corner, though an office littered with old flyers and mayoral campaign signs. I'm joined on the tour by "Hard-Workin'" Billy Joe Gabriel, a Fort Worth historian who's been collecting Baker Hotel artifacts for decades, and his brother John Gabriel. Billy Joe assembled a proposal to remodel the Baker for his business degree at SMU, and made a serious run at the hotel in the early '80s. His brother John even lived in it for three months.
|The Baker's lobby|
He and other contractors have been surveying the place for about a year now, he says, sizing up everything from its electrical and plumbing systems to its compliance with modern-day building and fire codes. If they get started remodeling the place next spring, he says, it'll be ready to open in spring 2013. Of the estimated $54 million price tag to get the place up and running again, he says HHCC is getting a little over $28 million to get the building back in shape. The rest will go to outfitting it for business as a modern spa and hotel.
|A chandelier in the hotel lobby hangs from a water-damaged ceiling.|
|Moulding along the balcony overlooking the hotel lobby.|