489 S. Maple St.
French Lick Indiana 47432United States
Midwest Living Recommends
Opened in 2011, a museum exploring the history of French Lick and West Baden springs shines with cool anecdotes and a circus diorama.
Bet you never knew that tomato juice was first served in French Lick. It was, in 1917, at the French Lick Resort, when the kitchen ran out of oranges to make juice -- the chef had tomatoes on hand and decided to give that a whirl. It became so popular that a plant in town began manufacturing the juice for commercial distribution. And that's only one interesting fact you'll learn at this small but proud museum in downtown French Lick. The artifacts draw largely from townspeople whose families held onto photos, posters and documents related to the first life of the French Lick Resort (which fell into disrepair but reopened in 2008 after a $500 million renovation) and its surroundings. You'll find the best part of the museum in the back room. There the Hagenbeck Wallace Circus Diorama depicts in minute detail what a 1920s-era circus looked like. The circus, owned at that time by Ed Ballard, who also owned the West Baden Springs Hotel, had winter quarters nearby. The diorama alone is worth the cost of admission ($5), but anyone who enjoys looking at old photographs and reading about history will enjoy a good half-hour here. We've heard that the museum is moving sometime in 2012; wherever it lands, it's definitely worth a stop if you're in town.