The French Lick Resort Casino in French Lick, IN, recently underwent an extensive renovation, which included a stone restoration as well as the addition of stone in new construction areas throughout the space. The property’s historic features were carefully restored while modern amenities were incorporated to enhance travelers’ experience. For the renovation of two hotels within the resort - French Lick Springs and West Baden - WorthGroup of Englewood, CO, provided interior design services to the Architect of Record, GS Ridgway and Associates Inc. of Vincennes, IN, as well as serving as the Architect of Record and Interior Designer for a new casino, event and conference center and parking structure.
“It’s a beautiful historic property from the turn of the last century,” explained Bryan Hamlin, WorthGroup’s Vice President of Design. “It has a French feel to it, and an existing vocabulary that is historic in nature. The sense of arrival and structure, and the stone detailing and scale of the property, were extrapolated from characteristics of the existing French Lick Springs Hotel.”
The goal of the project was to develop multiple entry points for the entire resort as well as using similar materials to serve as identifiers for these entry points. The material choice for the exterior of the hotels, casino and event and conference center was Indiana limestone. “Bedford, IN, is considered the limestone capital of the world, and it is located 20 miles from French Lick, so obviously there was a huge motivation to use limestone on key elements,” explained Project Manager Brian Fagerstrom, also of WorthGroup.
“Using native material and local craftsmen to carve and install the limestone was a pretty big goal of the overall project, as was having local participation from contractors as well as suppliers,” added Hamlin. Another project goal was to design the architecture to fit with the style of the buildings that were in the area from 100 years ago.
The final objective of the project was to establish a high level of quality at a consistent level throughout the space. “We didn’t want to create one grand entrance with several secondary entrances,” Fagerstrom explained. “People flock from building to building. Some enter the hotel first, some enter the casino or conference center first, so we wanted each entrance to have a consistent and quality feel. The new entrances were designed to be more complementary to the original French Lick Springs Hotel entrance, but weren’t constructed to overpower the original.”
Exterior stoneworkAccording to Fagerstrom, the strategy for the exterior design of new building work was to use limestone at all of the main entrance areas for columns, column bases and as a wall veneer. The material features a random ashlar pattern with heavy horizontal, deep reveals. “Again, the whole idea was that wherever there is limestone, that’s an entrance,” he said. “The design really took a lot of tradition from the region and the history of limestone use at the hotel.”
Another key element, and the most influential design element from the original structure, according to Fagerstrom, was Pluto Pavilion. “We derived the new entrance elements from Pluto Pavilion, which was the original hotel entrance before the hotel had been expanded in the early 1900s,” he said, adding that the two-level pavilion features a dome on top built of limestone. “Because of the stateliness and beauty of the limestone craftsmanship with the brick accents, we derived a lot of the architectural entries from it. We tried to apply a consistent design approach using materials that were a part of the original hotel - limestone being the key exterior material.”
Fagerstrom said that the architects went through a fairly extensive color analysis in working with the mason to clean some of the original stone and then match the new material to it. “As far as the color is concerned, we were trying to match the new stone with stone that had been there for 100 years,” he explained. “Stone takes on a sort of patina look, not only in color variation, but in texture variation as well. We did a lot of research. Through record tracking, one mason actually thinks that they quarried the new stone at the quarry that the original stone came from.” Indiana Monument & Cut Stone Inc. of Bedford, IN, fabricated the stone for the casino, while Whaley Construction of Bloomington, IN, fabricated the material for the events center.
According to Fagerstrom, one challenge involved the curved radius limestone wall at the casino and parking garage. “Both entrances have crescent-shaped limestone towers, so what you see is a curved radius wall that is built out of limestone,” he described. “So, the fabrication of the Indiana limestone blocks was a challenge in order to get the radius correct to achieve a nice, consistent limestone look.”
The architects also faced a timely construction schedule, which required three different stone masons on the jobsite. “We had to make sure that for the detailing and how the stone was stacked together, each mason did it in a similar manner to get a consistent end product,” Fagerstrom explained.
Additionally, the entire exterior of the existing French Lick Springs Hotel was restored to make the building watertight and to make the stone and brick look like new again. “All of the brick and limestone accents were cleaned and tuck-pointed to restore them back to the look of new materials,” explained Fagerstrom. “There were also stone architecture elements and large accents around some of the windows as well as belt coursings.”
In addition to restoring the French Lick Springs Hotel, the project also involved the restoration and renovation of the West Baden Hotel. Stone flooring was used to provide an elegant atmosphere in this hotel, as it was used throughout the lobbies.
Interior designStone was also carried inside the French Lick Springs Hotel, as the original main lobby features multi-colored stone mosaic medallions, which were all restored by an historic preservation company. Meanwhile, stone flooring and granite vanity tops were used in guest rooms. “Everything we did [for the entire resort] was derived from that lobby,” explained Fagerstrom. In one prime example, stone floor medallions can be found in the area surrounding the Grande Colonnade restaurant.
One of the more luxurious amenities of the French Lick Springs Hotel is the spa, which exhibits a more contemporary flair compared to other areas of the establishment, according to Hamlin, and it features a range of stonework. “The interior design team took more freedom with the color originally used in the lobby,” he said. “It is a really clean installation that complements the overall resort.” Furthermore, WorthGroup’s Interior Designer, Carissa Thompson, designed the spa at the client’s request to “create an atmosphere that would relax the mind, body and soul while there for a treatment.”
WorthGroup also served as the architect for a new event and conference center. The lobby floor of the space features stone, while granite was used on the countertops for concierge and convention services. Additionally, the casino lobby also features a stone mosaic medallion at the main entrance, while all cashier and beverage outlets feature granite countertops.
“The whole property ties back to the French Lick Springs Hotel with the Old World classic nature of stone, and all color palettes relate back to this,” said Fagerstrom. “The consistent palette of colors and materials really makes the property feel like a resort, not like separate spaces simply placed near each other.”
The project won the design team a 2007 Casino Design Award for Best Architectural Re-Design for a Casino/Resort.