Touring Texoma: Baker Hotel

The rebirth of a magnificent 14- story Texoma landmark, where society's elite and Hollywood's stars once played, may be nearer than you think.
  
For about 7- years now, two main developers and their partners have been looking for tax credits and sources of money to bring Mineral Wells' Baker Hotel back to life.

Nobody hopes that will finally happen more than those who live there, at a destination not far at all away on a tour of Texoma.

It reigned for a quarter century as one of the most glamorous hotels in the nation, Where the miracle water healed all that ailed.
          
The Baker Hotel opened up in Mineral Wells in 1929, and attracted the rich and famous, from New York to Hollywood.

Tony Stubblefield/Mineral Wells Building Inspector:  "I love the stories of the dances that used to go on in the ballroom, and how it used to look.  They make it sound like it was something out of Titanic.  It was just gorgeous."

Ashley Blackmon/Mineral Wells Resident:  "Oh man, it means everything.  I grew up with this town, grew up with this Baker.  It would be great for him to see it all."

Blackmon might speak for just about everyone else in Mineral Wells too, whose voters in May 2014 passed by a 95- percent margin, a 4b tax allocation to spend up to $4,000,000 on a $56,000,000 project to bring the Baker Hotel back to its glory.

Ashley Blackmon: "I  would get so excited.  Everybody would get excited."

Chad Patton/Investor: "We're trying to bring back that opulence.  Right?  The amazement of being able to look out and see for miles, looking due east or due south, and just look out for miles and miles and bring back all the glory of what it was."

Patton's one of the main investors in the Baker Restoration Team, led by Laird Fairchild, Who hopes to have noticeable work underway within the next year or so.
    
Patton: "There are a ton of windows here, right, and these are single pane windows and the Texas Historical Commission has asked us to bring them back to their original state.  So, that is one daunting task.  The second is just power washing and cleaning up this brick.  We're not going to do anything to it other than cleaning it up.  Little bit of tough painting, and that's about it."

Before any cleanup and reconstruction can begin on this mammoth project, though, half of the more than $56,000,000 needed must be raised after the stamp of approval from U.S. Immigration. 

Laird Fairchild/Investor: "The $28,000,000 is actually a program through U.S. Immigration Services, called the EB-5 program.  The way that program works is if a foreign investor invests half a million dollars, if it's a rural project which this qualifies as, they receive a lifetime visa for themselves and immediate family members to the United States.  They have to keep that money invested for 5- years in the qualifying project."

Which all was explained at a State of the Community luncheon in Mineral Wells, where the Baker of course was the meeting's top agenda item.
        
City leaders and citizens, all hoping for positive news, learned this time around a project with ambitious developers is for real, and their beloved Baker could once again be the focal point of their community.

Tony Stubblefield:  "Nobody did their, you know, pressing their clothes at home.  They brought it here to the laundry.  If you wanted to swim, you came here to swim.  If you wanted to eat, you'd go to the coffee shop.  It was just everything was here.  It was a city inside a city."

Chad Patton: "The history of this hotel had a major impact on the community, and the future of this hotel will have a major impact on the community.  To be a small part of that is just an awesome thing to be able to participate in."

So, after being unoccupied for more than 40- years, except by ghosts some say roam the hallways, this time the Baker might soon become an open and running, glamorous fixture in the Mineral Wells community again, and once again make future Texomans proud.

In mid May, a large tornado collapsed an old abandoned bank building that sat across from the Baker, and blew out or pushed in many of the hotel's already broken windows.  

The city manager says there was no real damage  to the hotel, though.

He says documents should be signed in the next few weeks that will help the EB-5 program move forward, and make those funds available.

Among the stars who once frequented The Baker are Judy Garland, Barbara Stanwick and clark Gable.

Also, Larry Hagman's mother, Mary Martin, whose biggest role was probably as Peter Pan, was a cocktail waitress up in the ballroom.


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