LILLIAN SINCLAIR REXFORD COOPER
Lillian Sinclair, daughter of Lee W. and Caroline Sinclair, was born in 1875. She lived a fairytale childhood as her father treated her as though she were a princess. She was accustomed to having things her way. The hotel was rebuilt in 1902 only through Lillian’s persistence and her father’s desire to please her.
After her father died in 1916, she and her husband, Charles Rexford, were in full charge of operations at the hotel. Actually her husband had been handed control of the hotel in the later years of Lee Sinclair’s life, but workers at the hotel often bypassed Rexford and went directly to Sinclair, whose orders were most often followed.
Upon Sinclair’s death, Lillian pushed for improvements to be made to the grand hotel despite opposition from her husband. Charles agreed to begin small renovations, but he refused to allow any large-scale changes. However, this issue was forced when a fire on the grounds destroyed the hotel’s hospital, opera house, bowling alley, and bottling house on February 11, 1917.
With this development came several major additions and changes to the hotel. The atrium was decorated with a Greco-Roman theme that included twelve million one-inch squares of marble on the atrium floor and a new flaming torch design on the great dome. Also added during this period were the grand veranda and the sunken garden, both of which are now the premiere attractions of the hotel.
A grand reopening was held on October 27, 1917. Although the renovations were magnificent, they came at great expense to the Rexfords. The couple went into debt to John Edward Ballard. The Rexfords’ marriage was already failing, but the financial burden was the final blow that ended their marriage.
Although things seemed to be falling apart, Lillian’s life took a huge turn for the better during World War I when the hotel was being used as an army hospital. She fell in love with Lt. Charles Cooper, a soldier who had been at the hotel-turned-hospital.
The two were married soon after the war ended. Lillian continued to operate the hotel until 1923 but then sold it to Ballard so that she could pursue her new marriage which was to last the final thirty years of her life.
Bundy, Chris. West Baden Springs: Legacy of Dreams, 505 North Main Street, Salem, IN 47167.
Gastos, Gregory S. History of the West Springs Baden Hotel, Paoli, IN: Printing Perfection, Inc., 1998.
"West Baden Springs Hotel," Times-Mail Online Supplement, http://www.tmnews.com/stories/1998/08/ 26/baden_tab_biographical_sketches.