West Baden Angels
On September 15, 1902, the West Baden Springs Hotel opened in the small southern Indiana town of West Baden. At the time, the hotel was dubbed the “eighth wonder of the world” because its centerpiece was a two-hundred-foot diameter domed atrium.
At the apex of the converging steel construction supporting the dome is an enclosed drum-shaped space, sixteen feet in diameter which can only be accessed from the roof by walking across a metal staircase and going through a red entry door and down a steel ladder. Upon entering this space, the eyes behold, painted on the steel walls, the images of eight angels.
It is not known when, why, or how these angels were painted. Some graffiti dates to 1925 and possibly earlier. The artists may have been Italian artisans, who were employed to do marble terrazzo work during the renovations that occurred during the First World War, or scenery painters who were with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus when it stayed at the hotel during this same period. It has even been suggested that the angels were painted by a Greek iconographer. For many years the eight angels, together with the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes on a nearby hillside, watched over the building and all who stayed within until the church was razed in the mid-1930s. Now only the angels remain, and time and graffiti took a toll on these images before Pamela Mougin captured the angels on film and canvas in 2005-06, thereby preserving them and making them accessible to all.
The late Hoosier photographic artist, Pamela Mougin, created life-size images from the original angel paintings in a small room beneath the massive dome of the West Baden Springs Hotel, nearly one hundred feet above the ornate atrium’s mosaic terrazzo floor. These images, along with historical information as regards, is now a part of the Irvington Historical Society’s permanent collection. They are available for viewing during normal business hours.