French Lick, Indiana

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French Lick is a town in French Lick Township, Orange County, Indiana, United States. The population was 1,941 at the 2000 census. In early 2006 the French Lick Resort Casino, the state's tenth casino in the modern legalized era, opened drawing national attention to the small town.

Contents

History

French Lick was originally a French trading post built near a spring and salt lick. A fortified ranger post was established near the springs in 1811. On Johnson's 1837 map of Indiana, the community was known as Salt Spring. The town was founded in 1857.

The sulfur springs were commercially exploited for medical benefits starting in 1840. By the later half of the 19th century, French Lick was famous in the United States as a spa town. In the early 20th century it also featured casinos attracting celebrities like boxer Joe Louis, composer Irving Berlin and gangster Al Capone.

In 1943, the Chicago Cubs held Spring Training camp in French Lick. In order to conserve rail transport during World War II, the 1943 Spring Training was limited to an area east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River.[3]

The French Lick Resort Casino was the focal point of most of the entertainment; the hotel remained open well after the casinos were closed down and the heyday of the town was well past. The resort closed for renovation in 2005.

Pluto Water, a best selling laxative of the first half of the 20th century, was bottled here. It was also home to a large 7-Up bottling facility, which ceased operation in the mid-20th century.

Franklin D. Roosevelt announced his intention to run for president at a National Governors' Convention held at the French Lick Springs Hotel.

The town has been best known for being the hometown of NBA great Larry Bird ever since his professional basketball career took off. In his later basketball career, Bird was given the nickname "the Hick from French Lick". French Lick is also the hometown of former Sacramento Kings head coach Jerry Reynolds, who currently works as the team's color commentator on its television broadcasts and is the Kings' director of player personnel.

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