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Out The Indiana Mud: Hotel Mudlavia

WARREN COUNTY, INDIANA - In order to understand the value of the mud, you have to go outside. The “mud” is the work, getting your hands dirty, embracing the ground that you walk on. Although I’m from the city of Indianapolis, it’s the mud, not the concrete, that makes me feel most at home. You could ask my mom, I spent at least 50% of my childhood outside and barefoot, in and out the Indiana mud.

In 1884 an Indiana farmer, Samuel Story, found himself in the Indiana mud. Good mud. Story was a Civil War vet, life and war left him with rheumatism -- pain and stiffness in the joints or muscles. Sam Story took a drink from a nearby spring, his symptoms, soreness and stiffness began to fade away. The story of this magic mud and water began to spread.

Indiana Public Media - When Samuel Story's neighbors, the Camerons, heard the story, they purchased the land and then leased it to H. L. Kramer, who built a huge hotel and baths at the site. The nearby town of Attica was on a rail line; patients could arrive from Chicago and beyond and be transported by horses and buggy (later by car) to Mudlavia.

Mudlavia -- Most Home-Like and Comfortable Health Hotel in America

All modern conveniences will be found in this hotel--steam heat, electric light, call bells, long distance telephone, mail, express and telegraph facilities and first-class service. The cuisine is excellent, as this sample menu will show. If you would like an illustrated souvenir book, address R.B. Kramer, Gen'l Mgr., "Mudlavia", Kramer, Indiana

The resort opened its doors on Christmas Day, 1890. Travelers would soon come from near and far to experience the healing powers of Indiana’s mud and water. Guests would often stay for weeks at a time, covering themselves in our state’s mud, rinsing off, and then enjoying the rest of the day doing recreational activities such as golf and croquet.

Indiana’s Native Americans first discovered the healing powers of the hot hoosier mud. This was centuries before resorts like Mudlavia and French Lick used Indiana's natural resources to treat the ailment of people in the area.

Historic Indiana - The hotel was a place for people with Rheumatism and other achy ailments to go for treatment. The resort was known for the water and its mud baths, which is how the hotel got its name. People also came just for some rest and relaxation. The hotel featured buggy riding trails, a golf course, tennis courts and a chapel. The picturesque setting and the amenities attracted many well-known people.

Check out this photo below of a guest being treated at Mudlavia! He's covered mud!

A Mudlavia Mud bath - 1917

The resort and hotel targeted middle-class midwesterners, but welcomed world-famous visitors such as John L. Sullivan, James Bingham, Harry Lauder, Captain Jack Crawford and Indiana’s own James Whitcomb Riley and Paul Dresser. Rumor has it that John Dillinger and Al Capone also made themselves at home while at Mudlavia... before the entire structure burned down in 1920.

The great depression, along with modern medical advances made it challenging to completely rebuild what was once there. A newer, but smaller structure was built, and it burned and was abandoned in 1974. Below is a 1925 photo of the lodge after it was rebuilt.

The ruins of this second lodge are all that remain today. From mud we came… and to mud we return, I am covered in Indiana.

When I'm not feeling quite like myself, which has been often since the emergence of this global pandemic, I go outside, and into the Indiana air, into the Indiana mud.

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