Culture / Travel

Mineral Wells Embraces It Crazy Roots — A Small Texas Town Turns to James Beard-Honored Chef to Help Bring Two Historic Hotels Back to Life

The Newly Dubbed Wellness Capital Of Texas Has Already Reopened Crazy Water Hotel and The Baker Hotel's Got Next

BY // 10.23.23

A lot of small Texas towns are named for their most famous attribute. Such is the case with Mineral Wells ― the small town located about 20 miles northwest of Weatherford. Any guesses as to what Mineral Wells (population 14,902) might be famous for? If you guessed that it’s water wells filled with an amazing array of mineral content, you would be correct.

Now, the city of Mineral Wells, located about 51 miles west of Fort Worth, is ready for its second act.

It is centered around a remodeled and restored Crazy Water Hotel. Many historic details are still intact throughout the remodeled hotel, which reopened in 2018. But the updated guest rooms are now sleek and modern, with full (and I mean full) kitchens in the king-bedroom suites, plus sitting and dining areas, and seriously spa-like bathrooms. Each room (there are a total of 62 suites and 12 apartments) even comes with local Crazy Water to sample.

The Crazy Water Hotel originally was built atop a famous mineral water well back in 1912. Its massive first floor includes the forthcoming Second Bar + Kitchen restaurant and the Crazy Coffee & Water Bar serving coffee and smoothies. Then there is Rickhouse Brewing ― a local brewer offering beer brewed with Crazy Water — and several boutiques for shopping in the pavilion. These stores include a brilliantly outfitted men’s shop, a women’s store, a fab toy store and an upscale shoe shop.

The seventh floor ballroom and pavilion at the Crazy Water Hotelonce hosted big bands. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
The seventh floor ballroom and pavilion at the Crazy Water Hotelonce hosted big bands. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

The views are epic from the historic seventh floor, which has hosted big bands and big events ever since the building’s birth. Both the glass-enclosed pavilion and the open-air deck, where music acts perform regularly, are a sight to behold. The entire seventh floor can even be booked for weddings and events, giving parties private access to both stunning spaces, as well as hotel rooms on the seventh floor.

Crazy Water Hotel’s restored and reimagined spa will be opening by the end of next year featuring, of course, the therapeutic waters of Mineral Wells. Guests will once again be able to enjoy mineral bath soaks, along with the newest therapies. That means infrared saunas, massages and facials.

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It should all make Crazy Water Hotel a truly restful wellness retreat.

An Iron Chef Jumps Into Crazy Water

Adding to the perks and amenities of the newly restored Crazy Water Hotel is the soon-to-open second location of Second Bar + Kitchen restaurant. Chef David Bull opened the first one in Austin to rave reviews. The well known chef and Iron Chef America challenger has a few James Beard nods to his credit. Bull began his career (fresh out of the Culinary Institute of America) working alongside Dean Fearing at The Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas.

That’s about the time Bull first met hospitality guru and historic preservation visionary Jeff Trigger, who was then the managing director of The Mansion, a role he held for some 15 years. To say that Bull and Trigger hit it off is an understatement. In separate interviews, they gushed with praise for one another. Each trusts implicitly in the other’s unique skill sets.

Over the past 30 years, Bull and Trigger have a lot of high-profile successes to tout. They have worked together through their La Corsha Hospitality, leading the renaissance of a few other historic hotels including The Adolphus and The Stoneleigh Hotel & Spa, both in Dallas, and Austin’s Driskill Hotel.

“We sold our interest in The Driskill. We opened Austin’s Second Bar + Kitchen in 2010,” David Bull tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “We still own East Austin Hotel, currently.”

I experienced a stay at the renovated Crazy Water Hotel, as well as to a taste of what chef Bull has in store when Second Bar + Kitchen opens to the public by the end of October.

Crazy – Brisket marmalade with fresh burrata and jalepeno peach jam at the soon to open Second Bar + Kitchen. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Brisket marmalade with fresh burrata and jalapeno peach jam at the soon to open Second Bar + Kitchen. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

I also got a hard-hat tour with Trigger and Bull of the highly anticipated (and most likely haunted) Baker Hotel whose restoration and complete reimagining is still underway in Mineral Wells. I can tell you the plans are ambitious and city of Mineral Wells officials are excited. This long-forgotten wellness retreat hopes to become a regional draw once more.

Mineral Wells is leaning into its new official designation as the “Wellness Capital of Texas,” which was officially bestowed upon the town this summer by the Texas state legislature. Chef Bull has certainly gotten the memo. His Second Bar + Kitchen restaurant menu will be filled with locally sourced ingredients. He also plans to highlight wellness options with vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free alternatives all available.

We sampled what Bull called a brisket marmalade and burrata appetizer. The tender meat was shredded for spreading atop toast points along with creamy house-made burrata cheese and jalapeno peach jam. The farm-to-market salad course was an artistic creation featuring River Valley Farms butter lettuce, cucumber and zucchini twirls set amongst fresh corn puree, spiked by basil leaves.

Crazy – The farm to market salad with butter lettuce, basil and corn puree. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
Chef David Bull’s farm to market salad with butter lettuce, basil and corn puree. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

The main course was not just any short rib. Served with sweet potato puree and wilted greens, the fall-apart rib meat was draped with both a sesame garlic crumble as well as a punchy pickled mustard butter sauce. For dessert, the chef utilized a pecan crunch bar which was purveyed by a local bakery. The dish was plated with salted caramel and fresh whipped cream.

When Second Bar + Kitchen opens by the end of this month, it should be a major draw. Especially for nearby Weatherford and Aledo foodies. The restaurant will be open weekends only to start. Bull is running the catering and banquet dining for the hotel as well.

Second Bar + Kitchen will be open Fridays from 11 am to 10 pm, Saturdays from 8 am to 10 pm  and Sundays from 8 am to 2 pm for breakfast and brunch. Reservations can be secured here.

What to Expect From The Baker Hotel

Both Trigger and Bull are thrilled to show off the historic details that set The Baker Hotel & Spa apart and demand its restoration rather than its implosion.

The grand hotel was designed by architect Wyatt C. Hedrick, a native Virginian whose architectural legacy and career left an indelible imprint on his adopted state of Texas, especially in Fort Worth.

The Baker opened as an international resort destination in 1929 just before the Great Depression forever stunted its legacy. Still, for more than 25 years, the glamorous resort drew high-profile celebrities like Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Lawrence Welk.

A steady economic decline led to its permanent closure in 1972. It was then left to decay for half a century.

The Baker – with stunning architectural details around every corner. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
The Baker Hotel brings stunning architectural details (like local Wagley brick) around every corner. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

“The city made a major move to make this thing happen, pledging future taxes to say yes to The Baker project,” Jeff Trigger tells PaperCity Fort Worth. “That little slice, as well as federal historic tax credits are critical to have everybody involved in restoring The Baker.”

One prominent exterior feature — the silver exhaust duct — will remain in place for that very reason. Once used to evacuate smoke from a coal-burning furnace, Trigger says it’s worth millions in historic tax credits itself.

The restoration project is massive. The progress is slow and painstaking. The funding is still evolving, with more money still needing to be secured for the next phase of the Baker Hotel restoration.

A tour of the building, which is still very much in decay, reveals historic plaster medallions made from horse hair, original intricate mosaic tile designs, locally produced Wagley brick walls peeping through chipping plaster, antique wrought iron railing and massive spans of nearly indestructible terrazzo. Looking as good as the day they were first laid in.

The Baker – The spiral staircase leading to the lobby fitted with its original wrought iron and tile work. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)
The spiral staircase leading to the lobby at Baker Hotel is fitted with its original wrought iron and tile work. (Photo by Courtney Dabney)

The original check-in desk with its wooden key box still intact will greet visitors once more when the restoration is complete. There are at least three years to go on the project.

“The lobby bar and check-in will lead to the Brazos Club, which is in the same location as the hotel’s original restaurant,” notes Bull, who is heavily involved in front and back of house design of The Baker’s future culinary program. “There will be three kitchens total. For catering, banquets and restaurants.”

La Corsha is only a small investor in the massive Baker Hotel project, but they are taking the lead on the hotel’s restaurant and hospitality offerings and layout.

“We are operating two separate properties ― The Crazy Water and The Baker — with one goal in mind,” Trigger says. “The town of Mineral Wells with its focus on wellness and economic development.”

The History of Mineral Wells

Plagued by unsafe water sources, which led to bouts of malaria, James and Armanda Lynch packed up their nine children in 1877 and drove their herd, which was then comprised of about 50 head of cattle, further West from Denison, Texas in search of a dryer climate. They found it in the lush hills of Palo Pinto County.

After drilling a well, the Lynches noticed the water had an unusual taste. Just to be on the safe side they watered their cattle with it first. Once the couple began drinking the water themselves, they noticed it had certain “healing properties.” For one, their rheumatism began to improve.

Word traveled fast, and soon thousands showed up to enjoy the water. More wells were drilled to satisfy the growing demand and the town of Mineral Wells was born.

As the story goes, one woman was even healed of her mental health and mood disorder by drinking from the so-called “Crazy Water” well. Perhaps the water’s natural lithium content (yes, lithium) was what made her feel better. Or maybe it was a coincidence. Either way, the town has thoroughly embraced its Crazy Water moniker.

Much like you can’t help seeing little green aliens when passing through Roswell, New Mexico, today you’ll find a little bit of craziness everywhere you turn in Mineral Wells. From the locally sourced mineral water brand Crazy Water with its four levels of mineral content to choose from to the Mineral Wells sign which has been welcoming all kinds of crazy for decades.

In its heyday, between the turn of the century and the Great Depression, tiny Mineral Wells swelled with visitors all in search of this “healing” water. The 9,000 hotel rooms spread across town included some of the most fashionable modern hotels in North Texas. Including The Baker Hotel and Crazy Water Hotel. Then, as the economy declined, the visitors fell away, leaving behind the shells of these century old luxury resorts.

Now, they’re finally coming back to life.

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