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Original Springs Hotel –
Haunted Place: Original Springs Hotel
506 North Hanover
Okawville, Illinois 62271
Phone: (618) 243-5458
The Original Springs Hotel and Bath House and its marvelous restaurant can be found 41 Miles East of Street Louis, in an Illinois town, Okawville, long known for its healing mineral springs which run underneath the town. This reality made it the perfect place for this grand hotel and another like it to be built, complete with a bathhouse, hotel and a restaurant.
The Original Springs Hotel, Bath House and Restaurant is a large connected complex. The Hotel is a wood framed 2 story structure, with connected room additions to the original hotel which were made over its long history. There are suites around the pool and bath house area, a recreation area and a spacious restaurant with wooden floors, which has a great reputation for serving great meals. In summary, The Original Springs Hotel & Bath House has everything to make your stay a most enjoyable, restful and relaxed visit at a reasonable price.
This hotel has always had owners with dreams and goals to improve and make it better just at the right time.
CONSTRUCTION + DESTRUCTION = RENOVATION
On February 1, 2004, Mary & Don Rennegarbe followed the example of previous owners of this place who love this old hotel, and have implemented an ambitious construction + destruction = renovation projects they've been dreaming to start, spending the last 14 years in planning to make this happen. They have divided the work to be done into Phase 1, Phase 2 and Phase 3, which are currently in motion.
For Phase 1 of a multi-phased renovation project on the entire complex of The Original Springs, a section of small basic rooms located in the original hotel building which haven't been used by the living for 12 years, were the first to be made bigger and transformed into more attractive places to spend the night; suites which reflect the late 1890s through the turn-of-the-century period, carefully and artistically done, which each suite uniquely different, with its own individual decorum, period furniture, light fixtures, with some modern conveniences such as a microwave, refrigerator and coffee maker.
Phase 2 - Updating the Geothermal system so this hotel can provide more effectively mineral baths without having to depend on the whims of the old boiler. Mary shares on the web-page, "I will be happy to relinquish baby sitting the boiler so we can do mineral baths. I've just about run out of sweet things to say to encourage the boiler a few more times."
Spa - They are installing installing a Finnleo Infrared Room in the Women's Side and Men's Side. The Finnleo Infrared room provides soothing heat, directly radiated to the body, resulting in the cleansing and detoxifying the body.
Phase 3 - Restaurant Renovations
The story of this Historic Hotel and Bath House has many ups and downs, but always manages to land on the foundation of human determination and ingenuity to keep going for over 100 years! While people today enjoy their stay at this lovely piece of Americana, a number of entities also reside here; some the result of tragedy, suicide or perhaps they love this place and want to keep an eye on the living who continue to run the hotel.
It all started with a bath in the mineral spring water. After a rheumatic patient of Dr. McIlwain was cured after bathing in a tub of the mineral water, Rudolph Plegge, who had discovered the water's mineral content in the first place, got together with a German farmer who had once worked at the Carlsbad Baths in his home country and started a small bath house business, in 1867, which would be the beginning of The Original Springs Hotel and Bath.
In 1871, the railroad came to town, bringing visitors, so the bathhouse became a bigger venture. Rudolph Plegge dreamed of constructing a 3 story brick hotel for people to stay to enjoy the healing mineral springs, but never was able to do so, though the bath house business grew considerably.
In May of 1885, the invalid wife of Reverend J.F. Schierbaum, came to Plegge's bath house and was completely cured of her chronic pain. She was so elated that she convinced her husband and several other ministers in the German Evangelical Church to buy Plegge's bath house business and build a hotel on the site, a grand effort which unfortunately was built of wood because the original brick plans were too expensive. Business boomed, and 30 feet were added to the Hotel and a new more luxurious bath house when the hotel was closed during the fall and winter.
Unfortunately, a man named Meier died from burns suffered when he used a threshing machine engine bought to help heat the water in the bath house and it exploded.
In 1890, The Original Springs Hotel and Bath was bought by the Schreiner brothers, who enjoyed a very booming season in 1891, added more to the building to accommodate more people. During the off season on November 8th, an arsonist with a grudge against the former owners set a fire and the whole thing burned to the ground.
The Schreiners started immediately to rebuild the place, to be even better, with a sand and brick foundation in December, resulting in a bath house with 40 rooms, and a two story hotel, with an extra large room in the center of the second floor to hold hot and cold water storage tanks.
In 1896, the Schreiners installed electricity in their hotel and started to bottle their spring water as well in 1898, in response to their main competition, The Washington Hotel, run by the Morgans. Around 1900, it is thought that one of the Schreiner brothers, J.W. , must have died because the hotel was sold back to Reverend J.F. Schierbaum, who continued to improve the Hotel, and the community as well.
Though there was a competitiveness between the two hotels, there was plenty of business for all, including the businesses in town. 1902 was a very financially successful year for all concerned!
In 1904, Reverend J.F. Schierbaum died... but his family took over running the business. In 1907, a large two story addition to the hotel added 24 rooms. In 1910, a new bigger brick bath house was built, which still is in use today.
After another profitable season, Anna Schierbaum died in October of 1911, leaving the hotel to son Ben, who married Alma Schulze, daughter of store owner across the street.
This proved to be a rocky marriage, and Alma left Ben in November 1916, after the hotel had closed for the season. Ben was heartbroken, and when he couldn't find her and her parents wouldn't help him......
Ben Schierbaum killed himself in the passageway leading to the Bath House.
In 1919-1921- A. Sadden owned the place and continued to upgrade the hotel, extending the porch across the north end of the building, and made the front look better by aligning the front steps with the front doors. He had also dreamed of being able to keep the hotel open year round, but only owned the place for 3 years, selling the The Original Springs Hotel & Bath House to their main competitors, The Washington Hotel.
The 1920s were not financially kind to the bath house business, but The Original Springs Hotel & Bath House managed to do ok, though changes were inevitable. In 1923, a Street Louis corporation took over both hotels. A new type of clientele began to meet at the hotel.
Southern Illinois gangsters, Charlie Birger and the Shelton brothers, Carl, Earl and Bernie had discovered the hotel as a great meeting spot to discuss "business," completely taking over the bath house; with armed associates in the hallway outside.
1929 - 1933 - Needed changes were coming. Conrad Paeben was hired by the Street Louis Corp. to come and run The Original Springs Hotel & Bath House. He ordered the installation of steam heating for the rooms, which means that the place could be opened year round. The Hotel was changed into a membership country club, Original Springs country club, for people who mainly lived in Saint Louis. Conrad Paeben, gifted in advertising, came up with the slogan, "Where Rheumatism Meets Its Waterloo" which worked! Business was booming again, despite the depression. However, this didn't pan out because the depression was beginning to hit hard. Original Springs Health Resort became the name, opening up once again to the public. By 1933, things were looking very bleak indeed, and Conrad Paeben committed suicide by poisoning himself.
However, never underestimate human ingenuity! In the nick of time, two enterprising employees of the Original Springs Hotel, business entrepreneur Tom Rogers and Louis Elardin, with the help of banker W.G. Frank, head of the corporation who still owned both hotels, came up with ideas to bring in the much needed business to keep it up and running. Dances!! Every Saturday night from 6 to 1, with rooms open for people who wanted to stay. Opening Pleasureland, a place for family fun in the hotel's park, which lasted 2 seasons.
1939 - 62 Little was done to promote business due to war and to the fact that Tom Rogers had gone into the dairy and cheese business, though they still did a fair amount of business on the weekends. By the late 1950s, his dairy dwindled down to a trickle, and Tom Rogers became more and more strange.
Tom Rogers was found dead in one of the upstairs rooms.
'62-'90 Albert and Doris Krohne were the next inspired owners of this now fix-upper Original Springs Hotel and Bath House. With funds available, they went to work renovating the rooms which really needed it and adding some modern conveniences; better lighting, sometimes a sink and/or toilet, or a tub. Albert was nearly killed in a auto crash in '63, but recovered the use of his knee because of the healing spring water.
On the Krohne's watch, in early 1965, the Boiler Room Lounge and Restaurant was opened for the first time to the public, not just hotel guests. Dances and live music had the place jumping on the weekends. In the 1980s, the pool was enclosed so it could be used year-round. A recreation room was built as well, which for the first time completely connected the Bath house with the hotel. In 1985, ten more rooms were added to the Hotel, and 3 club rooms to the Bath House.
1988 - Big fire once again damaged the Hotel. But the Krohnes' made lemons out of lemonade and enlarged their fire-damaged rooms, removing walls, improving what was there.
1990 - Don and Mary Rennegarbe bought the hotel and have been working hard to restore it to its former glory!
There are so many candidates as to who may be haunting this grand old hotel and bath house, no one has found out just who yet. Some have died here, some killed themselves, another's guilt about a suicide may be keeping her here, and others were really attached to the hotel, as a place of refuge, relaxation and good times or they died suddenly when more work was to be done!
Possible candidates include:
* The man named Meier - who died from burns from an explosion.
* J.W. Schreiner - died unexpectantly, in the middle of a competition for customers with rival hotel, The Washington Hotel.
* Reverend J.F. Schierbaum - Who died unexpectantly from a two week illness.
* Anna Schierbaum died here- She was cured of her crippling arthritis here and adored the place.
* Ben Schierbaum killed himself - In the passageway leading to the Bath House.
* Alma Schulze Schierbaum might be here as well - Because of her guilt about Ben's suicide.
* Conrad Paeben committed suicide - By poisoning himself.
* Tom Rogers was found dead - In one of the upstairs rooms.
* Charlie Birger and the Shelton brothers, (Carl, Earl and Bernie), plus armed associates - were fond of the hotel. Being gangsters, they probably died violently or in jail. They are long shots, but still a possibility.
1) Second Floor Entity who wanted to play...
In 1992 - after the Rennegarbe family had moved into the large apartment on the second floor (perhaps where the water storage facilities had once been, or an apartment long used in the past by the hotel owners as a living space) a friendly entity in form of a figure had appeared in front of the young daughter, perhaps wanting to play, or perhaps was trying to welcome the Rennegarbe family.
2) General Paranormal Experiences...
A) Staff members often feel a presence, an unseen supervisor watching them as they carry on their duties.
B) At night, they hear strange noises and foot steps pacing the hallways when no one is in that part of the hotel.
C) Sound of music from long ago sometimes drifts through the corridors.
D) Doors sometimes have the ability to open and shut by themselves.
E) Mists and apparitions are sometimes briefly seen out of the corner of the eye.
3) Laundry Room Hauntings...
It is thought that perhaps the area in the laundry room may have been the hotel casino, probably in the 1920s, because I doubt that the Reverend J.F. Schierbaum family would have allowed it when they were alive.
A) Early 20th century music is heard in this area.
B) Employees in this area have the uneasy feeling of being closely watched by a stern presence.
4) second Floor of the older wing - Many of the staff won't go up there at night...
A) The staff brave enough to go there, have heard unexplained strange sounds coming from some of the unused, locked guest rooms.
B) In empty hallways, the sound of foot steps are heard making their way down the halls.
C) A male guest and his wife asked to be moved to another room, because their room belonged to someone else!
* First, they heard the sound of whispering voices; (probably of entities trying to be polite and not wake them up).
* The last straw was when several cold spots tried to join them in bed!
5) The Lady in White...
This entity is a woman with a willowy form dressed in a turn-of-the-century or early 1900s white dress with a high waist, always wearing a large hat which hid part of her face.
A) When Mary the owner had her office on the second floor of the building near the pool, this Lady in White was seen standing or sitting in a chair on the balcony in front of Mary's office.
B) When Mary moved her office to a room near the lobby, the Lady in White moved with her.
* A male guest who had a room right next to Mary's office, woke up and saw the Lady in White standing at the foot of his bed, looking at him and his wife. She then turned around and walked right through the door!
* The Lady in White continues to be seen in this room and floating down the hall as well!
C) A delivery man saw the Lady in White looking at him from the second floor of the men's side of the Bath House, from a locked storage room.
Some Entities continue about their business, others do their part to monitor employees and "help" the owners.
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