Located 90 miles west of Dallas, Mineral Wells, Texas, is an ideal destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. The healing waters of Mineral Wells were first reported in the 1880’s with people ascribing medicinal powers to the water. The most colorful story is that of an elderly woman with dementia known in town as the crazy lady. The mineral water purportedly cured her and Mineral Wells soon became known as the home of Crazy Water. Grand hotels and over 21 different mineral water companies thrived in the town through the 1940’s. Today, Mineral Wells offers an eclectic mix of sights and activities.
The Famous Mineral Water Company
Founded by pharmacist Ed Dismuke in 1904, the Famous Mineral Water Company is the only remaining mineral water company. Dismuke was diagnosed by his physicians with a stomach ailment at 40 and not expected to live. He sold his pharmacy and moved to Mineral Wells where he claims the water cured him. There may be something to that claim. On his 97th birthday, Dismuke is reported to have said, “There is nothing wrong with me except old age.”
Mineral water can be purchased at the Famous Mineral Water Company pavilion (209 NW 6th Street, Mineral Wells). The water comes in three strengths based on mineral content. Minerals in the water include calcium, magnesium, potassium, bicarbonate, chloride, sulfate, fluoride, manganese, lithium, zinc and others. The naturally occurring lithium may explain the crazy lady’s cure. In addition to its water, Famous Mineral Water Company markets Crazy Lady body care products and handmade soaps. Crazy Water is also available at many Texas Albertsons, Market Street and Sprouts grocery stores, and online.
Clark Gardens Botanical Park
Max Clark built the gardens for his wife, Billie. It all started in 1972 with the planting of an iris garden and has evolved into 37 acres of ponds, paths, fountains, and gardens. The Clarks opened the garden to the public in 2000. There is an orchard and herb garden, rose garden and historic tree trail; 50 small gardens in all. Stroll pathways to discover statues nestled amongst flowers, pavilions along four ponds and even a chapel with a meditation garden. Children will enjoy a visit to Clark Station and Garden Train area where G-scale trains run on 700 feet of track through miniature villages. Each year in September, Clark Gardens sponsors the Run from the Ducks to benefit the Vietnam War Museum in Mineral Wells.
Clark Gardens Botanical Park (567 Maddux Road, Weatherford) is open daily and is located on the east outskirts of Mineral Wells. Admission to the park is $7 for adults and $5 for seniors and children.
The National Vietnam War Museum
Many Vietnam era helicopter pilots received their initial training at Fort Wolters in Mineral Wells. With that backdrop, an effort is underway to build a National Vietnam War Museum. Today, you can stroll three gardens, and a visitor center opened in 2009. Perhaps most striking, the museum recently unveiled a Vietnam Memorial Wall replica. The Vietnam Wall replica is set within a meditation garden and has an automated aid to help visitors find a specific service member’s name. A work-in-progress, the museum continues to raise donations for construction of a permanent building.
The National Vietnam War Museum is located on Highway 180 on the east end of Mineral Wells. Admission is free.
Mineral Wells Fossil Park
The city’s newest attraction, the Mineral Wells Fossil Park opened in 2010. Located at the site of the city’s old borrow pit, the park offers the public an opportunity to hunt for fossils. About 300 million years ago, a sea covered the area around the town. The fossil park contains artifacts from that period. Crinoids (sea lily) fossils are the most prevalent. The Mineral Wells Fossil Park is unique – people can keep whatever fossils they find for their own personal use. Commercial fossil hunting and power tools are not permitted at the park. Kids will especially enjoy digging in the dirt and finding treasures. A large interpretive display at the park entrance helps hunters identify their finds.
The Mineral Wells Fossil Park (2375 Indian Creek Road, Mineral Wells) is a primitive park with no running water so plan accordingly. The park is open from 8 a.m. to dusk, Friday – Monday. Admission is free.
The Laundromat and Washing Machine Museum
One of Mineral Wells more unusual attractions, the Laundromat and Washing Machine Museum, tops the list for quirky museums. Two types of folks visit – those looking at antique washers and others actually do the week’s wash. The museum, as its name implies, is located inside a functioning laundromat. Antique washing machines sit on shelving located above modern day washers. The collection belongs to laundromat owner and operator Fred Wilson. His collection includes several dozen machines with the oldest dating back to 1885. It’s worth a 15 minute stop to visit and gain a greater appreciation for your Maytag at home.
The Laundromat and Washing Machine Museum is located at 700 Hubbard Street (Hwy 180) in Mineral Wells. The museum is open daily 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. and admission is free.
No list of Mineral Wells sights is complete without mentioning the Baker Hotel. The 14-story, 450-room hotel opened two weeks after the 1929 stock market crash. The Baker Hotel survived the Great Depression, catering to wealthy cattlemen, and thrived during World War II thanks to the soldiers stationed at nearby Fort Wolters. Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan, Clark Gable and Lawrence Welk all stayed at the hotel during its heyday. Time has not been kind to the hotel. It first closed in 1962 to be reopened by local leaders in 1965, and finally closed its doors for good in 1972. Today it stands as an impressive edifice dominating the Mineral Wells landscape. The building is boarded up and broken windows litter its face. Despite the challenge, local residents keep the dream alive to renovate the grand old hotel. What cost $1.2 million to build in the 1920’s is estimated at $55 million to restore today – all that is needed is a commercial investor with deep pockets. For safety reasons, the Baker Hotel is not open to the public.
Find prehistoric treasures at the Mineral Wells Fossil Park, stroll tranquil gardens at Clark Gardens Botanical Park or drink curative waters at Famous Waters Mineral Company. A day trip to Mineral Wells offers a little something for everyone.
Ford, Gary. “Creating a Prairie Garden.” Southern Living March 2009: print.
Famous Mineral Water Company – www.famouswater.com
Clark Gardens Botanical Park – www.clarkgardens.org
National Vietnam War Museum – www.nationalvnwarmuseum.org
Mineral Wells Fossil Park – www.mineralwellsfossilpark.com
Baker Hotel – www.bakerhotel.us