Excelsior Springs came into existence in 1880 when a local farmer was credited with discovery of the healing properties in the mineral waters. Hoping to help his daughter, who ailed from a form of tuberculosis, he took the reddish spring water on the bank of Fishing River to her for drinking and bathing. Within a few weeks she had improved and was said to have eventually recovered. A man living on the hillside above the river soon after used the water to bath his rheumatic knees and a sore from a Civil War gunshot. He also proclaimed recovery and the word began to spread across the region.
People seeking health cures started arriving, setting up tents on the hillsides. The owner of the valley where the spring was located, Anthony Wyman, began platting a town for development at the encouragement of a Missouri City pastor, Rev. J.V.B. Flack. Soon other mineral water springs were located and, in 1881, Excelsior Springs was founded as a town. Eventually 40 springs and wells were located downtown with more mineral water varieties than anywhere else in the world.
The original spring, “Old Siloam”, is located in the basement of the Hall of Waters building. The Hall of Waters was built as a WPA project from 1936 to 1939 to house the mineral water system, which then was the dispensary of 10 of the cities mineral waters. The world’s longest water bar is housed in the solarium on the first floor and is used as a Visitor Center. Because of its national significance, the building itself is considered to be a museum, and houses artifacts, photos, and provides a video of how our waters were formed and Excelsior Springs history as a spa community.
More of our history can be discovered at the nearby Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives. Housed in a building designed in 1905 by Louis Curtiss, noted Kansas City architect, it originally housed the Clay County State Bank. Two paintings within, a copies of “The Gleaners” and “The Angelus”, are considered to be invaluable. When the bank closed in 1968, the building was sold to the city for $1 by the Kemper family of Kansas City, with the stipulation that it be used exclusively as a museum. The museum is maintained by volunteers. Memberships and the Maurer Foundation provide support. The bank building and adjacent Frances Hotel house a vast collection of artifacts, including research materials for students of Excelsior Springs history or those researching their local ancestry.
The entire downtown, Elms Hotel district and Boarding House district to the east are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors will find a variety of restaurants, specialty stores, art galleries and live theatre. Excelsior Springs is home to several wineries and craft beer industries, with fun things to do all year round.
Major events include a local nod to the Roaring 20s with Gatsby Days in May, Annual Wine Festival and Waterfest in June, Gregg Williams Tiger Classic Golf Tournament weekend in July, and BBQ on the River in August. Mug Shots, Annual Pumpkins and Mums Festival, Mineral Water Bowl MIAA Football Game provide great weekend getaways from September to the first of the year. The Christmas season brings the Hall of Trees located in the Hall of Waters solarium, Lane of Lights on Lover’s Lane in East Valley Park, and kickoff festivities with lighted parade, activities for children and pictures with Santa, plus great shopping experience.
Excelsior Springs has a tremendous historic golf course with new restaurant/club house featuring a log cabin built in 1825 within. The course opened in 1912, with famous landscape architect George Kessler in charge of development. Tom Bendelow, the noted course architect of Chicago, also had his hand in shaping the course. It was eventually expanded to 36-holes, however when the city bought the course properties, an airport was built on the back 18-holes. The small private plane airport remains open today for visitor and local enthusiasts.
Tours of the historic Elms Hotel, where Harry Truman awoke as president of the United States, are a popular pasttime. Those seeking spa treatments will want to visit the Elms Hotel Spa or New Age Skincare Spa downtown. Beauty spots abound with lakes and waterfalls, family friendly parks with walking trails, fishing lake, and a new dog park to open in the spring of 2019! Our Community Center offers indoor swimming, aerobics, weight and cardio area, basketball court, racquet ball court, child care area, and senior site accessible with purchase of a daypass. Minutes from the city are the Watkins Woolen Mill State Historic Park and the Jesse James Farm Home & Museum.
For more about Excelsior Springs history, area amenities and our calendar of events, see visitexcelsior.com!