EXCELSIOR SPRINGS — Excelsior Springs Hall of Waters – a Depression-era WPA project afforded an extravagant $1 million price tag in 1936 – was built to be the region’s foremost health resort. At its height, it brought more than 10,000 people a day to Spa City, buoying its economy.
Decades later, it became evident upkeep for such a unique showpiece, from its intricate Art Deco details to its salt-water pool and water bar, was more than a small city could afford. So, good news came to Excelsior Springs last month when it learned it will receive a $500,000 grant to go toward repairs.
It was also named as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the U.S. by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. That sounds like bad news, but it’s actually a happy surprise that can bring opportunities to renew the site, according to Excelsior Spring City Manager Molly McGovern.
The designation brings national attention, which has helped save other national treasures, like Mt. Vernon and Nashville’s Music Row.
Investors have already started calling, McGovern says.
McGovern says the community’s connection to the building will continue to factor into its future use.
But time for this coveted designation is limited to one year.
McGovern gives much credit to Mayor Pro Tem Sonya Morgan. When the EPA and other agency officials met in Excelsior for a regional meeting in 2018, they toured the Hall of Waters, which sparked a brainstorming session on how to provide technical assistance, she says. One suggestion was to apply for the National Parks Service’s Save America’s Treasures grant, which the city received last month. The city was required to match funds, which it will do through its capital improvement tax. On top of the to-do list are repairs to the building’s glass tower and tuckpointing the limestone exterior to eliminate water leaks. Also on the fix list is restoring the hall’s two-story entrance and making its distinct teal doors and windows water tight.
The $1 million allotted for the project is just the beginning.