Procure ~ Preserve ~ Provide
Sharing the past with each generation
History of the Museum
By 1967, Judd Palmer, who had been very active in civic affairs, had amassed quite a large collection of Indian artifacts from this area, which he wanted to share with others. He appeared before the City Council with the suggestion that a museum be started to house these and any other articles which might be of historical interest. On April 10, 1967, the Excelsior Springs City Council appointed a six-member committee to organize a city museum. The organizational meeting was held May 26, 1967. Plans were made to secure a state charter. The south end of the Water Bar at the Hall of Waters was selected as a display site.
The charter for the Excelsior Springs Historical Museum was issued December 6, 1967 with 101 charter members. The by-laws were adopted on January 28, 1968. The first president was Sam C. Sherwood, a local realtor. There were seven board members. In subsequent years, the name has become Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives. The Museum purchased the bank building from the Chamber of Commerce. In 2006, the Museum expanded into the old Frances Hotel (the building east of the original bank building) becoming the Frances Exhibition Hall – where it’s located today.
History of The Bank
The Clay County State Bank was established May 9, 1894, by a group of local businessmen. The bank was first housed in a building at the corner of Broadway and Marietta Street.
In 1902, Dr. William Stone Woods, a Kansas City financier, acquired Controlling interest in the bank.
By 1905 the business had grown to such an extent that larger quarters were needed. At the time the bank owned the land where this building now stands. It was known as the ‘Excelsior Hotel grounds’, having been the site of the first hotel in our city. Dr. Woods saw it as the ideal site for the new building. The building was designed by Louis S. Curtiss, a well-known architect in the Kansas City area. Construction was of Bedford stone, at a cost of about 25,000. It was known as one of the most artistic bank buildings in Missouri. The original building extended from the columns on the west, to the back of the teller’s cages on the east. On February 28, 1906, the Clay County State Bank opened its doors for business in the new edifice.
Dr. Woods was a man of unusual foresight, but he underestimated the growth of Excelsior Springs and the corresponding development of the bank. By 1920, the volume of business of the bank had grown until the building was inadequate to the present demands. At the first Directors Meeting of that year, plans were presented for extending the building 4 feet on the west, 8 feet on the east, and several feet on the south, bringing the building to its present size. The paintings on the north and south walls were presumably done at this time also. The painting on the south wall is a copy of ‘The Gleaners’; the one on the north is ‘The Angelus’. They are considered to be invaluable today.
In 1950, the building underwent further remodeling, with the front of the structure receiving the most notable change. The steps were removed and a new entryway added at that time.
In 1968, the Clay County State Bank became affiliated with the Commerce Bancshares Inc. of Kansas City. A new building was erected for the business at the corner of Broadway and Thompson Avenue, on the site of the old Chadwick Hotel. At that time, the Kemper family of Kansas City, MO, gave the building to the city of Excelsior Springs.
In September of 2001 the Excelsior Springs Chamber of Commerce purchased the building. The Museum purchased the building from the Chamber of Commerce.
History of the Fancis Building
The building at 103-105 Broadway is now known as the Francis Hotel. Its history is not as well documented as the bank portion of the museum. It was built in 1919-1920 also on the sight of the town’s first hotel. The second floor was always a hotel. In 1930, Francis Parle bought the St. Joe Hotel and changed its name to The Francis Hotel. The first floor has housed several businesses including a shoe store, Excelsior Institute & Hospital, and Wicker’s Furniture prior to the city obtaining it in the late 1980’s. The city bought the building because it was in poor condition and in danger of collapsing. Since it was connected with the bank/museum, it became important to preserve it. In 2001 the city transferred the bank and the Francis to the Chamber of Commerce. They cleaned out the unstable flooring on the first floor and started to clean out the second floor by removing plaster and lath. Currently 8 of the 15 second floor rooms are framed only by studs. In 2003 the Chamber gave the buildings to the Museum.
The Francis stood dormant until the summer of 2006 when an upcoming Smithsonian Exhibit was going to require the entire floor space of the bank. A group of local people decided the Francis needed to be rehabbed to hold the museum’s show cases during the exhibition. The building is a tribute to Excelsior Springs’ civic pride. The original estimate to rehab the Francis was upwards of $150,000; it was rehabbed to its current condition for less than $42,000. This was accomplished by volunteers, including the Excelsior Job Corps and electrical trade classes from the Career Center, and suppliers donating materials or providing it at greatly reduced cost.
History of Excelsior Springs
Alec Hardwick was the original Land Grant owner of the land where Excelsior Springs is now located.
July 12, 1882, Excelsior Springs was incorporated as a city of the fourth class. The development of the city of Excelsior Springs is indeed a story of water.
J.V. B. Flack is considered to be one of the founders, if not the founder, of Excelsior Springs. He traveled here in 1880 when word of the curative powers of a spring water reached him at his Missouri City home. After investigating the reports of the water, he advised the owner of the spring, Anthony W. Wyman, to have the land platted, the water analyzed and to begin advertising the cures of the water. Flack built a home on the 40-acre tract that Wyman had platted and opened the first dry goods store, as well as founding the first church. From Longfellow’s much-quoted poem, he named the spring “Excelsior”, later changed to Siloam. Finally becoming part proprietor, he undertook the management of the new enterprise.
On the 17th of August 1880, J.V. B. Flack and Anthony and Elizabeth Wyman, owners of the small valley, formed a partnership to create a town at the site of the mineral spring that became known as Siloam. Their town was to be Excelsior. The post office department was unable to approve their choice of town names, as an Excelsior, MO post office was already in use in south Missouri, so the new post office received the name Viginti. The influence of the water could not be denied and after 1882 it became Excelsior Springs, MO.
In less than one year 200 houses nestled in the little valley and clung to the rugged hillsides, while hundreds of visitors had to content themselves at campfires, under tents and in the shelter of covered wagons. In less than 18 months the new community was incorporated as a city of the 4th Class. The improvements included numerous hotels, boarding houses, churches, school, opera house, livery stables and stores. A second spring was found in 1881. First known as Empire it became the Regent Spring. In 1893, Regent Water received a medal at the Chicago World’s Fair, for having the highest iron content of any known water. The 3rd spring was Relief Spring found almost in the basin of Dry Fork of Fishing River.
As the need for water increased by the large number of visitors who poured into the city, many wells were dug. Four distinct types of water have been found: ferro-manganese, sodium bicarbonate, saline and soda combined, and Saline and sulpho-saline water. Thus, located here in this little valley of Excelsior Springs, there are more different kinds of mineral water than can be found in any other like-area in the entire world.