( B1 ) - Welcome
Hello, welcome to the Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives!
Our museum is a private nonprofit established in 1967-68.
Our collections and archives are housed in these two historically significant buildings: the former Clay County State Bank and the Francis Hotel, both of which date to the early days of the previous century.
Our museum is entirely staffed by volunteers – we have no paid staff, nor do we receive any tax funding.
Our Volunteers create several new displays each year. With more than 34,000 items preserved in our collections, we like to rotate items each year and tell new stories from our local history. This year the new displays celebrate the 100th anniversary of two longtime local institutions – the Lake Maurer Amusement Park, the grand Beyer Theatre, and the art of a hometown boy, Robert Grace. We’ll discuss those displays a little later.
The Display Cases in the middle of the floor are original to the bank. We use them to display smaller items from our collections.
( B2 ) - Clay County State Bank
- The former bank was founded in 1894.
- It was located two blocks south of this current location.
- In 1902, William S. Woods, a Kansas City financier, acquired controlling interest in the bank, which was among many banks he eventually owned regionally.
- William S. Woods was head of the bank when this building was designed by noted regional architect Louis S. Curtiss.
- It opened in this location in 1906.
- The site had previously been part of the hotel grounds for the town’s first hotel, The Excelsior Hotel.
- The bank building is in the Italian Renaissance style with a classical temple front.
- Many of the features you see are original to the bank, including the marble tile floors, mahogany fixtures and wrought brass grating.
- The barrel vault ceiling is studded with 112 electrical lights. Five years ago, with a grant from Ameren, we had LED lights installed in this ceiling and throughout the museum.
- The Woodses left money for the William Woods Christian Church building here on Concourse and for the William Woods College in Fulton, Mo.
( B3 ) - Louis S. Curtiss
- This building is one of only about 35 structures designed by Louis S. Curtiss that are still standing, many in the greater Kansas City area.
- Curtiss was known for his use of the “curtain wall” construction, which generations later made the modern skyscraper possible.
- This type of construction features metal girders and large glass walls that hang off them, rather than solid block walls.
( B4 ) - The Murals
The murals at each end of the ceiling were painted before 1920 by the Hungarian Count Edmond de Szaak.
- “The Angelus on the north side and “The Gleaners” above the vault may be very familiar to you.
- These are copies of the originals painted by Jean Francois Millet that hang in museums in France.
- But they were painted here more than 100 years ago, and even though they are not the originals, we consider them local treasures.
( B5 ) - Lake Maurer’s 100th Anniversary
- The popular amusement park officially opened as Lake Maurer on Aug. 30, 1923.
- It was already a popular amusement spot with boating and fishing as well as skating in the wintertime. Jacob and John Maurer purchased the property (then called “Wales Lake”) from the Wales family in April 1923.
- The timeline poster in the first display case shows the owners of the property over the years. The Maurer Brothers were followed most prominently by banker Ogden Risley and Chick Gardner, and later, Tate Chiles. Each case will explain more about the various features of Lake Maurer. The aerial photo is an overall view of the entire property.
- Lake Maurer remained a popular destination for locals and for visitors from all over the greater Kansas City area from the 1920s through the early 1960s. The pool was billed as “the world’s largest mineral water swimming pool.” It used water from a saline spring on the property. The skating rink was on the island in the middle of the lake. The rink doubled as a dance hall, used for proms and sock hops.)
- The property has been operated since 1966 as a church camp and is owned by the Assemblies of God church.
( B6 ) - Lake Maurer Train
- This train is a wooden depiction of a kiddie train that was in the park (it’s pictured in the display case.)
- The replica was made in honor of Mary Katherine Maurer Dixon Martz, a local teacher and granddaughter of Jacob Maurer, who founded Lake Maurer with his brother John.
- The late Mrs. Martz also founded the Maurer Foundation, which provides support for larger projects around our museum.
- This train model was built for us in 2011 by Ray Fernandez, who stops by regularly to give it a touch up (we welcome children to climb aboard and ring the bell.)
- During one visit, he told us, “You know, I got to thinking, and I now have things in two museums – this one in Excelsior Springs, and down in Florida, I have a space shuttle.” It turns out he was a NASA engineer before he retired! He worked on the Gemini project (The Gemini missions were flown in 1965 and 1966.)
( B7 ) - The Art of Robert Grace
- Myst and Riven Gamers, American Girl Doll fans, readers of science fiction and cereal boxes all know the iconic images created by Robert Grace.
- In addition to event posters and other traditional art, Robert Grace's illustrations create whole worlds of fantasy not only for computer-generated games (like Myst and Riven), but also for readers of science fiction and cereal boxes. Note the many book covers for novels by Isaac and Janet Asimov and the sports figures on the back of cereal boxes, as well as the artwork for “Samantha” – one of the American Girl dolls – and much more.
- The middle case displays more of Grace’s traditional paintings, which can be found in many local homes here.
- Much more of Grace’s work is shown in the digital display in the first of the three showcases. In addition, you’ll get a better idea of how he works on the large interactive screen nearby, which explains some of his process not only in creating computer-generated fantasy worlds, but also in real world applications used in training for the Burlington Northern Railroad and for the military.
- Robert Grace was born and reared in Excelsior Springs, graduating in 1974 from the local high school. After graduating from Central Missouri State University (now UCM), Grace followed a wide variety of artistic pursuits from traditional painting to computer-generated imagery. His work has been seen nationally and internationally, and, he says, “it all started here in Excelsior Springs, Missouri.”
( B8 ) - Video Area
- The round vault door at the south end weighs 20,000 pounds, but it can be moved easily because it is perfectly balanced on its huge hinges. Visitors often ask if they’ll get locked in, but the pins are removed so that can’t happen.
- There is a second vault on this floor opposite the military room. It houses our archive of vertical files, including folders with information on local families, businesses, streets, schools and other topics, along with books, city directories, maps and photographs.
- Outside this vault are two large marble plaques that are from the pavilion erected in 1917 on the site of the first spring, the Siloam Spring. Kansas City landscape architect George Kessler designed beautiful grounds for the 1917 Siloam domed pavilion. His design was never fully completed, but you can still see evidence of his work in the remnants of beautiful parks and parkways throughout town. The marbles were removed when the pavilion was torn down in 1935 to make way for the Hall of Waters.
( B9 ) - Military Room
- We’re proud of our “Military Room” where we honor local veterans. You may flip through the three large binders in the room that hold their photos and military history.
- Or you may want to browse this information on the interactive screen, where these military surveys have been digitized, with even more information included. Ask a tour guide to show you how to browse the digitized military history on the interactive screen.
- In the military room, the current focus is on WWII. We’re researching local Korean and Vietnam veterans for a new display next year. If you know a local veteran of any of these conflicts, we hope you’ll fill out the military survey form (it’s available on our website) and provide that to the Museum with a photo for the upcoming display.
- Today you’ll see a World War II timeline of major events, local veterans’ photos divided by “land, sea and air,” and a look at what was happening here on the home front during those years of service and sacrifice.
( B10 ) - Morse Living Room
- Next, the “Morse Living Room” features key artifacts from the Erastus Livingston Morse mansion that once was located on Beacon Hill -- what we now call “Job Corps Hill.”
- Featured are stained glass from the mansion, a stunning mantel and mirror, and a candelabra on an urn. Note the Christian symbolism featured on the urn.
- The fine china dinner plates on display were used by the Morses when they hosted the sitting Vice President of the U.S., here to lecture in 1908. He was Charles Fairbanks (Teddy Roosevelt’s VP) and you’ll see a large photo of the parade honoring him on the wall on the other side of our Museum.
- A round tea table from the Marguerite Morse McConnell estate and period mahogany armchairs from the estate of a former teacher, Jane Blattner, add warmth to the room.
( B11 ) - Founding Family
- This year’s Founding Family exhibit from the Excelsior Springs Genealogy Society features the Isley Family, whose name still dots the local landscape, including Isley Boulevard (Highway 10) in what we call the East End of Excelsior Springs.
- There also was an Isley elementary school, and Isley filling stations and grocery stores.
( B12 ) - Teller Cages
- The mahogany teller cages are original to the bank. The devices on display include adding machines and coin counters used in early businesses here.
- Also original to the bank are the bank registers in the second stall. Note the examples of beautiful penmanship over the years.
( B13 ) - Beauty Shop
- Next is the “Beauty Shop” area, with many items donated by Marcella Shelton, who ran a cosmetology school here for many years.
- The Helene Curtiss machine created the permanent wavy or curly hairdo popular in the 1930 (the “Marcel wave.”)
- Hair is curled around a metal curler and the contraption is clipped onto the curler – and 110 volts of electricity will definitely “curl your hair.”
( B14 ) - Gift Shop
• Our gift shop has a selection of Excelsior Springs souvenir T-shirts, books on local history, Tripp Flag lithographs, postcards and more.
( B15 ) - Elms China
- This display case includes many artifacts used in the Elms Hotel and Snapp Hotel over the years. The fine china pieces were used in Elms guest rooms and in the dining room. Take a close look at the logo on the dining room china – the Elm tree spells out the name of the hotel.
( B16 ) - Beyer Theatre’s 100th Anniversary
- The grand Beyer Theatre opened on Nov. 27, 1923, to great fanfare, with an address by the mayor, an orchestra, and a full house of local civic, business and social leaders in box seats and loges when the burgundy curtains were drawn back for the first time.
- On the bill was a silent film – “Going Up” – that starred actor Douglas McLean. This was a first run film that had been adapted in 1923 from a popular Broadway comedy. Also on the bill was a newsreel of the 1923 Zev-Papyrus derby. Zev was a thoroughbred that had won the Kentucky derby. Papyrus had won the British Epsom Derby. This was the first international match race of the winners and had been highly publicized.
- Baskets of flowers adorned the stage, friends of William and Margaret Beyer from Kansas City and from guests at the Ideal Hotel, where the Beyers were staying. Later, they lived in apartments above their theatre located on Thompson Avenue.
- The Beyers owned the Orpheus theater down the street from the Beyer; it closed when the Beyer opened.
- The Herbert Johnston Orchestra accompanied the silent movie. They also played a violin solo – “When You and I Were Young Maggie” directed by Mr. Beyer to his wife, Margaret, in the audience.
- The Beyer was the site of free Saturday matinees for generations of local kids, and a dress-up event for families to view the first movies with sound in Excelsior Springs. The theater also was used for high school baccalaureates and talent shows over the years.
- The Beyer was built for $75,000 in 1923 [about $1.3 million in today’s dollars.]
- It remained the venue for higher class movies through the 1960s.
- In April 1970, the Beyer on Thompson Avenue was taken over by the new owner of the Siloam theater on Broadway, which by then was named “Cinema 21.”
- In 1971, the new owner was showing R-rated movies and was having to explain himself to the PTA.
- After its brief foray into “adult” movies, the Beyer as a movie venue was being eclipsed by home video and cables.
- The building was used for many years for music shows – “Worlds of Music” and “Country Hayride.”
- The building burned down in July 1983; it had been closed about a year earlier by the city due to structural issues.