Tablet Tour 2023 - Francis Hotel

( F1 ) - Hotel Francis


  • The Museum continues down two steps into the Francis Exhibition Hall, which we use for large traveling exhibits and small group meetings or parties.
  • The former Francis Hotel was built circa 1913.
  • The ground floor space was not used for the hotel – it was always a retail space with storefronts facing Broadway.
  • The upper floor housed hotel guests and was accessible from the hotel behind the storefronts.
  • The Francis was in very bad shape when the Museum obtained it in 2003. You could see through to the basement and the ceiling needed significant repairs.
  • It remained dormant until 2006 when an upcoming Smithsonian exhibit required more floor space than the bank side had available.
  • A group of local people decided the Francis needed to be rehabbed to hold the museum’s showcases during the exhibition, and volunteers raised the money to pay to restore the main floor.
  • The building is a testament to the civic pride in Excelsior Springs. The original estimate to rehab the Francis was upwards of $150,000; it was rehabbed to its current condition for less than $42,000. Suppliers donated or provided construction materials at a greatly reduced cost.
  • Much of the work was done with the help of volunteers, including students from the Excelsior Job Corps and the electrical trade classes from the Area Career Center.
  • The upper floor – where the guest rooms were located – remains unfinished.

( F2 ) - Signs


  • The west wall of the Francis features vintage business signs from our collections.
  • It’s a walk down memory lane for many visitors.
  • Note the vintage lamp that highlights this display. The donor thought it was a streetlamp used in Excelsior Springs, but we could not find any pictures or postcards that showed this style in the downtown.
  • The mystery was solved when Dr. Richard Hedges donated a beautiful oil painting of the Milwaukee Depot, which clearly showed this lamp on the depot, which was torn down in 1973.
  • Note that you can learn more about each of these signs by “touching” the photos on the small interactive screen provided.

( F3 ) - The Loom

Please listen to an excerpt from the diary of Joseph Addison Smith, January 8, 1902.

( F4 ) - Story of the Mineral Waters

  • The displays in this room tie together the significance to this town of the mineral waters and the medical community.
  • The displays at the end of the Francis Hall feature souvenir ware for visitors sold in gift shops throughout the town in the early to mid-20th
  • Several pieces of Redwing pottery are featured: Excelsior Springs was Redwing’s largest customer in the heyday of the mineral waters being shipped all over the nation.

( F5 ) - Amenities


  • In time, there was a need for more amenities to entertain visitors and to serve residents, such as parks, pavilions and Wales Lake – which later became the Lake Maurer amusement park featured in the display on the bank side of our museum.
  • As the town grew, by the early 1890s, the need for more substantial school buildings was apparent. Soon, residents were proud to point out the Wyman school (still visible on the west hill above the town) and the Isley School on “Watertower Hill” on the east side.
  • A high school came later. The first high school opened in 1912 as the Wyman School expanded.
  • The second high school, featured in this display, was located on the south edge of town. It opened in 1930, and its Roosevelt Field was the site of a longtime football rivalry with the winner claiming the “dueling pistols” on display.
  • The current high school was built in 1972-73 on the west side of town. Be sure to check out the aerial photo in one of the banners on the west side of our museum.
  • The old high school briefly became “East High,” then became the “Roosevelt Middle School.” The old building is now in private hands.

( F6 ) - The Railroads

  • Bringing all those health seekers to the “Valley of Vitality” were the railroads.
  • The Milwaukee Railroad and the Wabash Railroad marketed the town and its mineral waters throughout the nation.
  • Without them, the town might have disappeared.
  • In the early years, four railroads served Excelsior Springs: three came to Excelsior Springs (the Wabash, the Interurban electric line, and the Milwaukee line) and one – the “dummy” line -- never left Excelsior Springs. A photo of the “dummy line” shows its track up what is now a heavily traveled road – Dunbar.

( F7 ) - East Wall Photo Murals

A long photo mural on the east wall of the Francis shows mineral water pavilions, hotels, railroads, and other scenes from the early days of this town. Note that one of the parades pictures Teddy Roosevelt’s Vice President Charles Fairbanks, who was here in 1908 to lecture in the Chautauqua.

( F8 ) - Medical Doctors


  • Finally, medical equipment used by early doctors and dentists rounds out the Francis displays.

    These displays show how closely connected the medical community was to the town’s mineral water foundation.

    Multiple generations of doctors were drawn here by the “healing waters,” and used the mineral water in their medical practices – prescribing waters to drink and to bathe in throughout the day along with treatments that might keep patients here for several weeks.

( F9 ) - Native American Artifacts


  • Among the first artifacts donated to the Museum in 1968 was a collection of Native American artifacts from Jud Palmer, who was the longtime head of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. You’ll see grinding stones, ax heads and arrow points that are commonly along the Fishing River here or in area pastures during plowing season.

  • Native Americans lived along the ridges near Fishing River for thousands of years. Note the grooved ax head that is at least 7,000 years old. But there were no Native American villages in this area by the time American colonists settled here around 1820. Early accounts of local history will mention the settlers seeing hunting parties passing through the area. There was one report of a minor skirmish between native Americans and a settler near Cooley Lake (about 8 miles south of here) – and that was enough to cause the early settlers to build a block fort at Cooley. But there are no accounts that they actually had to “fort up” for protection from an attack.

( F9 ) - Francis Windows


• Don’t miss the displays in the front windows of the Francis, which are generally rotated every three months and tie in with local events and festivals.