Tablet Tour 2024 - Francis Hotel

( F1 ) - Hotel Francis

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  • 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.
  • The displays on the Francis side tie together the significance to this town of the mineral waters and their use in the medical community.

( F2 ) - Signs

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  • 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

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

( F4 ) - South End of the Francis

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  • At the south end of the Francis, are artifacts from the mineral water history, with a focus on the mineral wells, bath houses and medical clinics.
  • Several pieces of Redwing pottery are featured. The mineral water was shipped all over the nation in these crocks.
  • Excelsior Springs was once the largest customer of the Redwing Pottery maker, which was based in Minnesota.
  • Also featured is souvenir ware for visitors sold in gift shops throughout the town in the early to mid-20th century.

( F5 ) - Story of the Mineral Waters

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  • There were 46 mineral springs, wells or sales pavilions – all within a 2-mile radius of this building.
  • Visitors came by stagecoach from Liberty, Vibbard, Missouri City, or Kansas City until 1897 when the Excelsior Springs Company brought the first railroad here.
  • As many as 15 trains per day delivered 200,000 to 300,000 visitors annually in the town’s heyday
  • Clinics and doctors, attracted here by the therapeutic possibilities of the “healing waters,” were found throughout town.

( F6 ) - Recent Donations

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  • The Museum accepts donations of objects, photos, and documents of local historical significance.
  • These will be approved, photographed, entered into our inventory system, and then stored in appropriate boxes to better preserve them for the future.

( F7 ) - Schools & Amenities

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  • In time, there was a need for more things to do to entertain visitors and to serve residents.
  • Pavilions, parks and curving “driveways” were built to take advantage of the town’s natural beauty.
  • By the early mid-1880s, the need for more substantial school buildings was apparent. The four-room Wyman School was built in 1886 on the west hill; the Isley School was built in 1898 on the east side on “Water Tower Hill”.
  • In 1912, Wyman School was expanded into a high school.
  • This display features the second high school, which was located on the south edge of town.
  • The second high school 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 exterior of our museum.
  • The 1930s high school briefly became “East High,” then became the “Roosevelt Middle School.” The old building is now in private hands.

( F8 ) - Railroads

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  • 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.
  • In the early years, four railroads served Excelsior Springs: three came to Excelsior Springs: (2) the Wabash line; (2) the Interurban electric line, and (3) the Milwaukee line (aka the Chicago Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway), and (4) The “dummy” line (officially named the Sulpho-Saline Railway), which never left Excelsior Springs. The photo of the “dummy line” shows its track up what is now a heavily traveled road – Dunbar Avenue.

( F9 ) - East Wall Mural

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  • The mural on the east wall shows photos of mineral water pavilions, hotels, railroads, and other scenes from early history.
  • Note the photo of the local American Legion band, made up of World War I veterans, and the parade pictures of Teddy Roosevelt's Vice President Charles Fairbanks, who was here in 1908 to lecture in the Chautauqua.

( F10 ) - Medical Equipment

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North End of Francis

  • Medical equipment used by early doctors and dentists, and their stories.
  • 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.
  • These displays show how closely connected the medical community was to the town's mineral water foundation.

( F11 ) - Light Fixture at North End of the Francis

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  • Leaded glass and brass light fixture at the front of the Francis Hall is one of the few artifacts that remain from the Music Hall Auditorium, which burned in 1908.
  • The Music Hall seated more than 1,300 people and took up the entire block including what is now Dubious Claims to Highway 10 (including the building that was built in 1914 as the first federal post office in Clay County (now a Christian Church.)
  • You can find a photo of the Music Hall in the flipboards, which also tell the story of early days in Excelsior Springs.

( F12 ) - Native American Artifacts

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Native American Artifacts

  • Among the first artifacts donated to the Museum in 1968 was a collection of Native American artifacts from Jud Palmer.
  • He 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 found along the Fishing River here or in area pastures during plowing season.
  • Note the grooved ax head that is at least 7,000 years old.
  • Native Americans lived along the ridges near Fishing River for thousands of years.
  • 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 and interacting peaceably with the early settlers.
  • There was one report of a minor skirmish between Native Americans and settlers in Clay County near here.

( F13) - Francis Windows

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• 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.