Excelsior Springs, Missouri

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Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Hall of Waters (now City Hall)
Hall of Waters (now City Hall)
Location of Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Location of Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Coordinates: 39°20′29″N 94°13′51″W / 39.34139°N 94.23083°W / 39.34139; -94.23083Coordinates: 39°20′29″N 94°13′51″W / 39.34139°N 94.23083°W / 39.34139; -94.23083
CountryUnited States
CountiesClay, Ray
 • Total10.85 sq mi (28.09 km2)
 • Land10.83 sq mi (28.04 km2)
 • Water0.02 sq mi (0.05 km2)
784 ft (239 m)
 • Total11,084
 • Estimate 
 • Density1,083.60/sq mi (418.39/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)816
FIPS code29-23086[4]
GNIS feature ID0730098[5]
WebsiteCity website

Excelsior Springs is a city in Clay and Ray counties in the U.S. state of Missouri and part of the Kansas City metropolitan area. The population was 11,084 at the 2010 census.[6] It is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) northeast of central Kansas City, Missouri.


Excelsior Springs is located at 39°20′29″N 94°13′51″W / 39.34139°N 94.23083°W / 39.34139; -94.23083 (39.341492, -94.230716),[7] along the East Fork Fishing River.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.45 square miles (27.07 km2), of which 10.43 square miles (27.01 km2) is land and 0.02 square miles (0.05 km2) is water.[8]


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)11,731[3]5.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[9]

2010 census[edit]

As of the census[2] of 2010, there were 11,084 people, 4,278 households, and 2,836 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,062.7 inhabitants per square mile (410.3/km2). There were 4,771 housing units at an average density of 457.4 per square mile (176.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 92.6% White, 2.8% African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.8% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.3% of the population.

There were 4,278 households, of which 34.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.6% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, 5.6% had a male householder with no wife present, and 33.7% were non-families. 28.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.99.

The median age in the city was 36.6 years. 24.9% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.6% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.6% were from 25 to 44; 25% were from 45 to 64; and 14.9% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 48.3% male and 51.7% female.

2000 census[edit]

As of the census[4] of 2000, there were 10,847 people, 4,079 households, and 2,777 families residing in the city, with a 2008 estimated population of 12,015. The population density was 1,104.9 people per square mile (426.5/km2). There were 4,426 housing units at an average density of 450.8 per square mile (174.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.29% White, 3.36% African American, 0.50% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.60% from other races, and 1.87% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.85% of the population.

There were 4,079 households, out of which 34.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.0% were married couples living together, 12.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.9% were non-families. 26.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the city the population was spread out, with 27.2% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 27.9% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 13.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.1 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $36,657, and the median income for a family was $46,284. Males had a median income of $32,500 versus $22,336 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,718. About 7.3% of families and 12.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.0% of those under age 18 and 8.5% of those age 65 or over.


Excelsior Springs, Missouri as it appeared on July 14, 1886

This location was the site of a major incident during the historic march of Zion's Camp in 1834 when a contingent of about 200 Mormon saints, marching to rescue their brethren in Jackson County, faced off against an angry mob numbering over 300. A terrible fight was about to start when a severe thunderstorm rolled in suddenly and put the mob to flight. Zion's Camp was able to move forward unharmed.[10] Historical markers to the incident are located nearby.

Excelsior Springs came into existence due to the natural spring water that gushed forth from the depths of the earth.[11] It was discovered by accident in 1880 by a farmer, Travis Mellion, when his daughter Opal fell ill with a form of tuberculosis. He asked for advice from nearby campers, and they suggested the spring that oozed from the bank of the Fishing River. Water was collected and brought to his daughter to drink. Over the course of a few weeks, there was noticeable improvement to her health, and she was eventually cured. A log-cabin farmer, Frederick Kugler, also begin to treat his rheumatic knees and a recurring sore from a Civil War wound, and he was cured of his ailments shortly after.

Rev. John Van Buren Flack traveled here in 1880 after hearing about the medicinal values of the spring water. The spring belonged to land owner Anthony W. Wyman. After Flack investigated the water sources, he advised Wyman to have the land platted, water analyzed, and to begin advertising the cures the water held. Flack built a home on a 40-acre (160,000 m2) tract that Wyman had platted and opened the town's first dry goods store as well as the first church. The spring was named "Excelsior", which later changed to Siloam.

On August 17, 1880, Flack and Wyman partnered together to form the community of Excelsior. The post office at the time denied the original town name of "Excelsior", as there was already a town in southern Missouri with that name, therefore the town was named originally Vigniti. The city kept the name until 1882, when it was renamed Excelsior Springs.

Within one year, nearly two hundred households had built in the valley and the nearby hillsides. The springs proved successful and brought many new people to the area, who camped out in tents or in covered wagons. On February 7, 1881, the town received the designation of village. On July 12, 1881, the community was incorporated as a fourth class city, bringing several hotels, boarding houses, churches, schools, an opera house, livery stables, and stores.

In 1881, a second mineral spring was found by Captain J.L. Farris, first called Empire Spring but later known as Regent Spring. Yet a third spring, Relief Spring, was discovered at the basin in the Fishing River. In a short span of time, many springs were discovered in the area, the most prominent being the Relief, Superior, and Saratoga springs. A pump was installed at the Siloam Spring, and steps from Broadway Street and the city's first hotel, the Excelsior, were constructed. Soon a small wooden bridge was built over the Fishing River to an undeveloped peninsula used for visitors to relax while exploring the spring. No city in Missouri had boomed as much as Excelsior Springs had in the first year of existence.

The original Elms Hotel

The city's first hotel, the Excelsior, was built with a foundation of 30 ft (9.1 m) by 70 feet (21 m), and locals wondered if a hotel that size would ever be filled to capacity. The Excelsior opened its doors for business on March 1, 1881, and quickly proved that it could be filled, with many visitors coming to the small town seeking out the medicinal value to the waters held, many from as far away as St. Louis, St. Joseph, Kansas City, and Leavenworth. The hotel remained the leading place to stay until the first Elms Hotel was built and opened in 1888.

Iowa, Chicago & Eastern Railroad's locomotive #6414 (engine labeled "City Of Excelsior Springs").

In 1887, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul railroad extended its line from Chicago to Kansas City via Excelsior Springs. This brought a larger influx of visitors to the growing city. By this time the Relief Springs and Land Company had been formed primarily to advertise and pique the interest of outsiders. The company acquired 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) of land surrounding the city and the Fishing River. The historic Elms Hotel's foundation was soon poured. The Music Hall, a state-of-the-art theater for the time, was built nearby with a seating capacity of 1,320 people. An amusement pavilion was erected but was soon changed into a bottling works facility. A larger pavilion with benches and hooks for cups was placed at Siloam Spring where visitors could partake in the water; soon these mugs became stained due to the high iron content of the water. Partnered with the Milwaukee Railroad, the city began to advertise their resort status nationwide. In 1897, the city received its first telephone service.

Discovery of new waters continued around the area. Internationally renowned professor Dr. W.P. Mason of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute analyzed the waters. His finding reported the Siloam and Regent spring waters to have bicarbonates of iron and manganese, a rare combination that had only been found in four springs in the entire continent of Europe, and Excelsior Springs held the only two known in the United States. The rarity of having 20 separate mineral springs within the area gave Excelsior Springs the reputation of having the world's greatest collection of mineral waters.

Other minerals found in the springs were Saline-Sulphur, Soda-Bicarbonate, and Calcic-Bicarbonate (also known as Lithia). Mineral water resorts of the time rarely held such variety, most only mineral water baths, but Excelsior Springs held four distinct types of treatment within the region of tonic, alternative, and eliminative treatments, along with the mineral water baths. The city received international attention in 1893 at the Chicago's World Fair when medals were awarded for the iron-manganese water from the Regent Spring and Soterian ginger ale.

October 1893 brought more train service to the city with the opening of the Sulpho-Saline route connecting to the Wabash line. Fires destroyed the Excelsior Hotel and the Elms Hotel, leaving only boarding houses to take in visitors. Plans were soon drawn up for the rebuilding of the Elms Hotel. The "Second" Elms Hotel was finished in 1908, but was soon destroyed again by fire. The third and present-day Elms Hotel was constructed in 1912. Also built were the Wholf's Tavern (later renamed Royal Hotel) and Snapp Hotel (later renamed Oaks Hotel). By 1909, the growing city boasted 14 modern hotels and about 200 boarding and rooming houses.

The development of a park system was approved as well, costing $200,000 at the time. This brought the Excelsior Springs Golf Course and the construction of many structures including the Masonic Hall, auditorium, Odd Fellows Building, and Morse buildings. Hourly transportation on the Kansas City interurban railroad began in January 1912. The expansion of public utilities and a system of highways connecting Excelsior Springs and Kansas City helped the city thrive.

The Great Depression did not have the impact on Excelsior Springs as it had on several other communities, surviving mostly due to its health resort status. Between 1930 and 1940, the town gained 370 citizens, reporting 4,800 total at the end of the decade, when populations in most other small towns were declining.

In November 1931, one of the most intense gun battles happened at the historic Elms Hotel. Four robbers attempted to hold up the hotel and managed to flee by automobile, which were followed by local law enforcement. Gunshots were exchanged in the hotel lobby and veranda. The four criminals fled to nearby Kansas City, but were later apprehended.

In 1932, Mafia gangster Lonnie Affronti shot Azalea Ross and her husband in an ambush shoot-out on Route 10. Ross was the chief witness in a narcotics trial against Affronti. The gangland aided in hiding Affronti for five years before he was captured in Brooklyn, New York, in 1937. One of his accomplices during the shoot-out, Charley Harvey, was apprehended and killed himself in the city jail a short time later.

Excelsior Springs, Missouri, City Hall, commonly known as The Hall of Waters.

The present city hall, the Hall of Waters, was constructed between 1936 and 1938 by architects Keene & Simpson above the Siloam and Sulpho-Saline Springs. Citizens gathered on May 27, 1936, amongst national attention when the cornerstone of the Hall of Waters was lowered in place. CBS transmitted the event to 62 stations across the country. The local newspaper recorded many well-known names of the present time, including Hollywood B-movie actress Evalyn Knapp, artist Thomas Hart Benton, and author Homer Croy.

In 1937 the structure was partially complete, and the water bar in the lower level opened, providing mineral waters to health-seekers and visitors alike. In the following months the mineral water pool was opened, along with male and female hydrotherapy departments. A two-story hall had also been erected where the minerals were made available at fountains. The first floor contained the women's bath department, sunroom, covered porch, grand foyer, management office for the springs, and the chamber of commerce.

The swimming pool was large enough to meet standards for championship meets. In the south wing were the special hydrotherapy departments devoted to research for the waters' medicinal values. The bottling department was located on the east side of the north wing, which shipped five varieties of bottled mineral water to locations all over the world.

On Election Day 1948, Harry S. Truman spent the night at the Elms Hotel when it appeared that he was losing his re-election bid to Republican Thomas E. Dewey. However, in the wee hours of the morning, he was awakened by his aides informing him that he had, in fact, won the election. He was whisked away to Kansas City. He later was photographed at Union Station in St. Louis holding a copy of the Chicago Tribune that famously proclaimed "Dewey Defeats Truman."

Flooding caused issues in 1955, and a dike was constructed, which resulted in the elimination of the stone terraces and walkways at Siloam Park, to protect the Hall of Waters from further flood damage by the nearby Fishing River. There were subsequent floods in the late 1960s, 1993,[12] and 2015.[13]

The late 1950s and early 1960s proved difficult times for the city due to the severe decline in popularity of the resort spa town. By 1967, the bottling operations had lost $25,000, and the city decided it was time to put their mineral water history behind them and move forward to new horizons. As of 2008, however, Excelsior Springs has licensed the rights to the mineral water to Excelsior Springs Bottling Company to allow for commercial bottling and distribution of the historic water.[14][15]

In addition to the Elms Hotel and Hall of Waters, the Colonial Hotel, The Elms Historic District, Excelsior Springs Hall of Waters Commercial East Historic District, Excelsior Springs Hall of Waters Commercial West Historic District, First Methodist Church, Ligon Apartments, Watkins Mill, and Wyman School are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[16][17]


Excelsior Springs sports a quaint historic downtown district, which is currently undergoing renewed development. Once haunted by empty buildings and numerous antique stores, there are now a quilt shop, an art store, and several small bistros alongside the old antique stores. Additionally, it is home to two theaters: The Paradise Playhouse, home to professional productions; and The Slightly Off-Broadway Theater, home to Excelsior Springs' local community theatre productions.[18]


Excelsior Springs School District #40 operates three elementary schools, one middle school, Excelsior Springs Tech. High School, Excelsior Springs High School, and Excelsior Springs Career Center.[19]

Excelsior Springs has a public library, a branch of the Mid-Continent Public Library.[20]

Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The actor Michael Douglas had his second starring role in a movie, Adam at Six A.M., which was released in 1970. The movie was filmed in Excelsior Springs, as well as in Cameron, Missouri. In 1974, the National Civic League selected Excelsior Springs as an All-America City, reinvigorating this small town somewhat.[22] The Greater Excelsior Springs Area conducted centennial celebrations in 1980.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  6. ^ "Race, Hispanic or Latino, Age, and Housing Occupancy: 2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File (QT-PL), Excelsior Springs city, Missouri". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
  7. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files 2010". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2012-01-24. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
  9. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  10. ^ "Zion's Camp at the Fishing River". churchofjesuschrist.org. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  11. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. pp. 122.
  12. ^ "Readers remember Flood of '93". Excelsior Springs Standard. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Residents of Excelsior Springs say flooding is the worst they've seen in 20 years". Fox4kc.com. 3 June 2015. Retrieved 23 May 2019.
  14. ^ "Excelsior Springs Standard Archive". Excelsiorspringsstandard.com. 2008-10-31. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  15. ^ "Excelsior Springs Bottling Company - Home". Esbottling.com. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  16. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  17. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 3/31/14 through 4/05/14. National Park Service. 2011-05-06.
  18. ^ "Excelsior Springs Theatre". Esctheatre.org.
  19. ^ "Excelsior Springs 40 School District". Great Schools. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  20. ^ "Locations". Mid-Continent Public Library. Retrieved 17 March 2018.
  21. ^ "Unknown title". The Kansas City Times. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
  22. ^ "All-America City: Past Winners". Ncl.org. Archived from the original on August 22, 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-16.
  23. ^ "Excelsior Springs Museum & Archives, Excelsior Springs, MO - Greater Excelsior Springs Centennial". Exsmo.com. 2002-08-08. Retrieved 2010-03-16.

External links[edit]