Hall of Waters listed on 11 Most Endangered Historic Places

The National Trust for Historic Preservation unveiled their 2020 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places on September 24, an annual list that spotlights important examples of our nation’s architectural and cultural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. This year, the National Trust has named the Hall of Waters in Excelsior Springs, Missouri one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

“The architectural artistry and fascinating history of the Hall of Waters draws visitors from around the world, but without partnerships and investment, the building will continue to deteriorate. Rehabilitating the Hall of Waters would bring economic benefits to Excelsior Springs while preserving a critical piece of the community’s identity and character,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The historic Hall of Waters, located in downtown Excelsior Springs, is a c. 1935 unique Art Deco style building with a rich history in the overall historic context and fabric of the historic downtown. Architecturally, the Hall of Waters is significant as the most ambitious project to have been undertaken by the Federal Public Works Administration in Missouri, constructed for $1 million. Ground-breaking took place in 1936 amidst national excitement and ceremony.

The Hall of Waters is unique from other buildings with its imagery and decorative detailing, influenced by the Mayan Indian traditions of water and water gods. These influences can be seen in the exterior carved limestone, interior bass relief bronze panels, elevator doors, and interior glazed tiles. The interior of the Hall of Waters is an exceptionally beautiful and important part of the overall experience of the building. The first floor entrance foyer and the all impressive Hall of Springs with its intricate glazed ceramic tiles, double-height teal green steel windows, custom light fixtures and one-of-a-kind Water Bar. The longest mineral water bar in the world opened in 1937, dispensing more types of water than at any other single location on earth of piped water from all the main springs in town. In addition, the Hall of Waters was the most completely outfitted health resort in the state and possibly the region.

At the height of its popularity, over 10,000 people a day visited the Hall of Waters which helped to establish an economic base for the community. Overall, the Hall of Waters retains the original spaces and character defining features and materials which provide the building with a good degree of historic integrity. Many of these features are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable, or extremely expensive to replicate today.

In 2014, an Assessment and Feasibility Report of the site and building was completed by STRATA Architecture Inc. This report identified critical items requiring repair and continues to be used as a short and long-term guide for the preservation of the building.

“The threat to the Hall of Waters is the lack of financial resources for restoration and ongoing maintenance,” said Sonya Morgan, Councilwoman. “In October 2015 when Senior Field Officer Jennifer Sandy, National Trust for Historic Preservation, came to Excelsior Springs to tour the Hall of Waters, we estimated that repairs would amount to around $10 million. Today that estimate has grown to $16 million.”

“I sincerely appreciate all of the work that Jennifer and her staff have done for the citizens of Excelsior Springs to receive this designation on America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places. They have validated what we have known all along. The Hall of Waters is unique and important, not only to the citizens of Excelsior Springs and the State of Missouri, but holds a place among the nation’s greatest historic sites.”

“The City has an incredible building in the Hall of Waters, and therefore, an incredible responsibility,” said Sonya Morgan. “Our spa community continues to attract thousands of visitors to Excelsior Springs yearly. We want to do right by it for the generations that built it and for the generations to come.”

In 2019, the Hall of Waters was listed on the Missouri Alliance for Historic Preservation Places in Peril roster with other worthy endangered buildings in the State of Missouri.

Today, the Hall of Waters operates as a Visitors Center and is home to the offices of the Downtown Excelsior Partnership and the City of Excelsior Springs.

John Ruskin once said “When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor for present use alone. Let is be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, ‘See! This our fathers did for us’.” Mayor Sharon Powell explained that this is how we feel about our treasure, the Hall of Waters. Because of this, we have a responsibility to preserve it for future generations.

Read more…

Grant will help fund Hall of Waters restoration
Hall of Waters Statement of Need; Investment Opportunities