Local Register District listed July 2010
National Register District listed March 31, 2014
The Elms Historic District is located within the city limits of Excelsior Springs, Clay County, Missouri. The district is roughly bounded by Isley Boulevard on the north, Regent Avenue and Marietta Street on the east, the Elms Hotel property on the south, and the alley west of Kansas City Avenue on the west. It is located southwest of Excelsior Springs’ historic downtown.
The Elms Historic District is primarily residential, although it is anchored on the south by the fifteen-acre Elms Hotel property; it also contains a few community institutional buildings on Kansas City Avenue. The two major streets, Kansas City Avenue and Elms Boulevard, are tree-lined with sidewalks on both sides of the street. The dates of construction for the contributing buildings extend from about 1903 to 1956, although the majority of residences were built within five or six years after the Elms Addition was platted in 1907.
The district and many of its resources were built as a result of the health industry that grew around the numerous mineral waters found in Excelsior Springs. The health industry was the basis for the town’s founding and its economy for nearly a century, earning Excelsior Springs its moniker as “Missouri’s National Health Resort.” The large Elms Hotel complex was developed to attract not only health-seekers, but also tourists seeking leisure or recreational pursuits. In addition to the Elms Hotel, several boarding houses were built in the district accommodating those who could not afford the first class Elms Hotel.
The period of significance begins in 1887 when the first roads were constructed and the land subdivided into lots, establishing the physical arrangement of properties. Despite its small size, The Elms Historic District contains a variety of architectural styles and forms popular in the first two decades of the twentieth century. The buildings clearly present their key character-defining features from this period. However, since a neighborhood is often dynamic, some changes occurred that embody the continuum of history. The period of significance for the Elms District extends through 1963, representing a long period of association with the mineral water history in Excelsior Springs. During that period, historic changes such as conversion of single-family residence to a boarding house, or the updating of a boarding house to appeal to modern customers, express the changing trends in the district. These alterations are historic in their own right, and represent the cyclical evoluation of the town from its original focus on health to tourism, and back to health again.