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Hall of Waters - Arthur
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by W. Arthur Mehrhoff
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “Oh what a gift the giftie give us, To see ourselves as others see us.” Placemaking takes the ‘giftie’s gift’ to the next level to shape how others see us.
I thoroughly enjoyed Lauren Licklider’s entertaining excursion to Excelsior Springs in A Brief Trip to the Hall of Waters. The Hall of Waters certainly is one of the most unusual sites I’ve seen here in Missouri, and Lauren’s story reminds me how unsophisticated we often have been (and are) about extravagant claims for health and beauty. Communities like historic Excelsior Springs certainly didn’t understate the healing powers of the mineral waters that still course through the town. However, Lauren’s article about the Hall of Waters also reminded me that unusual community sites and history like the Hall of Waters can offer tremendous resources in terms of placemaking.
I enjoyed an opportunity two decades ago while teaching American and urban studies at the Centre for British Studies to visit the World Heritage Site of Bath, England. Like Excelsior Springs with its unique Hall of Waters, Bath grew as a city because of its unusual geography and the presence of ancient mineral springs pre-dating the Romans. It certainly didn’t hurt that Jane Austen used Bath as the setting for two of her novels, but the point is that special places like the Hall of Waters can offer a focal point for successful heritage tourism and the starting point for broader community revitalization. Communities like Excelsior Springs need both tourist and placemaking “takes” in order to “take the waters” successfully as a vital source of genuine renewal.