May 11, 2011

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The Hall of Waters is an Excelsior Springs landmark.

Hall of Waters

201 E. Broadway, Excelsior Springs, Missouri 64024


    Constructed as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project and completed in 1937, the Hall of Waters is a domed glass and wood structure that used to house a public pump where people could fill their containers with the iron manganese waters flowing from Siloam Spring.

    The reddish-brown water developed a reputation for healing in 1881, when a young girl's stubborn skin disease was healed. Within a year, tents and makeshift shacks dotted the hillsides, and pilgrims plagued with everything from rehumatism, liver complaints, dispepsia, and piles came to take the cure. They drank the foul-tasting mineral water, bathed in it, and packed its mud on their ailing bodies.

    As hotels and boarding houses sprung up, more wells were dug to tap into the healing springs. Five distinct types of water were discovered: calcium bicarbonate, ferro (iron) manganese, sodium bicarbonate, sulpho- bicarbonate, sulpho-saline, and lithium.

    No other U.S. town can claim a comparable range of mineral water, although Baden-Baden, Germany, also has all five types.

    A pagoda was constructed over Sulpho Saline Spring, but eventually, city officials decided one central watering place should supplant separate pagoda and dispense water from all ten of the city's springs.

    The WPA contributed one million dollars to fund the project, which included men's and women's bath houses and the most current spa equipment equal to the best resorts in Europe at the time.

    The Hall of Waters attracted celebrities such as swimmer Esther Williams, prize fighter Jack Dempsey, gangster Al Capone, and President Harry Truman. In fact Truman slept there on election night in 1948, and an aide woke him to tell him he had won at 4 am.

    The Hall of Waters was restored in 1996 is now the city offices.

    The building is one the National Register of Historic Places and is an Art Deco masterpiece with its images of Mayan and Aztec warriors in stone and Bronze. Symbols of wellness and water are painted on tiles throughout the building.

    All of the equipment and fixtures are original, vintage 1936, from the gold-colored Belgian tile on the walls to the cubicles with cast-iron, claw-foot bath tubs.

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