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David Fisk (Lens of
Elms Hotel in Excelsior
In the summer of 1880,
Indians and hunters told a man named Travis Mellion that the
natural springs of the area had strong healing powers. Mr. Mellion had a very sickly daughter, ailing from tuberculosis, and
decided to give it a try. After just weeks of bathing in the
spring and drinking its water, the young girl was cured. Another
man named Frederick Kigler tried the springs for a leg affliction and
had the same results. In no time at all, the legend of the
springs spread and people were arriving from great distances to test
the results for themselves. Within a year, 200 houses were built
and the town of Excelsior Springs was founded.
In 1888, the
Excelsior Springs Company built the first Elms Hotel
on a 50 acre site surrounded by rolling acreage and lush trees. Accommodating the many visitors to the spring, the three story hotel
had broad, shady verandas on all four sides, where guests were
entertained by an orchestra. The luxury hotel also boasted a large
heated swimming pool, a four-lane bowling alley, a target range and a
Just ten years later, the beautiful hotel
was destroyed by fire on May 8, 1898. Luckily, no one was
injured, but the building was an entire loss. After the fire,
plans were begun to rebuild the hotel, but construction did not begin
until 1908. In July, 1909 the new Elms
had its second grand opening and its popularity continued to grow.
But, alas, it was
almost as if this spot had a curse upon it, because less than two
years later, on October 29, 1910, the hotel burned down again. Following a large party in the Grand Ballroom, fire spread throughout
the interior walls igniting a boiler and setting the roof ablaze. The structure was a complete loss, but thankfully, no one was hurt.
The owners were determined to rebuild;
however, to generate some additional funds for reconstruction, some of
the land surrounding the hotel was sold. This time they built
the hotel fire-safe, constructed of native
limestone, with steel frames and reinforced concrete. The hotel
held its final grand opening on September 7, 1912. Over 3,000
people visited on its grand opening day.
During the prohibition years, the Elms
reputation grew as a popular speakeasy. As such, the hotel attracted
a number of known gangsters, including Al Capone. Under the watchful
eye of his machine gun toting guards, Capone was known to conduct
all-night drinking and gambling parties. At one time Al Capone lined
up and tipped several staffers each with a one-hundred dollar bill, a
tradition which is, no doubt, encouraged yet today.
During the depression, the historic hotel suffered along with everyone
else and was temporarily closed for a time.
During the 1948
presidential election, Harry S. Truman sought refuge at the hotel when it
appeared that he was losing his re-election bid. However, in the wee
hours of the morning, he was awakened by his aides informing him that he
had, in fact, won the election and was whisked away to Kansas City, where
he was photographed holding a copy of the Chicago Tribune
proclaiming Dewey the winner.
In 1966, the hotel suffered another economic
downtown following the U.S. Government ruling that mineral water
treatments would no longer be covered by insurance. However, the Elms has
endured its many challenges and fully restored to its original grandeur it continues to host hundreds of guests every year.
Harry S. Truman holding a copy of the
Chicago Tribune proclaiming
Dewey the winner.
However, the Elms, like
many historic hotels, is also said to play host to a couple of unearthly
guests. The lap pool in the basement is said to be haunted by a man
traced back to the hotel’s "speakeasy” days. During prohibition, the
gangsters used to store their liquor and hold their all-night gambling
parties in these blocked off rooms. The spirit is said to be that of
man killed by the mob during one of these illegal drinking events.
Reportedly, on the third
floor the hotel, staff and guests alike, have often seen a maid wearing a
1920s style uniform. Seemingly, she is extremely benevolent and only
there to watch today’s housekeeping staff to ensure that they are doing
their work correctly.
Another spirit is said to
be that of a woman who walks through the hotel looking for her child. Distressed, she has been known to pull people’s hair or throw things
across the room.
Both guests and staff report the feeling of an
unearthly presence in several areas throughout the old hotel, as well as
unexplained noises and the occasional glimpse at one of the three spirits.
Throughout the years, the Elms has
hosted a number of famous guests including President Harry Truman and Al
Capone, mentioned above, and others such as oil magnate Harry Sinclair,
artist Thomas Hart Benton, and TV personality Dave Garroway.
The Elms is a
significant landmark in Excelsior Springs, and is currently listed in the
National Register of Historic Places. Located south of the
intersection of Elms
Boulevard and Regent Avenue, the Elms Hotel
complex is surrounded by lushly planted acreage, with walking trails
shaded by mature trees and flanked by stone walls in some areas. A
tennis court and ruins of a stone garage are southwest of the hotel and
are reached by a pedestrian bridge. The Fishing River runs along the
eastern edge of the property. The old pump house now houses a gift
features 152 guest rooms and suites, more than 11,000 square feet of
meeting space, including the 3,900-square-foot
Ballroom, a 42-seat amphitheater, a stone carriage house and a 20-person
boardroom. Amenities include two restaurants, two lounges, a
10,000-square-foot spa, an indoor European swim track, an indoor banked
jogging track, a fitness room, an outdoor pool, a challenge course, a
walking trail, and a professional volleyball court.
is 30 minutes north of Kansas City in Excelsior Springs' historic business
Elms Resort & Spa
401 Regent St
or (800) THE-ELMS
of America, updated
Book your room at The
The Elms Resort & Spa -
The new Elms Resort and Spa offers a venue that uniquely blends yesterday
with today. Guests experience the charm of an historic retreat plus the
many thoughtful amenities and services of a contemporary 4-star Hotel. In
its restored state, the Elms Resort and Spa offers a unique, pastoral
setting in which to enjoy the ultimate in lodging comforts and convenient
access to the Kansas City metropolitan area.
401 Regent St
HERE to book a room.
Today, August, 2004, Kathy Weiser
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