Critical Repairs Made to Hall of Waters with More to Come

Watch the video to see some of the incredible repairs that are being made to the historic Hall of Waters (video S Jason Cole).

The historic Hall of Waters in downtown Excelsior Springs, MO is one of the most unique architectural wonders of the midwest. Constructed in 1936 for $1 Million the WPA project still wows visitors with its Mayan-inspired Art Deco themes. But decades of deferred maintenance have left the inspiring structure in need of a multitude of repairs. In 2019 City Manager Molly McGovern, along with others, secured a Save America’s Treasures grant for $500,000 which was matched by the City’s Capital Improvements Board, a total of $1 Million to begin making repairs to the building.

Repairs to the support columns under the Hall of Springs are only part of the extensive renovations taking place at the Hall of Waters (photos S Jason Cole).

The grant and matching funds were originally intended to be used to make structural repairs to visible areas such as the glass brick and stone tower, as well as the ornate entry doors on the north and west sides of the building. However, during the planning stages for that project, several structural issues were found that threatened the future of the entire building. Support columns under the Hall of Springs, which most people in Excelsior Springs know as the Water Bar, were beginning to crumble due to water damage. The failing columns created a fissure in the floor of the Hall of Springs and engineers said the water bar area was on the verge of collapsing into the empty pool two stories below. Luckily, the benefactors at Save America’s Treasures allowed the use of the allotted funds to be utilized to address the emergency situation.

Most people don’t realize the Hall of Waters is more than 4 stories tall, including the subbasement areas. (photo S Jason Cole).

With critical repairs underway, the future of the Hall of Waters is more stable although still uncertain. McGovern said she and her team have been applying for as many grants as possible, but there aren’t a lot of opportunities for ailing structures such as the Hall. The feasibility study that was done back in 2014 revealed more than $14 Million in repairs and the rapid rate of inflation, especially in areas of construction, has pushed those estimates to $20 Million or more. This amount would bring the Hall of Waters back to a level of useability that would allow the City to begin exploring alternative uses for the structure. According to both McGovern and Mehaffy, the goal is to eventually move city offices out of the Hall to make way for private investors or state or federal parks to fill their place.

A recent survey revealed that 95% of Excelsior Springs respondents favored saving the Hall of Waters with more than 80% favoring local control over the building. A few years ago a private company attempted to buy the Hall of Waters outright. McGovern said that the public responded by saying they were afraid they’d lose access to the building. “We want to maintain city control but allow space for private [entities] to lease the space. That might be a spa, it might be retail or a restaurant… we just want to provide an opportunity for people to be in the Hall and enjoy the space.”

Interested in helping save the Hall of Waters? Reach out to the City Manager’s office to lend your support. Excelsior Springs City Manager’s Office, Hall of Waters, 201 E. Broadway, or call (816) 630-0752.

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