Between 1909 and 1910, several important enterprises occurred which made recreational investment in Excelsior Springs attractive and profitable. By 1910, a new Missouri corporation was formed that would set the pace for this development to occur. The General Realty & Mineral Water Company was formed in March with Dr. Bell, George Kessler, and Charles Fish in control of the management of approximately 200 acres of land, with an additional 326 acres to be obtained. The whole tract of land would be developed to a particular system, already approved by the City in 1909.
The new Elms Hotel had been built and was successful in drawing a wealthier class to the city, the railways, a major source of transportation to Excelsior Springs, capitalized on the success of the waters and began an advertising campaign throughout the United States, a motor car service between St. Joseph and the city was in the works, and the completion of the Railroad Traction and Highway Bridge over the Missouri river at Kansas City led to the establishment of an electric railway line from Kansas City and St. Joseph to the city and the building of a rock road between Kansas City and Excelsior Springs.
The proposed lines of development were placed in the hands of George Kessler, who concentrated on mapping out the golf course development for the east hill as a park, with additional park development of what is today the Fishing River Linear Park, an area of land west of Regent Spring on the Elms property and the Elms and Regent Boulevards entrance to the new hotel. In material prepared in conjunction with the map, the central park land situation is outlined:
"The center of Excelsior Springs lies in a valley through which runs the east fork of Fishing River, surrounding it are hills on which are most of the resident districts these sites being preferred where it is cooler in summer and the outlook more varied and pleasing. All mineral springs, however, are in the valley with the hotels, bath houses, business sections concentrated around them in a limited area restricted by the hills. Because thus confined a center is established which may be expected to remain stationary for some time. In the center of this the main street, Broadway, opens with a frontage of 150-ft. upon lands lying picturesquely around the bed of the stream. These lands are suited to a central public park and are the only lands remaining in the city which can be turned to this account. Petitions have been filed in the circuit court of the county for the city's purchase by condemnation of 30 acres of these lands for a public PARK and DRIVEWAY system. This system extends from the center of the city east through the valley on both sides of the stream and affords complete communication with the tract in which we (the company) are interested, being connected with it by two parked driveways, now formally dedicated, one on either side of the stream.
"As a result all pleasure traffic through the park and driveway system will be directed straight from the heart of the city into the tract, and this will be a permanent feature."
When City fathers learned of George Kessler's involvement with the land development of the General Realty & Mineral Water Company, they, too, wanted his expert advice for the development of the new public park. Kessler began woking with the Commercial Club in 1913 to design an overall park plan for Excelsior Springs, but more specifically, to design new pavilions and rest areas around Siloam and the Sulpho-Saline wells. Their first requests met with no response from Kessler, however, when the City Clerk persisted in attaining his expertise, he met with members of the City and members of the Commercial Club on March 4, 1914.
In a follow-up letter to the City, Kessler referred to his 1907 report in the hands of Charles Fish with recommendations for the river valley. He further stated that if his fee of $1,000 were satisfactory, immediate work would begin on the development of sketches for the Siloam spring house and other buildings. A preliminary report was prepared by May, which Kessler shared with Charles Fish before sending to the City. A portion of the report reads: "Not knowing what titles you may have in mind, I have taken the liberty of calling the Springs plans the Siloam Springs Gardens, and the park in the valley the Fishing River Parkway." The lengthy document revealed the first plans for the Siloam and Sulpho-Saline spring houses, the Springs Gardens, and a highway through Fishing River Parkway for both vehicles and pedestrians. Kessler also suggested to make provisions against flooding when a roadway system was developed through the park which would include moving the bridge on Marietta Street "... where you should have a bridge the full width of Marietta and of an architectural design that would make a fine setting as a terminal picture of that portion of the Fishing River Parkway."
Another letter was included to Fish with the report asking that he please forward it to the City and stressing the considerable time that the drawings had taken; that they were quite costly. Kessler at this time retained the blueprints. He closed with, "going over these plans I am beginning to fear permitting any other designer to enter into the problems of the structures. I would much rather not have to handle the building problems, beyond these sketches, yet before your people take action, I think it may be well to let me go over the questions once more with you, and if we then find it necessary I may possibly be able to arrange to develop the structural detail, provided a competent construction man is obtained to serve as local superintendent from the beginning to the end of the structural work. What I fear is that another hand undertaking the development of this will change the spirit of the thing."
It should be noted here that Kessler's original drawings moved the Siloam pavilion from the site of the well on Broadway further up in elevation near the Sulpho-Saline so that the two structures could be on the same level, and a series of steps from Broadway and also from Marietta be built in a descending manner that would provide invalids easy access. He suggested curved roofs to allow ample lighting at the gables, counter-balanced doors that could be lifted entirely away during the days use and replaced at night to close the buildings, fire-proof construction with stucco surface, tile roof, and cement walls. He projected using tile or terrazzo for the floors.
"You will probably find, as we do in other places, that an attractive building scheme and garden scheme of this kind will appeal to every one, and through the constant desire for obtaining pretty pictures every owner of a camera will advertise the Springs for all time," stated Kessler.
Fishes' response warned that a change in the location of the Siloam pavilion might have to occur, "as there are certain difficulties to be encountered in lifting and piping the Siloam water to the upper level because of the rapid change which takes place in this water when exposed to the air." He continued with, "For the present, however, the plans of the Siloam Springs Gardens and the park and driveways beyond meet our requirements, are most favorably commented on and form a splendid basis for an enthusiastic park campaign."
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