During the years 1882 to 1887, the Excelsior Springs Company was formed out of the Relief Springs and Land Company. The group of Kansas City capitalists, under the direction of Henri Fish, and later his son Charles, gave more than $500,000, acquiring nearly 1,000 acres of land, including Siloam, Regent and Relief Springs and all the territory within a radius of one mile west and south of Fishing River.
A larger pavilion was built at Siloam and the level raised. A large concrete platform with benches for visitors to sit and drink and eat popcorn to make them thirsty so they could drink more, was provided. On the south wall of this pavilion were rows of hooks for cups. The visitors would hang their cups and put their names by them. Soon the cups would become stained, as the Siloam water was heavy in iron content.
In 1888, the company discovered the Sulpho-Saline water. Some said they had been drilling for coal. Others said they were looking for gold. One writer said they were drilling for artesian water. The well and pagoda were located north of Siloam on Broadway.
Although the company brought about rapid development of the valley, it was mostly contained to areas in proximity to the Fishing River which had been farmed, leaving the banks of the river and the wooded hillside in their natural state. Broadway was being developed as a commercial street north of Fishing River and the Siloam and Sulpho Saline wells. Bridges spanning the river were either simple wooden structures or swinging bridges given over to pedestrian travel only, and so walking trails between the springs developed in the park land.
In July 1894, during an evening revival held in the park at Siloam, many lamps were brought and lit to provide light for the service. It was then that the people began requesting lamps be placed around Siloam Pavilion, so that they could linger longer into the night. A wooden pedestrian bridge was constructed across Fishing River south to provide convenience to visitors walking to Regent Spring, located a "few bends" to the south.
In the early 1900s, the City of Excelsior Springs took possession of Siloam. Possession was also taken of the Sulpho-Saline well, however, the Ettenson family was given a 99-year lease hold on that property. The scene in Excelsior Springs was better depicted in an early souvenir book:
"An interesting phase of life at Excelsior Springs are the great crowds which collect around the Sulpho Saline and Siloam Pavilions every evening to drink the waters, to talk and to look on at the never ending jam of people -- big and little -- rich and poor -- who eddy in and out like the waters of a great whirlpool. Here a splendid band gives concerts on certain evenings every week and altogether the scene is a most interesting one and furnishes much entertaining diversion to visitors.
"In the near future, the City Council and Commercial Club of Excelsior Springs will convert the plat of ground surrounding these two most popular springs into a park which will have ample seating capacity for the crowds."
One of the changes which occurred in 1901, was the altering of the Fishing River to protect Siloam Spring. When the course was altered, the horseshoe penisula was lost from the park landscaping.
In 1902, Dr. William A. Bell, formerly vice-president of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad and president of the Durango Land & Coal Company, became interested in Excelsior Springs. He invested over $300,000 in establishing electric, gas and water systems for the community and surrounding cities. He carefully selected real estate holdings throughout the city which included the undeveloped east hill, a portion of land along east Fishing River, and another large section of property on the northwest edge of Excelsior Springs near the Milwaukee Railway. During 1907, Major William A.J. Bell, Dr. Bell's son, began to correspond with George E. Kessler, landscape architect. Kessler commenced to issue a report on land development in Excelsior Springs. Contained in the report was advice that weighed significantly in the development of the park system by creating a driveway system on both sides of Fishing River to protect it's integrity:
"Aside from the particular property interested, which would be beneficially affected this manner of improvement along the Fishing River, you will have created ... an improvement of the greatest possible value to the entire town of Excelsior Springs. If you can accomplish such a result and make a park of the river and the lands lying between two such roadways, you will create a pleasant and attractive driveway and promenade that will be immensely appreciated by the transcient population of the town, ..."
"There is at present little encouragement for pedestrians, or for driving or walking over the country, and the sooner this class of improvement is established and the more thoroughly it is encouraged by the people and the municipality, the earlier Excelsior Springs will become what it deserves to be, one of the most valuable and finest health resorts in the central portion of the United States."
Click to continue:
A new Missouri corporation
Return to top