The Hall of Waters
Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Built in 1937 for $1 million by the WPA, the Hall of Waters was supposed to be the most complete health resort in the U.S. Today it sits quiet and empty, an Art Deco pile with faux-Mayan friezes, home only to the local government offices that have moved into its vacant rooms (You can pay your water bill here).
Excelsior Springs has always been blessed with a variety of natural waters bubbling out of the ground. The idea behind the Hall of Waters was to pipe them all to one spot where they could be filtered and dispensed. A sequence of interpretive panels between each of the Hall's towering window explains the history and importance of water in the town.
The complex originally offered bath houses, a spa, therapy pools, and the World's Longest Water Bar, all built around the concept of water as a medicine. But that idea fell out of fashion, the Hall was shut down, then was revived for its tourism potential. The Water Bar staffing and operations were outsourced, then shut down again at the end of 2006 when the contract expired. The company left town, and the town had no one to replace them.
Excelsior Springs wants to revive at least the World's Longest Water Bar, and hopes visitors will once again be able to enjoy calcium water, saline water, soda water, iron manganese water -- hot or cold from a tap -- inside the soaring Hall of Waters, with its Art Deco chandeliers and polished terrazzo floors. But for the moment all that's here are a couple of dozen plastic bottles of water stacked behind the bar, and no one to sell them.