Save America’s Treasures Grant

Jennifer Sandy, left, and myself, enjoying the incredible view of downtown from the Hall of Waters rooftop after examining damage to the Hall tower, pictured in background.

The Hall of Waters is an incredible building. One that is worth saving. The threat to the Hall of Waters is the lack of financial resources for restoration and ongoing maintenance. In 2014, an Assessment and Feasibility Report of the site and building completed by STRATA Architecture Inc. estimated that repairs would amount to around $10 million. Today that estimate has grown to $16 million.

I served on the committee that helped to compile the Assessment and Feasibility Report. This report identified critical items requiring repair and continues to be used as a short and long-term guide for the preservation of the building. I began networking with Jennifer Sandy, Senior Field Officer of the Natural Trust for Historic Preservation, Chicago office. In October 2015, Jennifer traveled to Excelsior Springs to tour the Hall of Waters. Jennifer worked to place the Hall of Waters on the endangered list so that it would be recognized on a national level and, hopefully, reach the attention of persons and organizations that can help with funding opportunities.

I also reached out to Catherine Jones, Outreach Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, Brownfields Voluntary Cleanup Program. In 2019, Catherine organized members of the Brownfield and Superfund counterparts from Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas, along with EPA partners to “show off” a Brownfield site with a tour the Hall of Waters and then help us with a brain-storming session following the tour.

The session was led by City Manager Molly McGovern and Molly followed up with a suggestion to reach out to Kansas State University’s Technical Assistance to Brownfields program. Maggie Egbarts of TAB coordinated a site visit from Sustainable Strategies, a firm out of Washington D.C. that focuses on identifying funding sources and how to strategically apply for and use those funds.

At the same time, we were invited to participate in the Citizens’ Institute on Rural Design’s first Peer Learning Cohort for a series of workshops and site visits focused on harnessing the power of design, arts, and culture to address community challenges and support economic development. CIRD is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative. Our project was redevelopment of the Hall of Waters and Excelsior Springs was one of 23 communities selected nationwide for the new program. I wrote and applied for the grant which paid 100-percent of the cost for two people to attend the cohort training program in West Virginia. Economic Development Director Melinda Mehaffy and myself attended.

Both Sustainable Strategies and CIRD recommended that the City of Excelsior Springs apply for a Saving America’s Treasurers (SAT) grant from the Department of Interior, National Park Service (NPS). Molly McGovern, Angie Gaebler of STRATA, and myself worked on the SAT grant application, asking for the maximum amount of $500,000. We coordinated a call with Jennifer Sandy to strengthen the application.

In September 2020, the National Park Service recognized the Hall of Waters as one its 11 Most Endangered Buildings.

“The architectural artistry and fascinating history of the Hall of Waters draws visitors from around the world, but without partnerships and investment, the building will continue to deteriorate. Rehabilitating the Hall of Waters would bring economic benefits to Excelsior Springs while preserving a critical piece of the community’s identity and character,” said Katherine Malone-France, Chief Preservation Officer, National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Within days of being notified of being placed on the most endangered list, the City was notified of receiving the Saving America’s Treasurers grant so that actual repairs to the Hall of Waters could be scheduled. The City of Excelsior Springs will provide $500,000 in matching funds.

The $1 million will be used to address a structural issue at the south end of the water bar in the Hall of Springs (pictured), rehabilitate the glass block and steel tower, repoint, clean, and seal the north and west exterior faces of the building including stone replacement/repair, and repair the lintels; replace damaged cast stone units on guard rails and spot repoint, restore entrance systems on the north and west side and around the Hall of Springs, and miscellaneous repairs as funds will allow.