#201 - The Elms Hotel & Spa
Excelsior Springs, Missouri
Don and I arrived at this rambling, limestone hotel on a gloomy, damp September afternoon.
I knew little about the hotel as we approached, except that it had been a luxurious health resort about a century ago.
Open in 1912
I had read some cranky traveler reviews before our arrival, so my expectations weren't high.
But as we walked towards the building I was excited. The price was right, the retro roof sign was welcoming and the rounded structure in front, pleased me. I'm often easy to please.
Before we even stepped inside I was already checking out the porch seating.
Don and I love a hotel with good outdoor lounging space, especially when storms are headed our way.
Honestly, I should not read hotel reviews.
What were those people complaining about in their write-ups? The lobby looked fine to me, after its 20-million-dollar renovation in 2011.
The Old Stuff
Modern light fixtures spiffed the place up, but I was glad to see lots of reminders of the past.
The old cash register, the marble stairs, the classic, tile floors...
Fireplace & Piano
The brick and limestone fireplace looked extra cozy. Too bad the weather was still warm and muggy.
And too bad we didn't have a pianist to fill the lobby with a little music. Too bad there was no in-house orchestra, like the hotel had back in the day.
A Car on the Floor
Also in the lobby, we had a car, sitting right on the old tile.
I'm not sure if that's the kind of car Al Capone would have driven, but he was a frequent hotel guest and often hosted illegal gambling parties.
Upgrade to the 5th Floor
Don and I had reserved a room at the cheapest rate of about $100. We were a little surprised when the woman checking us in, casually mentioned she was upgrading us to a 5th Floor Royal Experience Suite.
Our elevator opened to a pleasant lounge area and then we headed down another hall, to our suite. I'm still not sure what we did to deserve the bonus!
Room 500 -The Roosevelt Suite
What a giddy surprise to step into a sprawling suite, when we'd been expecting a room.
I will admit, the carpet was a bit worn and the decor felt a little dated, but Don and I weren't complaining a bit. And to think FDR stayed in this room, when he secretly came to treat his polio in the mineral waters...
Well Maybe Not
We had a nice plaque on the door and it hinted at FDR's stay.
But we did a little more research and decided that FDR's visit to The Elms, was more folklore, than truth.
The Great Escape!
Our corner room had a couple views, but I liked the one with the fire escape best. Not only could we see the pool and gardens, but we could see our escape route, if needed.
It's always nice to know your emergency plans, when staying in a hotel that has burned down twice before. The first Elms Hotel opened in 1888.
More of our Sweet Suite!
Our living area, with 3 windows had lots of space. But there was plenty more to explore.
The area leading to the bedroom, had an eating bar and wet bar with fridge, microwave and Keurig coffee maker. The bathroom was quite roomy with its marble vanity, holding 2 sinks... plus a whirlpool tub and shower!
Sometimes historic hotels have smaller rooms with odd set ups, that have us fighting over the one bedside table. I will admit, Don gives in nicely when that happens, but there was no best side with this bed.
Our cozy bed was tucked into an interesting wall unit with 2 closets and 2 tables...2 good lamps and numerous luxury pillows. Perfect.
Walk Before the Rain
The rain was headed our way, so we got out to explore the grounds.
We could have had the pool to ourselves!
Gardens to Ourselves
Staying on a weekday in September, meant we didn't have to share any of the outdoor property!
If it had started to pour, we could have dashed to the gazebo... and reenacted the scene from Sound of Music... and no one would have been around to laugh. But it still wouldn't have been pretty. Neither of us sing and I don't look like I am 16 going on 17...
The gardens and pathways were lovely, even with hazy skies. When I spotted the horse shoe pits and picnic tables and stone barbecue grill, it made me long for a family reunion.
After wandering, we decided it was time to head back and find a place to relax.
Restaurant - "88 at the Elms"
We had planned on having drinks outside, but the 2-story restaurant off the lobby looked intriguing.
I climbed the stairs and looked down, wondering what the restaurant looked like in the 1930's.
Instead of seeing a mural featuring Al Capone, we might have spotted Al himself or "Pretty Boy" Floyd or Bugsy Moran.
Ashley at the Bar
Don and I had drink at the bar before dinner, where we got lots of interesting scoop from Ashley, our bartender... while Harry S. Truman looked down from another mural.
Unlike FDR, It's not a rumor that Truman stayed at The Elms. On election night, back in 1948, Mr. Truman enjoyed some of the spa features before retiring to his suite, where he listened to the radio for election results. Hard to imagine, but true.
The European Lap Pool
After moving on to a fabulous dinner in the restaurant, Don and I changed into swimsuits.
Then we headed on a long journey in search of the lap pool in the basement.
We were glad that we'd gotten history of the pool from Ashely, or we might have totally missed the lap pool experience! Just finding the underground secret, was an adventure. Don and I were pretty excited to lay eyes on one of only 3 of these specially designed pools in the country.
Also knowing that there had possibly been a murder in the area, back in the gambling days, added an extra thrill. But mostly it was fun trying to enjoy the therapy of the 3-island set up!
Circling the Islands
I started by walking around the smallest island first. That's how the more feeble "guests" would have begun their water fitness.
Then I switched directions, to add resistance with the current. Then it was time to try a larger island. Then I circled the whole pool. There were a couple of soaking tubs to relax in as a reward. There was a fair amount of laughing during my workout.
The Glowing Sign
After the intense work out, we dried off an started the long journey back to our room.
By the time we made it to the lobby, I realized I needed to run outside to see if the sign was lit. It was! The hotel and sign looked a tiny bit eerie, through the drizzle.
Morning with 5th Floor Treats
We slept well and woke to a rainy day. There was a nice continental breakfast served on our floor and we enjoyed it back in the room.
The night before, we'd returned to our room and to find a note from the concierge with drink vouchers and a snack of meats, cheese and nuts in our fridge. I guess we missed our 5th floor happy hour.
It's sad to know that The Elms will never be what it once was, but I'm totally okay with that. The healing mineral waters once made Excelsior Springs a booming community. The Elms was a grand health resort, for the wealthy. Then suddenly, views began to change about the health benefits of the mineral springs and tourism slowed down.
There may be no fox and hound hunts on the grounds, now. I saw no ladies playing bridge on the veranda. But for the price, we had a heck of a time enjoying ourselves and imagining the glory days. I'll remember the good food and friendly staff and most of all the curious circular pool in the basement!
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My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!