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Boarding House Historic District

Excelsior Springs City, Clay County, MO

The Boarding House Local Historic District [1] retains the most intact collection of boarding houses among the surveyed areas of the city. The vernacular residential buildings and mature landscape characteristics add to this setting. The neighborhood has been experiencing new interest in the preservation of the historic resources within its boundaries. This is further fostering the interest in the rehabilitation of the historic structures and increasing the potential for future development within the historic neighborhood.

The Boarding House District is located east of downtown. The district is irregularly shaped and is bounded by Penn and Saratoga Streets on the west, by the north side of Bluff Street and (currently) by Isley Boulevard on the south. The north and northeastern edges of the district are marked by extremely steep, wooded hillsides which serve as natural boundaries. The houses in these areas cling to the hillsides with access provided by steep steps. Many of the hillside roads are very narrow and allow passage of one vehicle when residents parallel park along one side of the road. Limestone retaining walls are in poor condition along the north edge of the district. Many of the blocks have gravel alleys to access the rear of the properties.

The Boarding House District contains primarily residential buildings, both single and multi-family structures. There are few commercial and social buildings at the west end of the district, which is the easternmost edge of downtown. Demolition of historic buildings has occurred throughout the district, but is most noticeable in the northwestern quadrant. In other parts of the district, the dense development remains as one of the most distinguishing features of the district. The homes, boarding houses and apartments are constructed on small lots and have very shallow setbacks from the roads. This type of development is reflective of the city's explosive growth after the discovery of the mineral springs. Land in the Fishing River valley was especially valuable, being the closest to the numerous springs and wells which were developed for the burgeoning tourist trade. Today, many of these streets in the district retain their historic pattern of crowded development.

The present condition of the majority of the buildings within the district is closely tied to the demise of the health and medicinal aspect of the mineral waters industry in Excelsior Springs. Combined with the decline of this key economic force in the 1960s was the rise of federal programs for low-income housing. Consequently, many of the buildings have not been maintained over the years. This lack of maintenance has taken a toll on not only the visual appearance of the district as a whole, but has led to deteriorating conditions in many of the individual buildings.

A majority of the buildings in the district are residential (single and multi-family), but other types, such as a historic library, a church, offices and also a dormitory are also located in the district. The structures used as boarding houses tend to be concentrated along Broadway, Temple, Saratoga and Linden Streets. They are comparatively large buildings and generally fill the entire lot with varying heights form one to three stories. Some of these structures have multi-story front porches. The single family houses tend to be one, one-and-one-half story or two story structures in a variety of architectural styles. Most houses have decorative single story front porches.

A majority of the structures were constructed in the late Victorian period, exhibiting a variety of detailing and vernacular types typical of this period. Styles include Queen Anne, Classical Revival, Craftsman and Craftsman Bungalows. Many of the building have also undergone major renovations through the years.

Building materials throughout the district vary per building type and use, but tend to lend a unified appearance throughout the district. A majority of the structures are frame construction with most having wood or asbestos siding; although other types of siding are present, including aluminum, vinyl and asphalt materials and some synthetic stone. There are also several brick structures.

  1. City of Excelsior Springs, MO, Boarding House Historic District Preservation Plan, draft, 2016, http://www.cityofesmo.com/, accessed April, 2016

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Benton Avenue • Broadway Avenue East • Excelsior Street East • Francis Street South • Linden Avenue • Perry Lane • Saratoga Avenue • Temple Avenue

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