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History lessons are sometimes better when heard from those who lived them

Calling all historians… On an afternoon walk to visit the Hall of Waters earlier last week I found myself gazing up at the run-down Royal Hotel. What a beautiful old building and a landmark in downtown Excelsior Springs she is.  What little research I have done so far has shown that the Royal was constructed over a period of years beginning in 1898.

The oldest portion of the building was first known as Wholf’s tavern, which was one of several popular taverns back in Excelsior’s glory days.  From what I’ve learned a fellow named James Snapp then purchased the building.  He operated the Wholf tavern under the same name for several years but then renamed the building Grapple Tavern and then eventually it became the Snapp Tavern.  It was in 1905 that Snapp sold the building to Elena G. Hill and moved on to bigger and better; it was Hill who renamed the five-story beauty the Hotel Royal and doubled its size with a six-story addition to the west.  She refaced the original façade with brick and made it into one of four first-class hotels to serve the many travelers who put Excelsior Springs on the map for its healing mineral water services.

From what I’ve read customers of the Royal enjoyed dancing in the ballroom, performances from live orchestras, the garden room, meals from the Royal Grill and the healing sulphur water served hot or cold in the lobby free to hotel guests.

What I don’t know about the Royal and what I can’t find out from reading a book or researching online is what it felt like to walk through the front door or attend one of the beautiful parties held in the ballroom.  What was it like to eat dinner at the Royal Grill?  The building was still open way into the 1990s and I have a feeling that someone in this town has to remember.

I’d love it if someone would let me know if they had a personal experience at the Royal Hotel.  Did you work there?  Were you a guest there?  Did you help with any of the remodels over the years?  How did you feel when the building started to fall apart?

I’ve always felt like the Royal Hotel is a significant part of Excelsior’s history and it’s a structure I would like to learn more about.  Just standing on the sidewalk across the street you can imagine how beautiful it once was.  I can’t wait to hear from everyone.


By Jae Juarez •

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