Historic Elms Resort Plans LGBT Weekend
June 13, 2008
by Greg Haught
Celebrating 120 years of history and hospitality, the Elms Resort and Spa is hosting its first LGBT weekend on Aug. 1 and 2.
“We invite everyone to come out and help us celebrate this landmark milestone in our history,” said Keith Winge, director of sales for the resort.
He and his partner, who also works at the hotel, were instrumental in the formation of the event. “We have always, and especially recently, had a large contingent of gay clientele and we thought we were long overdue to host our own GLBT celebration,” Winge said.
The Elms has established a rich history. The hotel began in 1888, when the first Elms was built. The discovery of healing waters in Excelsior Springs created the need to open a first-class resort to accommodate the crowds visiting for health reasons. This first Elms was elegant and warm and hosted lush garden parties and grand balls. In 1898, just as it had been enjoying its reputation as a sought-after destination, the hotel tragically burned down.
By 1908, a second hotel was built. Despite heavy rains and flooding during construction, the second Elms opened in 1909. Guests flocked by train from all over the country, and the hotel enjoyed a restored glory. That glory was short-lived, however, as the Elms was destroyed by fire once again in 1910. In 1912, a third hotel was built of native limestone, and that structure continues to serve as the Elms today.
Throughout the ’20s and ’30s, the Elms was again a playground and health spa for the well-to-do. Politicians, star athletes and notorious crime figures helped make up the new celebrity clientele. Jack Dempsey and the New York Giants visited and trained at the hotel. Reportedly, Al Capone, Bugsy Moran and Pretty Boy Floyd hosted illegal gambling and bathtub gin parties. Prohibition police raids happened regularly but were often foiled by the local politicians in attendance.
In 1948, the Elms hosted its most famous guest. Harry Truman, who visited numerous times, stayed on election night — Nov. 2, 1948 — to escape the stress of the Democratic National Headquarters in downtown Kansas City. He and his Secret Service agents occupied the entire west wing of the second floor. He enjoyed several spa treatments and then retired to his room (now Room 300) to join his staff in listening to the radio for election returns. The next day, the newly elected President Truman returned to the Elms to throngs of reporters and well-wishers. The level of publicity for the Elms hit the stratosphere after that historic occasion.
The Elms went through many identities and challenges in the following decades. After its memorable heights in the ’40s, the ’50s ushered in the era of the motor lodge, which the Elms became, showcasing its outdoor bell-shaped pool. The ’60s saw the Elms go through many owners, and by 1970 the hotel closed its doors for the next eight years.
By 1981, after a large renovation, the Elms was once again the talk of the town. With its renovated spa, featuring waterfall tubs and environmental rooms and the dance club attached, it gained a new reputation as a party destination. Part of the hotel was also being sold as condominiums.
Despite a bankruptcy filing in 1991, the hotel continued to remain open to guests, and in 1998 it received a $16 million renovation. At this point the Elms had, as it does now, 153 guestrooms and suites, a well-known spa and state-of-the-art conference facilities.
The current incarnation of the Elms has room packages offering a wide array of getaway opportunities. The Celebration package offers a guestroom, dinner for two and a couples massage in the spa. Adventurous packages include a golfer-friendly Hole in One package, an Art Crawl package featuring a downtown gallery walk and even a Skydiving package. For those looking for a more relaxing experience, the Overnight Day at the Spa combines a guestroom and a day of spa treatments. Expecting families can enjoy the Babymoon package, which includes a guestroom, dinner for two, and a pre-natal massage for the mother-to-be. Girlfriends packages are designed for friends getting together for an overnight stay, dinner and spa treatments. The mother of all packages is the Ultimate in Romance, including a historic suite, wine and roses in the room, dinner for two, a couples massage in the spa and breakfast in bed.
The list of treatments available at the award-winning Spa at the Elms is calming just to read. The most popular treatments are the couples massages. Others include rejuvenating hot-stone massages, soothing caviar facials, and manicures and pedicures. Signature treatments range from aloe tea tree wraps, ancient Ayurvedic therapies and a Moroccan Detoxification Ritual combining various aromatherapies. The unique European Vichy showers using cascading showerheads are just one of the available treatments using therapeutic waters. Restorative anti-aging treatments and back facials designed for men are also available.
Couples looking to hold commitment ceremonies have several selections for venues. The Regent and Elms Grand ballrooms each can accommodate up to 300 people. Lush grounds surrounding a charming gazebo serve as a lovely background for outdoor ceremonies.
Ingrams magazine recently awarded the Elms best corporate retreat as it offers companies many amenities and services. Large ballrooms and smaller meeting rooms are available to corporate clients as well as a state-of-the-art amphitheater.
The Elms has planned a yearlong schedule of events to commemorate its 120th anniversary. Backyard barbecues, games, entertainment and fireworks will mark the Fourth of July kickoff. On July 5, the Missouri Wine Festival will be held on the hotel grounds, featuring seven wineries, more than 20 artists, and live music.
The Elms Resort and Spa has enjoyed a rich and storied history as it prepares to celebrate its anniversary and is welcoming guests to create new memories. For more information, visit www.elmsresort.com.