The historic Hiawatha House is Local Register property located at 101 Linden, corner of Linden and East Excelsior Street. The Excelsior Soda Spring was located on the northeast corner of the property, 401 East Excelsior, where a well had been dug and water was made available from a hand pump on a concrete slab. Home of the studios of Bissell Restorations.
Hiawatha House is one of the few remaining examples of Victorian architecture in Excelsior Springs. The three story Queen Anne home is located on a corner lot in the original town area on Linden Avenue between Broadway and Excelsior Street. Constructed between 1905 and 1906 by C.H. Munsel as an elegant boarding house, it served that purpose for many years through a succession of owners. In 1919 Dr. Frances E. Bishop bought the property and operated the Excelsior Soda Spring. The spring house was located on the corner between the street and the front porch. During the 1920's many visitors to Excelsior Springs drank the soda water and other mineral waters for which the town was famous. The well was capped in 1936 with a concrete slab that remains today on the north side of the house.
In 1942 Hiawatha House was sold to Phillip and Tana Sharp. At that time it became a nursing home and was operated by Mrs. Sharp until 1985, which was the longest continued use and ownership of the property. It was reported that there were as many as 14 residents in Mrs. Sharp’s care at any given time during the nursing home years. The grounds around the house were lovingly tended by Mr. Sharp and included two koi ponds that were the delight of neighborhood children.
During the 1990's and early 21st century a succession of owners occupied the home as a single family house. When the present owner, Betty Bissell, purchased the property, it had fallen into major disrepair and was facing condemnation. The roof leaked and windows were broken, admitting snow, rain and birds. Water pipes had burst and badly damaged walls were covered with graffiti. One room on the second floor was riddled with pellets from a BB gun. There was nothing of use in the kitchen or the bathrooms. Few exterior elements were remaining. The wrap-around porch floor was rotten and the rails and front steps had been missing for many years.
With the assistance of wonderful friends, who shared an enthusiasm for old houses, and an innovative carpenter, a three year restoration of Hiawatha House has been accomplished. Many original architectural features survived abuse and have been retained. The front parlor features a tiger oak mantle with it’s original beveled glass mirror. A double-wide single pocket door was retrieved from inside a wall and is once again functional. Oak fretwork and columns frame the opening from the foyer into the parlor. Five matching stained glass windows were removed from the house, repaired, cleaned, and once again grace three rooms and the stairway to the second floor. The house is furnished with an eclectic collection of antique furniture including Victorian, Scandinavian and Amish pieces.
Ms. Bissell has collected art and pottery for years. A large number of original oil paintings, watercolors and signed prints by local, regional and international artists are on display throughout the house. Included are works by Rosalie Hunt, Cathy “Kate “Johnson, Keith and Jeri Bowan, Bob Hallaway, Randall Spangler and Beth Phillip. There is also a collection of vintage prints by such famous artists as Harrison Fisher, Charles Underwood, Philip Boilleau, Angelo Asti, John Audobon, Arthur Singer and Charles Dana Gibson. A collection of American pottery, predominately Roseville and Weller, is also showcased in several areas of the home.
To schedule a private tour of the home at $5.00 per person, call (816) 630-7826. Group size is limited to four people. No children under 12.