Old elevator equipment being removed from atop of Mark Twain Museum.
The Mark Twain Museum, which is all about preserving the legacy of Sam Clemens, on Tuesday was bidding good-bye to a part of its own history. An old elevator, dating back nearly 100 years, and the small structure which housed its workings were being removed from atop the building on north Main Street.
Dena Ellis, manager of finance, maintenance and gift shop at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, says it makes sense to remove the elevator and its workings.
“It was not used any more for anything and it had probably a ton of old equipment up there from the original elevator. That (equipment) building was leaking like a sieve. We wanted to get that building completely taken off the roof,” she said. “We’re getting ready to have a new roof put on the museum, so we wanted to get that building taken off before we put the new roof down. We’re thrilled to get that building off of there. Now we won’t have to worry about that little building leaking any more.”
The tower, located on the building’s north side, still contains a good deal of equipment.
“Now we have hydraulic elevators and they don’t have any of that equipment up above that they used to have. Lots and lots of equipment is up there. They (contractor) are putting a hole in the roof of the little building and lifting all that equipment straight up and out. Then they will cut holes inside the building and lift chunks of that off with the crane,” said Ellis. “It’s kind of interesting. I told them I’ll have trouble getting any work done today because I’ll want to be out there looking at it and watching what’s happening.”
Ellis wishes the Mark Twain Museum could benefit some other historians with the surplus elevator equipment.
“It’s a shame we don’t have an elevator museum somewhere because they’d probably like that huge old motor that’s up there,” she said.
Museum elevator history
The exact history of the old museum elevator is hard to pin down, according to Henry Sweets, museum curator.
“I don’t know when the elevator was added. It would have to be after 1900 because it was an electrical elevator. I’m guessing probably in the 1920s it would have been added,” he said, adding that the building, a ladies clothing store, was owned by a man named Sonnenberg.
Originally the elevator made more stops than was needed in later years.
“The elevator, when it was originally put in, had a mezzanine stop in it. There was an active mezzanine in the store and apparently that mezzanine came all the way out to where the elevator was,” said Sweets. “With renovations that mezzanine-level stop was forgotten and the mezzanine was shortened so it was literally at the back of the store. It didn’t protrude forward where the elevator shaft was, so when we got the building we thought it was just a two-stop elevator - the first floor and top floor. Then when we opened everything up we found that stop in between.”
The current elevator includes a mezzanine level stop so people can ride up to the pilot house.
Three into one
The current museum gallery building, located at 120 N. Main, was at one time three buildings. The first of the structures appears on an 1854 map of downtown Hannibal. The one-story building was 60 feet deep.
“When we had everything stripped out the stone wall for that building is still embedded in the wall we share with the next door building,” said Sweets.
At that time the building stood alone.
“It was the only building on this block because Bear Creek still came over to about where Hannibal National Bank is,” said Sweets. “There was a big horseshoe-shaped bend in Bear Creek, so this was about as far south as you could go on Main Street with construction because of Bear Creek’s proximity.”
Well before the turn of the century two other buildings, one on the corner of Center and Main and one next to it, were also built.
“With time the other two buildings were added onto to make them two story. Then you begin to have a progression of additions to take them back to the alley,” said Sweets. “I count about 15 construction phases to the big shell of the building that you see here today.”
Herb and Jane Parham made a gift of the building to the Mark Twain Boyhood Home Foundation in the early 1990s.
“We started work on the building to turn it into the museum about 1995 and opened it in several increments,” said Sweets.