Since it was first operated by the City of Hannibal in 1912, the Mark Twain Boyhood Home has attracted Mark Twain fans from around the world, and through the years the Mark Twain Home Foundation has continued to add historic sites to its properties, including the Becky Thatcher House.
The renovation of the Becky Thatcher House across Hill Street from the boyhood home is expected to be completed by July, according to Henry Sweets, executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home andMuseum. "The structural work is mostly completed," he said. "We still have the front porch and rear stairway. ... We are hoping to have the home operating by the Fourth of July with temporary exhibits." Fund-raisers are continuing for the permanent exhibits.
This house will not be like the boyhood home, he added. "The exhibits will focus on childhood - what it was like to be a child in the 1840s and '50s. What was expected of children? What was their daily life, and schooling? And when did they go to work? What we are going to do goes far beyond what you see in the books." It will include "hands-on experiences."
The completion of the Becky Thatcher House will not conclude the museum's current projects, according to Sweets. "The next major project will be Grant's Drug Store, which is awaiting restoration," Sweets said. This historic building was given to the city in 1955 and opened to the public about five years later. It is currently closed, awaiting needed repairs.
One of the main museum properties is the Mark Twain Museum Gallery at North Main and Center streets. This 1850s building has been a museum property since 1995 and has two levels of exhibits, as well as rooms for events. Among the ongoing performances are those by Jim Waddell, sharing Mark Twain's Civil War experiences; and Gladys Coggswell, performing a true story as written by Twain.
Teachers' workshops also are offered in the gallery. One leader this year will be Dr. Cindy Lovell, who served as executive director of the local museum until recently becoming director of the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Conn. Sweets and Lovell plan to collaborate on future events, such as the annual teachers' workshops at both Mark Twain locations.
The museum gallery's first floor has interactive scenes from five of Mark Twain's books, including a graveyard scene, cave scene and fence painting from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." A stagecoach offers "rides" while viewing scenes from "Roughing It."
History of Mark Twain Boyhood Home
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home was constructed around 1843 or 1844. The John Marshall Clemens family lived here until leaving town in 1853. Following their departure, it became a rental property. In 1911, it was scheduled for demolition. The Hannibal Commercial Club, the forerunner to the Chamber of Commerce, started a fund drive to save the house. George A. Mahan stepped forward and purchased the house, fixed it up, and gave it to the City of Hannibal on May 15, 1912. It was open to the public in 1912, making it one of the earliest historic house preservation efforts in the country.
Page 2 of 2 - Some information in this article is from the website marktwainmuseum.org.