One of Riverview Park’s popular attractions has stood vigil, looking out over the Mississippi River, for 100 years. That landmark, the Mark Twain statue, will be rededicated during a special program hosted by the Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department (HPRD) on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The program, which will begin at 10 a.m., will be somewhat low key, according to Mary Lynne Richards, assistant supervisor for promotion and planning for the HPRD.
“We want to do something, but there’s not a lot of parking,” said Richards. “We want people to appreciate that Riverview Park has been the setting for this tribute to Mark Twain for 100 years. We’re going to have a little something.”
The program will feature remarks by Mayor Roy Hark, Andy Dorian, director of the HPRD, and Mark Twain impersonator, Jim Waddell. Tom and Becky will be in attendance. Miss Mark Twain, Maggie Rowland will present a song. The public is welcome to attend the event, according to Richards.
The late November date of the rededication was chosen for a reason.
“We kind of wanted to do it in correlation with Mark Twain’s birthday, which is the 30th (of November). We thought the (Mark Twain) Museum would have activities on that day, so we were trying to stay away from that day,” said Richards.
The statue is not the only site the HPRD plans to recognize on its anniversary. Next year will mark the 75th anniversary of the Admiral Coontz Recreation Center.
“These anniversaries come up and you want to commemorate them, but it’s kind of hard to figure out what to do,” said Richards. “The statue doesn’t need renovation. I think if we were renovating it it would almost be appropriate. It’s kind of hard to know what to do when there’s nothing new about it.”
In anticipation of the statue’s anniversary Richards has been doing some research on it.
“I have a little bit of history, but I wish I had more,” she said.
According to “The Story of Hannibal,” by J. Hurley Hagood and Roberta (Roland) Hagood, the Commercial Club was a driving force behind the creation of a statue in Twain’s honor for Riverview Park.
Funds were dedicated for the statue by the state in 1911, but “delays and indecision in Hannibal as to the exact location of the statue” caused the city to miss the deadline for use of the funds. In late 1913, the Missouri Legislature again made $10,000 available for the monument.
Page 2 of 2 - “Did the statue cost $10,000? That seems low to me,” said Richards. “It’s frustrating because I want to know the history.”
The statue of Twain was created by sculptor Frederick Hibbard, a native of Lewis County, Mo. Hibbard also made the statues of William Hatch in Central Park and Tom and Huck at the foot of Cardiff Hill.
Placing the Twain statue in Riverview Park meant going against with the wishes of W.B. Pettibone, who donated the park property to the city of Hannibal in 1909. Pettibone did not want man-made objects in the park that would interfere with the natural environment.
According to the Haygoods’ book, “Hannibal, Too,” along with the statue, a viewing platform with low walls and seat were erected “at the highest point in the park.” The statue was placed on its platform in 1913.