Standing atop Cardiff Hill, the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse has survived high winds and vandalism. But over 50 years since it was last rebuilt and over 20 years since its last major renovation, the passage of time has taken its toll on the 54-foot tall lighthouse to the point where it's condition is a major concern for the Hannibal Parks Department.

Standing atop Cardiff Hill, the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse has survived high winds and vandalism. But over 50 years since it was last rebuilt and over 20 years since its last major renovation, the passage of time has taken its toll on the 54-foot tall lighthouse to the point where it’s condition is a major concern for the Hannibal Parks Department.

“The lighthouse is in need of some serious renovation. It’s just old, rotting wood. We’ve been band-aiding it for quite some time,” said Andy Dorian, director of the Parks Department, during a meeting of the Park Board this spring. “I don’t want it to fall down because that would be no good and it would be embarrassing.”

To make sure the necessary work is identified and performed, Dorian intends to hire a “structural engineer to look at it and see what we need to do.”

Dorian does not envision a project that would transform the lighthouse into something more than it was intended to be when it was built in 1963 after strong winds toppled its predecessor in 1960.

“The lighthouse is as basic as basic can get,” he said. “If you pull one of those cedar shingles off your hand is literally inside the wall. It’s just a wood frame with plywood and cedar shingles nailed to it, so it’s a basic structure. I just want to make sure that whatever we do next it’s stable and more water tight.”

While he would like to see as much of the existing wood salvaged as possible, Dorian is not holding his breath.

“That’s why I want to get a structural engineer in to see how much of the wood could be salvaged of the wood base,” he said. “I think the last one (lighthouse construction) was in the ‘60s, so most of that wood is original from the ‘60s with no weather proofing, so everything is water logged.”

A lighthouse renovation has been on the Parks department’s “to-do list” for some time.

“It’s something we’ve been talking about for a while,” said Dorian. “It sounds scary to do a lighthouse renovation, but I don’t think it will be that bad.”

While the look of the renovated lighthouse won’t be drastically different during the day, its nighttime appearance will be as different as night and day from its current post-sundown sight.

“Right now we do the little lights in the windows, but they (Board of Public Works personnel) have a way to externally light it up so that we can on the Fourth of July light the whole lighthouse in red, white and blue or for Shine a Light on Autism do the whole thing blue, purple for Relay for Life, red for Valentine’s Day, pink for Breast Cancer Awareness,” said Dorian. “Instead of just three lights in windows the whole thing will be illuminated at night, which will be really, really neat. A big thing we’ve been getting lately is people really like the idea of lighting the lighthouse up.”

The lighthouse project, for which $75,000 has been budgeted, is tentatively set to take place this fall.

“We want to get it out of the way before the riverfront (project) starts,” said Dorian.

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com