Attraction will open Memorial Day weekend

Visitors to Hannibal will have more of an opportunity to visit the Molly Brown House in 2018 after the decision was made to expand both the number of days it’s open, plus the attraction’s hours of operation.

According to the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau (HCVB), which operates the facility located at the intersection of Denkler Alley and Butler Street, the site will be open this year from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursdays through Saturdays, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Previously the house had been open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. two days a week - Fridays and Saturdays.

Gail Bryant, director of the HCVB, told the HCVB Board last month that the decision to change the hours was based on “information we tracked last year.”

“The information was both qualitative, based on visitors to the house, and on our visitor numbers through the Convention and Visitors Bureau office,” said Bryant when asked about the tracking process. “As in most cases, visitors taking a long weekend are headed home on Sunday, which made Sunday visitation low, which played into the decision of extending the hours to Thursdays.”

Last year 502 visitors walked through the Molly Brown House doors. That total was bolstered by the 46 people who visited on July 15 when the 150th anniversary of Margaret Tobin Brown’s birth was observed.

“There are days when we have zero people. Some Saturdays we’ve had as little as two people,” noted Bryant at one point last year.

Considering the number of visitors the house attracts, was the decision to extend its hours a difficult one?

“We always want to provide the best experience we can to Hannibal visitors, and we will do our best to make sure that visitors coming to Hannibal with an interest in Molly Brown have the opportunity to tour the home. However, the Convention and Visitors Bureau is tasked with marketing everything Hannibal has to offer that brings visitors back year after year,” said Bryant.

Because it hasn’t been one Hannibal’s must-see attractions, the Molly Brown House frequently operates at a financial loss. In 2017 it finished in the red revenue-wise by $894.61. While it took in $1,860 through admissions, $1,721.61 was spent on payroll. Another $1,033 was shelled out in operating expenses.

Bryant acknowledges that extended hours will mean greater operating costs.

“Yes, it will mean more payroll expenses and an increase in utility costs, primarily,” she said. “With that said, we are always looking for dependable volunteers with an interest in history to join our team in sharing the Margaret ‘Molly Brown’ Tobin story with visitors from around the world.”

Last year the home’s red ink appeared in the HCVB’s ledger. In the three previous years the attraction had been under the management of the Hannibal History Museum Foundation (HHMF). However, early in 2017 the HHMF advised the HCVB it was not interested in renewing its “vendor agreement” with the city regarding the site, which left the HCVB responsible for the attraction’s operation last year.

The city has owned the Molly Brown House since August 2007 when it was donated to the city by Terrell and Vicki Dempsey. They had purchased the property in 1998.

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