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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 12 Jun 2012 19:00:31 -0700
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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Terrell Dempsey <[log in to unmask]>
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        I appreciate your reply and will gladly attend any board meeting at any 
time at which I am welcome.  However, you are a bit disingenuous about the Huck 
Finn house and the "generous family."  In fact, the Huck Finn House was paid for 
by Herb Parham who was president of the board for sixteen years from 1989 until 
2005 if I recall correctly.  He engineered the purchase of the Becky Thatcher 
House for a very steep price in addition to paying for the Huck Finn House.  He 
should have more properly paid attention to the Pilaster House.  Your veiling 
him in this manner continues the long sad tradition of whitewashing in Hannibal. 
 It is just not true that the board was not part and parcel of the development 
of the Huck Finn House. 
        I have no quarrel with you or anyone on the board.  But the board is 
responsible for the sad state of the Pilaster House.  After twenty-five years I 
am very, very tired of hearing about the board's plans and experts and how much 
better things are going to be in the future. Like a physician, your first 
responsibility is to do no harm.  It is shocking that the board did not do the 
annual maintenance to keep up the Pilaster House.  
        Put any positive spin on the story you like, but the board has failed 
miserably. Your seeking to rescue the house is much like the man who shot his 
parents and begged the mercy of the court because he was an orphan.

Terrell Dempsey

From: Mark Twain Forum List Administrator <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Tue, June 12, 2012 8:41:07 AM
Subject: Response to "Sad Neglect in Hannibal" by Cindy Lovell, Executive 
Director, Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum

N.B.: I am posting this message on behalf of Cindy Lovell. --Kevin B.



I appreciate Terrell’s concerns about the “sad neglect in Hannibal,” as he
put it, and have tried to address them here. As many of you visit regularly
and/or receive The Fence Painter because you are members, you will already
know much of this.

“I am shocked to report to you that the foundation and board have allowed
the Pilaster House/Grant's Drug Store to decay horribly. It is even more
appalling that the site was on the states Most Endangered Property list in
2009 -- and yet nothing has been done.”

1. Grant’s Drug Store was placed on Missouri Preservation’s Most Endangered
Buildings List in 2009 AT OUR REQUEST to raise awareness and help seek

2. At that time, the house was stabilized by a team of preservationists led
by Frank Salter and Bob Yapp. This was to stave off further problems until
funds could be raised for the full restoration – which is in the Foundation’
s master plan and scheduled to begin as early as next year.

“It breaks my heart that while building a faux "Huck Finn" house and dolling
up an old pizza parlor and store building as museums they allowed an actual
historic structure that is essential to the development of Sam to rot.”

1. The “faux “Huck Finn” house” was a generous gift from an already generous
donor (whose family purchased the old Sonnenberg Dept. Store and funded
renovations there for what is now the museum gallery). These generous people
lost their son to cancer and erected the reconstructed Blankenship home on
its original site using period materials and working from old photos and
records as a tribute to their son’s memory. This is all indicated on the
plaque outside the home. The board did not seek this gift, but they
gratefully accepted it from this benevolent family.

2. Yes, the Interpretive Center was once a pizza parlor. The original
“dolling up” happened back in 1983. In 2004-05 it was updated to serve as
the starting point for the tour of the properties.

3. The board did not “allow” Grant’s “to rot.” Several steps have been taken
to maintain it until the restoration can begin including moisture removal,
moisture barriers, etc. under the guidance of expert preservationists.

“I wish I were exaggerating, but there is no hyperbole here.”

There is no exaggerating the need for Grant’s Drug Store to undergo a full
restoration; and without inquiring, one would have no way to know what steps
have or have not been taken to preserve this important building.

“I know many of the people on the board. They are not bad people. But they
assuredly are not historians or preservationists.”

I agree – they are certainly not bad people. And while they may not be
historians or preservationists, they do rely upon historians and
preservationists for guidance, which is why Grant’s is stabilized and next
on our “to do” list here.

“I know they are going to say they don't have money.  The reason is that
they spent their money on silly things.”

The estimate to restore Grant’s is just over one million dollars, which we
assuredly do not have. Our members and supporters are aware that we are
working with our colleagues in Berkeley, Elmira, and Hartford for the
passage of the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act, which would yield roughly
one million dollars apiece to the four Twain sites. The bill has passed in
the House, and we are now working on the Senate. It must be passed before
the election. That is one possible funding source. Our board held a special
meeting on Saturday to brainstorm a major capital campaign aimed at Grant’s
(now) and the Justice of the Peace building (later). The recession has not
helped, but rest assured the board is concerned and proactive. They donate a
lot of their own money to this cause – as do many of the forum members here.
As do I and many museum employees and volunteers. All donations are deeply
appreciated, and all donors’ names are published in our annual report.

As museum visitations are on the decline, we are all tightening budgets and
trying to create new revenue streams. I wrote a piece on this subject here:

Terrell, I invite you to call me and have your name placed on the agenda so
you can address the board directly. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised
with the very responsible plans in place. We are not neglecting Grant’s. We
are stressing and worrying and working to ensure it is here for future
generations to visit. I also encourage you to post photos to Facebook and
anywhere else you can. Please help us get the word out. We will eagerly
accept all the help we can get: press as well as funding.

Thank you,

Cindy Lovell, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum
120 N. Main St., Hannibal MO 63401
Phone: 573-221-9010 ext. 402 | Cell: 386-748-1256 | Fax: 573-221-7975
Email: [log in to unmask] | Web site:

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