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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Terrell Dempsey <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 12 Jun 2012 05:58:04 -0700
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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I appreciate your analysis.  However, you miss the boat.  I am cognizant of the 
improvement of the narrative in the museum portion of the presentation at 
Hannibal.  That is a good thing.  That came about as a result of a lot of very 
hard work and despite the resistance of a good many local people.
        The foundation and board literally allowed the Pilaster House to rot 
while expending huge resources on peripheral projects.  The foundation and board 
have always been composed of the local business community.  They are 
self-perpetuating.  They invite new members in.  This is where real decisions 
are made.
I understand the culture of Hannibal.  The myth is that you do not speak 
publicly of others' faults.  You go quietly to the "correct people" in authority 
and present your case in the "correct way."  Any discussion of a matter that can 
be construed as critical is labeled "anti-Hannibal."  I understand how the 
community works.  I have a very successful law practice there as well as having 
been active in historic preservation and community betterment for twenty-five 
years. The next time you are in Hannibal you may take your dog to the Dempsey 
Dog Park or tour the Molly Brown House which Vicki and I donated to the city. 
        There is no excuse for allowing the Pilaster House to rot.  With two 
other families, Vicki and I restored the Brown Drug Store building down the 
street.  It has been flooded nearly as often as the Pilaster house, being 
constructed in 1853 or thereabouts.  Buildings of this age require constant 
maintenance.  The cost of maintenance is a percentage of the cost of repairs. 
 Now the Pilaster House is threatened!  All this time it has been in the care of 
the foundation and board.  You think I am being unfair?  I am just beginning to 
call attention to this disaster.  I feel guilty as hell for staying away from 
the museum and presuming they were at least maintaining this historically 
important place.
 You can best help by getting the board and foundation focussed.  My biggest 
fear is that they are going to use this as an excuse to rebuild the building 
like they did the boyhood home with a totally new exterior and an embalmed 
        Allowing the Pilaster House to rot is inexcusable and I am being more 
than fair to call the people responsible out.  As I said, I will put pictures up 
after Wednesday and people may judge for themselves the scope of this disaster.


From: Dustin Zima <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Mon, June 11, 2012 9:05:50 PM
Subject: Re: Sad neglect in Hannibal

While I respect Terrel Dempsey's work, I do not think that he offers a fair=
assessment of the state of Twain in Hannibal--however accurate his descrip=
tion of the deterioration of Grant's Drug Store might be.  With that said, =
blaming the deterioration of the building on an anemically funded foundatio=
n is like blaming an uninsured driver for not fixing his/her car after a se=
verely damaging wreck.  I grew up in Hannibal, have worked at the Hartford =
House, and now teach at Elmira College.  I have dedicated my undergraduate =
and graduate studies to Twain and his works.   I continue to write, present=
, and publish on Twain--my latest publication deals with Hannibal's present=
ation and preservation of Twain and his characters.  There are aspects of H=
annibal's presentation and preservation of Twain that will act as nails on =
a chalkboard to many Twain scholars.  The majority of these come from the H=
annibal Jaycees annual National Tom Sawyer Days (NTSD) celebration.  Yes, t=
he NTSD is fun, but it is most certainly inspired by a misreading of many o=
f Twain's texts.  The Boyhood Home & Museum has done a great deal to combat=
this distortion of Twain.  They have diversified Hannibal's presentation o=
f Twain, which is, in my opinion, the most significant improvement.  The up=
keep and restoration of a building, especially one that needs to be done in=
a way that is authentic, is no small feat.  Even the Hartford House strugg=
les with this--and there is no finer living museum than the Hartford House!=
  It is important to keep in mind that Hannibal is not Hartford.  They are =
vastly different in geography and culture.  The Twain of Hannibal is far fr=
om the Twain of Hartford.  I am not saying that Hannibal should be held at =
a lower standard, but that it should be kept in perspective.  Hannibal repr=
esents the source of Twain's writing, whereas Hartford stands as a testamen=
t to Twain's success as a writer--which, without it, he would not have met =
Livy, who paid for the house.  There will always be expenditures that not e=
very follower agrees upon and dismisses as "silly."  A proactive approach t=
o rectifying the deterioration of Grant's Drug Store--which the Boyhood Hom=
e & Museum knows is in need of repair--can best be done by making a contrib=
ution to the Boyhood Home & Museum.  Donations can be made to the Mark Twai=
n Boyhood Home & Museum, and, in the past, I know that donors have been abl=
e to designate what their donation will go toward.  As Twain-ians, Twain-ia=
cs, Twain scholars, and whatever else we are called, we are all responsible=
for the preservation of Florida (MO), Hannibal, Hartford, Elmira, and ever=
ywhere that the name Twain is spoken--and while we have a communal interest=
in Twain, that does not mean that we will all agree about the scholarship =
and preservation regarding him.

Dustin Zima
Elmira College         .     =20



-----Original Message-----
From: Vicki Dempsey <[log in to unmask]>
To: TWAIN-L <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Mon, Jun 11, 2012 7:57 pm
Subject: Sad neglect in Hannibal

I have been contacted privately by many of you for insights into the =20

current state of things in Hannibal, but today's experience draws me =20

out of my self-imposed exile from the Twain world.  I had a visit from =20

a lovely former foreign exchange student from Brazil.  She wanted her =20

husband to see the Hannibal sights.  For the first time in years I =20

went through the museum.  I am shocked to report to you that the =20

foundation and board have allowed the Pilaster House/Grant's Drug =20

Store to decay horribly.  It is even more appalling that the site was =20

on the states Most Endangered Property list in 2009 -- and yet nothing =20

has been done.  For those of you who do not know, the Pilaster House =20

is where the Clemens family was renting rooms after John M. Clemens =20

filed bankruptcy.  It is where he died.  This is the last place Sam =20

lived and enjoyed the free childhood he celebrated in Tom Sawyer.  =20

Shortly after he entered the world of work as an apprentice.

        =09This building is one of only two real structures related to =20

Sam Clemens that the organization supposedly cares for.  It breaks my =20

heart that while building a faux "Huck Finn" house and dolling up an =20

old pizza parlor and store building as museums they allowed an actual =20

historic structure that is essential to the development of Sam to =20

rot.  I will try to take some photographs on Wednesday to post on my  =20

facebook page and give you all my address.  I wish I were =20

exaggerating, but there is no hyperbole here.

        =09I don't know what is wrong with Hannibal.  I have been =20

thinking about it for a long time.  I know many of the people on the =20

board.  They are not bad people.  But they assuredly are not =20

historians or preservationists.   It makes me terribly sad.

=09I know they are going to say they don't have money.  The reason is =20

that they spent their money on silly things.

Terrell Dempsey=20