UPDATE: Town honors Mark Twain Home dedication anniversary

Tuesday, May 15, 2012 | 5:38 p.m. CDT

HANNIBAL — The northeast Missouri town of Hannibal is celebrating the centennial of the dedication of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home.

The famed author and humorist was born in nearby Florida, Mo., but grew up in Hannibal. The Quincy Herald-Whig reported that his boyhood home was about to be demolished when a wealthy benefactor stepped in to save it, then presented it to the city in a formal dedication on May 12, 1912.

A large gathering in Hannibal on Tuesday marked the anniversary.

Today, the small two-story house a few blocks from the Mississippi River is among several buildings that are part of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum.

Twain was born Samuel Clemens in 1835. His family moved to Hannibal when he was a small boy. He would eventually use the unique people from the town as the basis for characters in some of his most famous works, including "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Life on the Mississippi."

After the family moved away from the home in 1853 it became rental property, then a restaurant, and eventually fell into disrepair. It was slated for demolition in 1911, just months after Twain died in Connecticut.

A civic group tried to organize a campaign to raise money and save the home, but it failed. Fortunately, a wealthy resident, George Mahan, stepped forward and funded the restoration, then gave the house to the city.

"It was a very early preservation attempt that obviously has proven to be very, very successful," Curator Henry Sweets said.

The museum was formally established in 1926. It now sits in a separate building about a block away from the home. Several other buildings on Hill Street are now part of the museum complex.

The Boyhood Home was completely restored in 1990 and 1991, with two rooms that had been removed from the rear of the house in the 1880s reconstructed as they would have stood.

Sweets estimated that more than 8.5 million people have visited the home since 1912.

"I think the main thing (I get) out of the centennial is the recognition of the foresightedness of George Mahan in saving and preserving the Boyhood Home," Sweets said.

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