Hidden Landmarks: The Mark Twain Study

Hidden Landmarks

ELMIRA, N.Y . (WETM) – It is regarded as the most coveted literary landmark in the Southern Tier.

The Mark Twain Study is nestled on the campus of Elmira College.

It is a “not – so” hidden landmark in the Twin Tiers.

Located right in the middle of campus, off of College Avenue, the small wooden summerhouse, is one of a kind, and a national treasure.

Mark Twain spent over 20 years writing his most important and recognized works such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur Court, The Prince and the Pauper, and many other books and short essays.

Mark Twain writing,
Courtesy: Chemung County Historical Society

In 1867, Samuel Clemens, a writer for Hannibal Missouri, know internationally as Mark Twain, saw a locket that has a picture of Charles Landon’s sister while he is on the steamship Quaker City.

As the story is told, he immediately falls in love, and he and Olivia Landon marry on February 2nd, 1870.

Livy, was a native Elmiran, and hence, this is Mark Twain’s connection to the area

For 20 years – the Clemens family spent their summers at the famed Quarry Farm located on East Hill overlooking the Chemung River. Quarry Farm was the home of his sister-in-law Susan Crane.

Sam at the study,
Courtesy: Chemung County Historical Society

In 1874, Susan built a study for Samuel to work in. She built the same study.

In 1952, this study was moved, slowly by truck, from its original location on Quarry Farm, to the current Elmira College Campus location.

Designed by Alfred Thorpe, who worked with the architect who designed the Clemen’s home in Hartford Connecticut. (Edward Tuckerman Potter)

The study was designed to resemble The Pilot House of a Mississippi River Boat as well to strongly resemble the home in Connecticut that he and Livy were building at the same time.

And overall, when seen from a distance, the house in Connecticut did strongly resemble the design of a Mississippi Riverboat.

There is a porch on the top of the Connecticut house that is the exact image of the study.

Sam at the study,
Courtesy: Chemung County Historical Society

The Texas Deck in a steamship is the portion of a Mississippi riverboat that houses the crew quarters and usually has the pilothouse sitting either on top or in front of it.

The house in Connecticut has an upper porch on it that is called the Texas Deck and is a very close match for the overall design for the study.

The study and the house were designed and built at the same time.

However, this is not the only Mark Twain study in Elmira.

The Study,
Courtesy: Chemung County Historical Society

In fact, it’s the second – and this study is at the Mark Twain miniature golf course at Eldridge Park.

This study is built to look like a riverboat pilothouse. One major feature of riverboats were the twin smokestacks that allowed the hefty boilers to power the ship.

Most riverboats had two pairs of smokestacks. The main stacks in front, but a secondary pair placed behind the pilothouse. The second pair was known as the “scape pipes” or “escape pipes.”

For more on J.D. Iles’ Hidden Landmarks of Elmira, Corning and the Finger Lakes content click here.

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