Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mark Twain's Study

The legendary American writer Samuel Clemens, known as Mark Twain, is famous for writing novels and short stories set in places along the Mississippi River, and in other parts of America.  Many of his most famous works, however, were written in a small octagonal building in Elmira, New York.  The story of its origins goes back to 1870, when Clemens married Olivia Langdon, an early graduate of Elmira College.  While the Clemens family lived in Redding, Connecticut, they would spend their summers in Elmira at the property of Olivia's sister Susan Crane and her husband Theodore, which they called Quarry Farm.  In 1874, the Cranes built the study on a hill about 100 yards from their house, in part to provide Clemens with a space in which to work, and in part to avoid his cigar smoke.  At the time, the Chemung River could be seen from the study, which reminded Clemens of his childhood in Hannibal, Missouri, which was on the Mississippi.  Today, Quarry Farm is gone and the study has been incorporated into the campus of Mrs. Clemens's alma mater.

Before my family moved to Virginia, most of my childhood was spent in western New York.  I vaguely recall seeing Mark Twain's study while riding through Elmira with my father, but I don't remember ever stopping to take a closer look.  Thus, you might say that this stop on my road trip was long overdue.  The first photo is from the south, and looking uphill.

The entrance is from the west.  Through the open doorway, you can see the fireplace that forms the eastern face of the study.

On nearby College Avenue is this sign.

As seen in this shot from the southwest, the study is surrounded by trees and a light pole.

A short walk from the study brings you to a statue of Mark Twain, and one of Olivia.  As for the function of the conical sheath around the nearby tree, I have no idea.

The sidewalks of the Elmira College campus have been interspersed with bits of wisdom from Samuel Clemens, such as this one near where I parked, which these days seems more relevant than ever.

More on Mark Twain's study may be found at Atlas Obscura, The Constant Rambler and Mark Twain Country.

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