This year our family traveled to upstate, New York – and we were blown away by all there is to both see and do in this beautiful region of the country! Not only is upstate New York incredibly beautiful, it also has an incredible history. And while “upstate” New York cities like Corning, and Watkins Glen are fabulous family friendly vacation trips, you would be remiss – if you didn’t also make a stop in the historic city of Elmira.
And one of the most impressive parts of Elmira’s history, is that it’s where celebrated author Mark Twain lived, and wrote many of his classic books!
And what better way to get some insight into Mark Twain and his literary genius, than to visit his famous Study?
Mark Twain’s connection to Elmira, New York first started when Twain’s friend showed him a photograph of his sister. Mark Twain must have felt something very special when he saw that photograph of Olivia Langdon – because it started a whirlwind courtship! In 1870 that passionate courtship turned into marriage. And subsequently, the Twain family spent more than twenty summers in Elmira.
In fact, Mark Twain called Elmira “a foretaste of heaven…”
In order to give Twain a quiet space to write, the octagonal study was built and perched upon a hill at Quarry Farm. The Study was built to resemble a Mississippi steamboat pilot house, and the green and blue rolling hills below must have looked very much like the waves of a great river, from Twain’s vantage point!
The Mark Twain Study, is where Twain wrote literary classics including – Roughing It, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, A Tramp Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many other works as well!
The Mark Twain Study was named the “#1 Literary Attraction in America” by USA Today! And I’m not at all surprised.
You really get a sense of Twain as soon as you step inside. Being in the same spot that so many beloved literary masterpieces were written is truly a humbling experience. And you also get the feeling that Twain was so much more than an author. Seeing photos of him with his precious family is heartwarming. And seeing his iconic cigars laying on a study table, and the simplicity of the space – conjurs up such vivid images of Mark Twain in his element!
The picturesque campus of Elmira College is now home to Mark Twain’s Study, and it also houses the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Visitors can get a close up view of historic artifacts from Quarry Farm, the Langdon family mansion, or view photographs and media covering Twain’s life and times.
The easiest way to see Mark Twain Country including the Twain study, and his final resting place – is to take advantage of the Trolley into Twain Country tour that runs seasonally.
Board an authentic trolley and learn all about Elmira’s historic districts, including Civil War sites, and Elmira’s connection to the Underground Railroad.
During times of the year that the Trolley is not running, the Mark Twain Study is open by appointment. And Woodlawn Cemetery (where Twain was buried) also keeps regular visiting hours. While Woodlawn National Cemetery is also home to several other notable historic figures, it is the Twain Family graves that touch me most deeply.
It’s not unusual for visitors to leave cigars on Mark Twain’s grave, or flowers by the graves of his beloved family. Mark Twain along with much celebration in the literary world, also endured much heartbreak in his personal life.
And it’s the writing that Twain put on his young daughter Olivia Susan “Susy” Clemens grave, that I find perhaps most moving – and that humanizes Mark Twain for me the most.
“Warm summer sun
shine brightly here,
Warm Southern wind
blow softly here,
Green sod above
lie light, lie light,
Good night, dear heart;
good night, good night.”
The connection to Mark Twain, is just one of many reasons to visit Elmira, New York! For more information on visiting historic Mark Twain sites, as well as other attractions in the Elmira area: http://www.marktwaincountry.com/
Plan your Trip:
Trolley into Twain Country:http://www.marktwaincountry.com/mark-twain/trolley-into-twain-country-tours
Woodlawn National Cemetary: http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/nchp/woodlawn.asp
Elmira College: http://www.elmira.edu/
For other posts about visiting Mark Twain Country, check back soon!
Special thanks to the Chemung Chamber of Commerce for hosting our visit.