A little more than a week ago, I stood on a spot that might be regarded as sacred in American letters. The little clearing in front of me is the spot at Quarry Farm outside Elmira, in upstate New York, where Mark Twain wrote Huckleberry Finn. In 1874, Susan Crane–Twain’s sister-in-law, who managed the dairy farm–had a small octagonal study built at this spot so the author could write without the distractions of family and visitors.
The hillside was less wooded then, and the study had a clear view of the valley below and the town beyond. All that remains of the study today is the octagonal foundation, near my feet. My wife, Kim, and I were allowed to visit Quarry Farm for a picnic celebration following the international Twain conference at Elmira College, where I had delivered a paper earlier in the day. The farm is not open to the public, so it was the fulfillment of a boyhood dream to visit the place where Twain wrote so many of his major works.
The study was moved to the Elmira College campus in 1952. It’s open from late spring to early fall, and other times by appointment. The photo below the study is of Twain’s bust and a few of his books on the mantel of the study fireplace. Twain died April 21, 1910, at his home at Redding, Connecticut, and was buried with his wife, Livy, and other family members at Woodlawn Cemetery at Elmira. No literary trip to Elmira would be complete without paying respects at the gravesite. For more on Quarry Farm, visit this link to a page at the Center for Mark Twain Studies website.