Hannibal News

Memorial Lighthouse to undergo first major renovation since 1994

The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse sits above the north end of Main Street in historic downtown Hannibal, Mo. The Lighthouse offers a panoramic view of Hannibal and the Mississippi River. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson
Phil Carlson 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: May. 20, 2017 8:30 pm

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse will undergo a major renovation next year, and engineering bids for structural analysis of the lighthouse will be solicited beginning in July.

"The lighthouse has severe water damage and rotting wood," Hannibal Parks and Recreation Director Andy Dorian said. "We've done work on it on and off each year, like patching holes, but we were just bandaging it. We can't Band-Aid it anymore."

In the lighthouse's more than 80-year history, it has undergone rebuilding and renovation once.

The Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse, purely ornamental and not meant to be used for river navigation, was built in 1935 to commemorate Mark Twain's 100th birthday. President Franklin D. Roosevelt lit the beacon from Washington, D.C., and Twain's daughter, Clara Clemens Gabrilowitsch, spoke about her father and the lighthouse from a live radio broadcast from Detroit.

"Hannibal's plan to flash the continuous light from the top of Cardiff Hill during the year of my father's centennial is a fine inspiration," she said at the time.

Strong winds leveled the lighthouse in 1960, and it was rebuilt three years later with wood and cedar shingles instead of the sheet iron and plywood that had covered it. President John F. Kennedy lit its new beacon.

A two-year renovation of the lighthouse, its only one since 1963, was completed in 1994, and President Bill Clinton lit the structure. The lighthouse has not undergone an extensive renovation since.

"It's time for some repairs," Dorian said.

Aside from repairs to the rotting wood and damaged structure, a new lighting scheme will be implemented.

"We'll work with the BPW (Hannibal Board of Public Works) to light up the whole lighthouse," Dorian said. "We hope people can see the lights from the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge and Lover's Leap."

Dorian's vision is that instead of having just a colored beacon, the entire lighthouse will glow pink for breast cancer awareness month, blue for autism awareness month and red, white and blue for the Fourth of July, among other colors reflecting other commemorations and celebrations.

"It's going to look really neat. We're excited," Dorian said.

The lighthouse stands 54 feet tall and 200 feet above the Mississippi River. After the Mark Twain Memorial Bridge changed locations in 2000, it was possible for people to walk up the 244 steps from the Tom and Huck Statue to the lighthouse.

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