Lovell leaving Twain's boyhood home in Hannibal, taking job at Twain site in Connecticut

Cindy Lovell
Posted: Jan. 11, 2013 6:34 am Updated: Feb. 1, 2013 6:55 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Cindy Lovell, who has lived and breathed Mark Twain lore for most of her adult life, is moving from one dream job to another.

Lovell is leaving her post as executive director of Hannibal's Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum to become executive director of the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Conn.

She will leave Hannibal March 1 and start her new assignment March 4.

"I'm very excited," Lovell said. "I'm going to have the same boss (Twain). I'm just going to have a new address."

For the past 4 1/2 years, Lovell has been overseeing the historic sites in Hannibal where Mark Twain sent his formative boyhood years -- roughly from ages 4 to 18. Those properties include the modest white house on Hill Street where Twain, then known as Samuel L. Clemens, grew up.

Starting March 4, she will oversee the place where Twain spent his prime years as a husband, father and author -- the lavish dream home he built with his wife, Livy, whom he married in 1870.

It was while he was living in the Hartford house -- roughly from ages 39 to 56 -- that Twain wrote some of his most famous books, notably "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876), "Life on the Mississippi" (1883) and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884).

Getting to oversee Twain's boyhood home and Hartford home in consecutive jobs is a stroke of good fortune for someone who describes herself as "a Mark Twain addict since I was 10 years old."

"I feel so blessed to have these two roles," Lovell said. "I've always said I'm the luckiest person I know. I'm just going to have to keep saying that."

Lovell knows the Hartford home pretty well already. That's because she grew up in Pennsylvania -- not far from Hartford -- and visited the home often after her affection for Twain was ignited by a fourth-grade teacher who would read aloud excerpts from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," a book patterned after Twain's experiences growing up in Hannibal.

"What I love about the Hartford home is it's where he raised his family," Lovell said. "Here in Hannibal, it's been great to work on the story of his own childhood."

Lovell said the Hartford home is treasured by Twain fans because that's where he lived from 1874 to 1891 while writing some of his most beloved books.

"He would go up to Elmira, N.Y., to his sister-in-law's farm -- Quarry Farm -- and they would spend their summers up there," Lovell said. "They spent 22 summers in Elmira, and he would write a lot while he was there. And then back at Hartford he would continue writing and editing. So the manuscripts from ‘Tom Sawyer,' ‘Huck Finn' -- all those great works -- were strewn all about that house."

Because of financial problems, Twain moved his family to Europe in 1891 for an extended lecture tour designed to raise money. He never moved back to the Hartford home he loved so dearly.

"The sad part about the house is that's where their oldest daughter, Susy, died of meningitis (in 1896) while they were still away on this lecture tour," Lovell said. "After her death in the home, they could never bring themselves to live in the home again and it sat vacant. Then they sold it (in 1903)."

Like the Hannibal home, Twain's Hartford house was eventually bought for historic preservation purposes. Both homes are now literary landmarks and tourist destinations. The boyhood home attracted about 60,000 visitors last year, while the Hartford home drew about 75,000, Lovell said.

David Mobley, president of the Mark Twain Home Foundation's governing board, said Lovell will be "greatly missed" in Hannibal.

"Dr. Lovell has tirelessly worked for the benefit of both the Mark Twain Home Foundation and the community in striving to preserve the legacy of Mark Twain and in showing his continued relevance in the world today," Mobley said in a press release.

Henry Sweets, curator of the Mark Twain Museum, said Lovell's "boundless and contagious enthusiasm for all things Mark Twain is evident in her work."

He added: "Her vision of the future for the Mark Twain Museum is positive and inspiring and has started the museum moving in new directions."

Lovell spearheaded "Mark Twain: Words & Music," a double-CD telling Twain's life story through spoken words and songs. Lovell wrote the narrative for the project, which features Clint Eastwood as Twain, Jimmy Buffett as Huck Finn and Garrison Keillor as the narrator. The CD includes songs performed by Brad Paisley, Sheryl Crow, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs and other artists.

In 2012, Lovell worked with Missouri legislators, the Mark Twain House and Museum and other Twain sites to help push the Mark Twain Commemorative Coin Act through Congress. The bill, signed into law in December, will benefit four major Twain sites once coins are minted in 2016.

Lovell won numerous awards during her time in Hannibal. She received the Missouri Governor's Ambassador Award for Tourism in 2012, the Community Achievement Award from the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce in 2011 and the Hannibal NAACP Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in 2010.

While in Hannibal, Lovell coordinated Young Authors workshops, writing workshops and co-directed teacher workshops with Sweets. She also traveled across the country for speaking engagements, teacher education programs and Big Read events.

Lovell has been an associate professor of education at Quincy University since 2007. She will step down from that position after fulfilling some remaining obligations.




The Mark Twain Home Foundation's governing board and the staff of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum will host a farewell reception for Cindy Lovell from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 23 in the museum gallery, 120 N. Main. The event is open to the public. Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP to Mai Conrad by calling (573) 221-9010, ext. 401, by Feb. 20.