Mark Twain’s Study at Elmira College

Apr 7, 2017 0 comments

On the campus of Elmira College in upstate New York sits a small octagonal wooden cabin with a writing desk and chair, a brick fireplace and a few other memorabilia related to Mark Twain. It was inside this cozy cabin where the celebrated American writer produced some of his best works, such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, A Tramp Abroad, Life on the Mississippi, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Now if you are picturing Mark Twain striding across the grass campus of Elmira College every morning to lock himself up inside a tiny room to write while students peer at him through the glass windows, and think that’s odd, you are right—because the study wasn’t originally located here; it was brought to Elmira College in 1952, long after the death of Mark Twain.


Photo credit: Elmira College/Flickr

Mark Twain spent most of his productive years at Quarry Farm, the home of his sister-in-law, Susan Crane. But Twain was a chain smoker, and Susan didn't want to inhale all that second-hand smoke. So she built him a study to give him some quiet and also to keep the smoke out. It about 12 feet across and designed to resemble a Mississippi steamboat pilot house. The study was located a short distance from the house on a rock promontory overlooking the serpentine Chemung River, whose waters were said to have an inspirational effect on Twain. The study had little cat doors for feline creatures to keep him company.

Twain called it “the loveliest study you ever saw”.


The study in its original location provided spectacular views.

“It is octagonal in shape with a peaked roof, each space filled with a spacious window and it sits perched in complete isolation on the very top of an elevation that commands leagues of valleys and city and retreating ranges of distant blue hill. It is a cozy nest and just room in it for a sofa, table, and three or four chairs, and when the storms sweep down the remote valley and the lightning flashes behind the hills beyond and the rain beats upon the roof over my head—imagine the luxury of it,” Mark Twain wrote in a letter.

“On hot days I spread the study wide open, anchor my papers down with brickbats and write in the midst of the hurricanes, clothed in the same thin linen we make shirts of. The study is nearly on the peak of the hill; it is right in front of the little perpendicular wall of rock left where they used to quarry stones. On the peak of the hill is an old arbor roofed with bark and covered with the vine you call the “American Creeper”—its green is almost bloodied with red. The Study is 30 yards below the old arbor and 100 yards above the dwelling-house—it is remote from all noises,” Twain wrote in another letter.

Mark Twain’s study is today one of the most famous literary attraction in America.


Photo credit: Elmira College/Flickr

Sources: NPR / Workalicious / /


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