When we arrived, I had not intended to post anything on Hannibal. On a Thursday night, nothing in the historic downtown was open; there were no cars or pedestrians on the street. Everything was closed up and looked pretty dismal.
It just looked like a pathetic attempt to capitalize on the fact that Samuel Clemens lived there from age four to eighteen. The Mark Twain Dinette had very nice servers and very mediocre food (however we did not try their homemade root beer). We did not choose: to visit the Mark Twain Cave Complex or to ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat: to eat in Becky’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor & Emporium (no banana split); or to visit the Huck Finn Freedom Center or Pudd’N Heads shop.
But as I had spent too many consecutive days driving, I decided just to rest for a couple nights. The next day, we discovered a different Hannibal. Closer observation revealed that while there
were vacant lots, the existing buildings were all occupied and in good repair. The city-fathers had done some work on the streets, pavements and parks. There were interesting shops and restaurants that were still operating on winter hours but came alive on a Friday for the weekend.
Even though the weekly farmers market and main street arts and craft fair would not begin until Memorial Day, there was plenty of entertainment. There was a singer featured at the university and a comedian who had been on Jay Leno’s program at the high school. There was live entertainment in several restaurants, and a civic group sponsored the first of weekly “concerts by the river” to benefit the YMCA. We met people with their vintage hot rods coming in for the weekend car
show. Saturday would also have a gospel music show, 5K race and chess tournament. Local art galleries have banded together to present a once a week “art night,” and I was disappointed to have missed the exhibit of the local school children’s art because the painting on the poster was wonderful.
The old buildings are well marked (even bootlegger’s homes and brothels). We learned about Twain – his lawyer father died when he was 11 and he had to leave school. We learned about the city – more than a thousand steamboats a year would land in the pre-Civil War days making it the third largest commercial center in Missouri.
Some large building was under construction on a bluff that once contained caves utilized by bootleggers. Another bigger building was in the process of being restored to house a brewery-restaurant combination opening in June.