Mark Twain Study and Gravesite

The author behind The Adventures of Tom Sawyer did much of his work in Elmira, New York, in this octagonal study now located on the campus of Elmira College. 

Exterior of Mark Twain Study at Mark Twain Study and Gravesite in Elmira, New York (photo courtesy of Elmira College)

After Mark Twain married his wife, Olivia, in 1870, he spent more than 20 summers at his sister-in-law’s farm near Elmira in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Twain relished the peace and quiet of the farm, where he spent his days writing in an octagonal study that resembled a riverboat pilothouse.

Built specifically for him, the study’s idiosyncratic architecture was a nod to the years Twain spent working on the Mississippi River. His classic novels inspired by that experience, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, made him one of the nation’s most popular and influential writers.

Arguably one of the most important structures in American literature, the Mark Twain Study is now a beautifully preserved landmark located in the heart of Elmira College’s campus. The college is also at the forefront of Mark Twain studies and brings in scholars from around the globe. Twain’s study is open to the public during the summer and displays photos of the author wearing his famous white suit and smoking his trademark cigars.

Docents are on hand to discuss the study’s significance as well as the great personal contentment and professional success resulting from Twain’s productive summers in Elmira. In the adjacent Cowles Hall, a historic building that was the first to be built on the campus in 1855, a Mark Twain exhibit features many personal items that belonged to the author, his wife and his in-laws.

Twain’s gravesite in Elmira’s Woodlawn Cemetery is also a popular attraction, and visitors from around the world often leave cigars there in his honor. His tombstone bears his given name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, while a nearby granite monument erected by the author’s daughter Clara stands 12 feet tall, which fittingly enough, signifies both her father’s pseudonym and the old riverboat term for the depth of safe water: Mark Twain. Study: 1 Park Place, Elmira, New York 14901, 607/735-1941,; Gravesite: 1200 Walnut St., Elmira, New York 14905