CMTS Launches the Quarry Farm Preservation Campaign – and Needs You!

My name is Joe Lemak and I am the Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies. I’d like to welcome all of you, not only the familiar faces who are already part of the CMTS community – You know who you are! – but also all the people who are new to CMTS and Quarry Farm. We hope that you will join us as we grow our services for the local, national, and international constituencies we serve.

Quarry Farm is one of America’s most important literary landmarks and a true cornerstone of the historical and cultural legacy of the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes Region. This fall we are celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Mark Twain’s first visits to Elmira. It’s here that he would go on to write Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Prince and The Pauper, A Tramp Aboard, Life on the Mississippi, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, and many others!

A big part of the CMTS mission is the preservation and maintenance of the historical infrastructure that we are in charge of, namely Quarry Farm, the Mark Twain Study and Exhibit at Elmira College, and the Mark Twain Archive in the Gannett-Tripp Library.

To this end, CMTS has sought out professional help, enlisting the services of Johnson-Schmidt & Associates (Corning, NY), architects specializing in historical preservation. Elise Johnson-Schmidt and her team are currently in the process of preparing historic structures reports for both Quarry Farm and the Mark Twain Study. These documents have been funded by a number of grants we have applied for and received in the last year, a testament to how deserving these structures are of special attention. These grants include funding from the NYS Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation; Preservation League of New York; and the Mark Twain Foundation.

Johnson-Schmidt & Associates has already given us some preliminary feedback. They have prioritized a large-scale project for Quarry Farm: namely, the installation of a comprehensive heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, or “HVAC.”

A properly designed HVAC system addresses some of the most critical issues for the long-term stability of the Quarry Farm property, namely, the potentially corrosive impact of moisture and temperature changes on the historical furnishings and fabrics contained within, as well as upon the structure itself.

Properly designed humidity control will monitor and protect the building and its contents from the ill-effects of long-term moisture, which is a constant threat to historic buildings, and especially those with significant quantities of paper and textile resources. As Quarry Farm is home to a world-class library of Twain-related sources, many pieces of 19th-century furniture and artwork, and a recently-refurbished pre-Civil War rug, we must be vigilant on this front.

Furthermore, climate conditions within Quarry Farm are such that the broad fluctuation in temperature and humidity lead to deterioration of the building materials. Temperature fluctuations enhance the opportunity for insect decay, dry and wet rot, as well as mold, all of which need to be prevented.

It is important to consider the type and installation of the HVAC system so as to minimize its visual and structural impact to the house. Although no perfect system exists to control these aspects of the building for both resource and occupants, a system can be designed to significantly improve the climate controls to meet the needs of both constituents for the long-term preservation of Quarry Farm and the goals of the Langdon family gift.

Jervis Langdon, Jr.

Jervis Langdon Jr. gave Quarry Farm to Elmira College. Undoubtedly, it is a wonderful, unique gift. But Quarry Farm has no endowment, no extra monetary resources. As a result, all the former directors of CMTS have had to be extremely creative and resourceful in funding preservation/maintenance projects.

As you might have guessed, that’s where you all come in!

We are continuing this tradition of resourcefulness by launching the Quarry Farm Legacy Preservation Campaign!

This campaign will help fund the HVAC system necessary for the continued sustainability of the Quarry Farm property. Needless to say, this will not be an inexpensive project. One of the best ways to win big grants is to demonstrate community support, and the support that speaks the loudest is monetary support!

A current plaque outside the kitchen at Quarry Farm recognizes the generosity of local donors to our last preservation campaign, in 1986!

CMTS offers you the opportunity to be a part of Quarry Farm.  As part of the Quarry Farm legacy Preservation Campaign we will be honoring groups and individuals who make large donations by including their names on a memorial plaque, next to the plaque already gracing the entrance to Quarry Farm from our last preservations campaign…in 1986.

As that plaque suggests, this opportunity will not come again any time soon.  In fact, the next time we will do this will most likely be during the 200th anniversary, by which point I will be 96 years old (if I make it).  This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you, community leaders, to forever be a direct part of the proud legacy of Quarry Farm and Mark Twain Studies.

On this sesquicentennial of Mark Twain’s arrival in Elmira, we are also celebrating the community leaders of this region, both past and present. My colleague, Matt Seybold, discusses Elmirans’ long, proud tradition of generosity and community service in his commemoration of the anniversary, but here are just a few examples:

Thomas K. Beecher was the founding pastor of the Park Church. He made the congregation’s emphasis on community service a qualification for his accepting the pastorate in 1854. Beecher helped organize Elmira’ first public library and stood, along with those in his congregation, for the rights of all individuals, regardless of race or gender. He lived less than a mile from Quarry Farm and was a close friend of the Langdons, Cranes, and Clemenses.

Drs. Rachel and Silas Gleason

Drs. Rachel and Silas Gleason were founders of the Gleason Water Cure Health Resort, another structure that stood about a mile from Quarry Farm. The Gleasons were dedicated to our region’s health and wellness. I can’t think of a more noble pursuit than administering care to another human being. Samuel Clemens was particularly impressed with Rachel Gleason, who prided herself as an excellent midwife. He insisted that she deliver all of his daughters.

Matthias Arnot

Matthias Arnot was another major contributor to the industrial and civic growth of this region. He served on the Board and was President of numerous organizations including Elmira Lumber Company, Chemung Gas Company, Arnot Realty Company, the Board of Managers of the Elmira Reformatory and the Elmira Board of Education. He built an impressive art collection which became the foundation for Elmira’s Arnot Art Gallery.

Someone a bit closer to my racket is Augustus Cowles, the President of Elmira Female College. It is because of his efforts that we now have Elmira College, one of the pillars of our community, which recently joined forces with Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine to build a new medical school campus in downtown Elmira, a potentially revitalizing development for the neighborhood.

Charles Jervis Langdon

And to bring it back home, if you will, we have Charley Langdon, who first attracted Mark Twain to Elmira after they became friends on the Quaker City cruise in 1867. Charley was another successful business and civic leader, who was a patron to the educational and artistic institutions in his city and served on the city’s common council, as a member of its volunteer fire department, and as police commissioner. He was also instrumental in erecting Sullivan’s monument.

Last I’d like to point out is Jervis Langdon, Jr. As I mentioned before, it was his vision, that created the Center for Mark Twain Studies. Because of Jervis Lagndon, Jr. and his gift, Quarry Farm is not a roadside museum, but an internationally recognized academic center dedicated to one of the most celebrated authors of the world. One of the stipulations of this gift is that Quarry Farm can never be open to the public. Quarry Farm’s sole purpose is as a writing retreat for Mark Twain scholars. From this stipulation emerged the Center for Mark Twain Studies. More than 30 years later, Quarry Farm is an internationally recognized academic retreat for the most well-known and well-respected scholars who work in the field.

These civic leaders – doctors, lawyers, businesspeople, and patron of the arts – are our mirror. It is a cloudy mirror, but a mirror nonetheless. In these figures who belonged to our community, in some ways, we should try to see ourselves. You are all their cultural descendants, you are the leaders of our community in your own way, you are the people who ensure that their economic, artistic, cultural and political  legacy is sustained in a way that continues to benefit Elmira, the Southern Tier, and the international state of Mark Twain Studies.

All of these people were giving of their time and resources, and because of that they did great good, a good that reached past them and affected future generations.

If you are interested in joining our Quarry Farm Legacy Preservation Campaign, I encourage you to let me know. If you know someone who wants to take advantage of this opportunity, let me know.  I will be more than happy to talk with you, them, anybody! I look forward to working with you all. Thank you.


Joe Lemak’s Contact Information:

Dr. Joseph Lemak, Director of the Center for Mark Twain Studies

[email protected]

(607) 735-1941

Elmira College, 1 Park Place, Elmira, New York 14901