Quarry Farm Fireplace Writing Contest Gives Local Students A Chance To Visit Mark Twain’s Living Room

Tessa Baker, from Finn Academy in Elmira, reads her contest winning story.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, The Center for Mark Twain Studies sponsored a creative writing contest for area students in grades 2-6, encouraging students to explore Mark Twain’s legacy and the importance of the Langdon family in Elmira and the Twin Tiers.

While staying at Quarry Farm, Mark Twain encouraged his children to create and tell their own stories based off the tiles adorning the parlor fireplace. The 24 tiles around the fireplace depict fables written by ancient Greek storyteller, Aesop, who utilized animals, such as crows, snakes, mice, and foxes, to illustrate moral lessons.

Students from schools within a 25-mile radius of Quarry Farm were encouraged to access the fireplace tiles on the CMTS website, MarkTwainStudies.org, and create their own stories based on the tile images.

Four area students were selected for their creative writings: Tessa Baker, Finn Academy; Alexa Fairbanks, Fassett Elementary; Mayla Falank, Cohen Elementary; and Alana Heath, Hendy Elementary.

The winning students and their classmates received a personal tour inside Quarry Farm, open only to Twain Scholars. They were able to read their story next to the Quarry Farm parlor fireplace, tour the main floor and grounds, and enjoy Mark Twain’s favorite dessert: gingerbread, vanilla ice cream, and lemonade.

Mayla Falank, from Cohen Elementary in Elmira Heights, points to the tile that inspired her story.

While Quarry Farm will never be a roadside museum,  we very much want it to be part of the Elmira legacy. We are quite aware that Mark Twain is a cornerstone of the historical and cultural narrative of Elmira and the Southern Tier.

The staff of CMTS facilitates dozens of school field trips every year, taking students to visit the Mark Twain Study on the Elmira College campus, the grounds and barn at Quarry Farm, and the family gravesite at Woodlawn National Cemetery. However, access to the main house is a rare treat.

We want these students to be proud that they grow up in Elmira, to learn how important the Langdon family was to Mark Twain, and how important Twain is to U.S. history and culture. We hope that this contest helps them see that Twain’s history and the Langdon’s history is their history as well.

For teachers interested in bringing the life of Mark Twain and his literature into their classrooms, CMTS strongly encourages you to explore our internet resources dedicated to teachers.

For coverage about this story from the Elmira Star Gazette, click here.

Finn Academy, Elmira, New York

Cohen Elementary, Elmira Heights, New York

Fassett Elementary, Elmira, New York

Hendy Avenue Elementary, Elmira, New York