Molly Brown’s Hannibal home to reopen

HANNIBAL, Mo. (AP) — Molly Brown’s tiny home in historic Hannibal may never rival that of the town’s other famous character — Mark Twain — but it may soon reopen as a museum, too.

The Hannibal Courier-Post reports that if renovation plans involving several city agencies, local volunteers and companies succeed, the home where the legendary Titanic survivor grew up could reopen to the public by Memorial Day.

Councilman Lou Barta said the goal is to open the home as a touring museum.

Local attorneys Vicki and Terrell Dempsey purchased the home 13 years ago and performed extensive renovation. They operated it as a museum until donating it to the city in 2007.

But it was not reopened after the city took over, and it now needs repairs, including work to fix water damage.

Twain’s boyhood home just a few blocks away draws hundreds of thousands of visitors annually. At its peak, the Molly Brown home drew about 3,000.

Still, officials believe the small frame home is an important part of history.

Earlier this month, the city council voted to fund some of the improvements. City manager Jeff LaGarce estimates the cost at $8,900.

Meanwhile, volunteers and local companies will handle other upgrades, including mold removal work and sump pump improvements that will take place soon. The city street department will then put in a new draining ditch for water diversion, Barta said.

Asphalt leading to the home on a steep hillside not far from the Mississippi River must also be repaired. Volunteers will likely handle painting of the exterior, and improvements to the interior ceiling.

“We need to be committed to keeping it open,” Dempsey said. “We want to make sure it’s still here” in 50 years.

The Victorian era laborer’s cottage was little more than a shack when Molly’s parents, Irish immigrants John and Johanna Tobin, built it in 1860. Molly was born in 1867. The Tobins raised six children in the four-room house.

Eventually, Molly moved to Colorado to live with her brother. She met and married James Joseph Brown, who went on to make a fortune in mining. Molly became a part of Denver society.

She was part of the Titanic voyage when the great ship struck an iceberg and went down on April 15, 1912, killing 1,500. Many of the survivors were immigrant women and children. Molly took charge of the group, translating for them. One story says she would point a pistol at lifeboat passengers who balked at searching the waters for more survivors.

Molly Brown died in 1932 at age 65. About 30 years later, the musical and movie, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown,” renewed interest in her life.

By then, her old childhood home was still standing, but barely. On the verge of demolition, the Marion County Historical Society bought the house in 1965, restored it, and opened it to tours. It closed again in the 1970s. By the time the Dempseys bought it, the home had been vacant for two decades.

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Information from: Hannibal Courier-Post, http://www.hannibal.net

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