HANNIBAL, Mo. —The hubbub could be right out of a Mark Twain tale.
Although researchers say the new paint job on the outside of Becky Thatcher's house matches the original color, not all of the comments have been favorable. Some have gone so far as to compare it to what you'd find inside a baby's diaper.
"It's kind of a caramely chocolate yellow," said Ryan Murray, spokesman for the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. "Not quite brown, not quite yellow. People have asked why we chose that color. But it's grown on me, I really like it now."
The home of Laura Hawkins, who was said to be the inspiration for the Becky Thatcher character in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," sits across the street from the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, who earned international acclaim as an author under the pen name Mark Twain.
The Hawkins home, along with all of Hannibal, is getting spruced up for 2010, which by gubernatorial proclamation will be the Year of Mark Twain. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Twain's death, the 175th of his birth and the 125th of the publication of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn."
"We're trying to get President Obama to make the same declaration, but that's a little tougher than the governor," Murray said.
Visitors to Hannibal can cruise the mighty Mississippi on the Mark Twain Riverboat, visit the Mark Twain Cave where Tom and Becky got lost while running from Injun Joe, and browse the shops on Main Street, many of which will have special items that commemorate the anniversaries.
Beau Hicks, director of the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau, said downtown Hannibal had grown over the past five years from a "trinket and souvenir lovers paradise" to a "mix of modern boutiques, specialty shops, art galleries and confection shops."
But visitors should make their first stop the Mark Twain Museum in the heart of the historic district.
On the first floor, the museum has exhibits that feature five of Twain's books. You can walk through a simulated cave as Tom Sawyer or sit on a raft similar to the one that took Huckleberry Finn down the river. Artifacts on display include Twain's writing desk, white linen coat, top hat and well-worn pipe.
Upstairs is a gallery with 15 drawings done by Norman Rockwell as illustrations for editions of the Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn books. Rockwell visited Hannibal to get an accurate perspective on the town. He found that the famous cave did not have stalactites hanging from the ceiling as previously portrayed, but instead was lined with ledges.
"Each day during June, July and August, we'll have conversations here at the museum with Mark Twain, featuring two re-enactors," Murray said. "They'll be from 2 to 2:20 in the afternoon and free to the public."
After touring the museum, head up Main Street a few short blocks to Hill Street and the interpretive center and five historically significant buildings, including the Clemens and Hawkins family homes. The museum ticket gets you into the center and buildings, and a $10 contribution to the endowment fund will let you sign the white-washed fence outside.
The interpretive center tells about the author's early life in Hannibal. A quote from his autobiography explained his relationship with the town: "Hannibal has had a hard time of it ever since I can recollect. First, it had me for a citizen, but I was too young then to really hurt the place."
John Marshall Clemens brought his family to Hannibal when Samuel was 4, purchased several buildings on the street and became a justice of the peace. John Clemens died at the age of 49, when Sam was 11. "I was taken from school upon my father's death and placed in the office of the Hannibal Courier, as a printer's apprentice," he wrote.
Clemens left Hannibal in 1853. Twenty years later, he began writing "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." His last visit to Hannibal was in 1902, when he was asked to hand out diplomas to the high school graduating class. He did so, randomly, obliging the seniors to sort through the paperwork.
The other three buildings are a reproduction of the home of Tom Blankenship, who was the inspiration for Huck Finn, the law office of John Clemens and Grant's Drug Store, which looks as if the druggist just stepped out for a house call.
Mark Twain sites from Elmira, N.Y., to Calaveras County in California also will be celebrating the anniversaries. Hannibal has created a Web site, twain2010.org, for festivities that will be happening throughout the year. In Hannibal, the events include: