Hannibal city officials looking at two options for Molly Brown House — shut it down or move it

Molly Brown House

The house has encountered mold and foundation problems because of rainwater getting inside. It remains closed and will not open until the problems are fixed. | Shane Hulsey

HANNIBAL, Mo. — The Hannibal City Council is expected to decide the Molly Brown House’s fate in less than two weeks, and one option seems to hold the edge over the other.

“We’re either going to move it, which we’ve already pretty much approved doing, or we’re going to shut it down and just not have it as a tourist attraction, which we don’t want to do,” Hannibal Mayor Barry Louderman said.

The house is the birthplace of Molly Brown, who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic and advocated for women’s rights. It has encountered mold and foundation problems because of rainwater getting inside. It remains closed and will not open until the problems are fixed.

Louderman said the cost to move the house — about $100,000 — would prove more cost effective than trying to fix the issues at the current site.

“The tourism budget could easily withstand that, but I’m hoping that we get mostly private funds to move it,” Louderman said. “Once we move it downtown, it will more than pay for itself.”

If the council approves the move, the house would occupy a property at the corner of Hill and Main neighboring the Mark Twain Boyhood Home. Trisha O’Cheltree, executive director of the Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau, said this location would be more advantageous than the current one at 600 Butler.

“It’s a better location from a tourist’s perspective,” O’Cheltree said. “It’s much easier to get there if you’re coming in on one of the boats that are docking here. If you’re downtown already walking around, you’ll stumble across it whether you knew about it or not.”

O’Cheltree introduced a proposal at the May 21 meeting that outlined the actions needed to preserve the house. She will present a proposal to the Hannibal City Council again on June 18.

“My job is to provide them with the facts of what we’re dealing with and let them make that decision,” O’Cheltree said.

Even if the home were to move, O’Cheltree said it would not lose its historical significance.

“We would keep the home as historic as possible while moving it,” she said. “We could also place a placard where the home currently sits.”

Louderman said Brown’s role in not only Hannibal history but United States history provides all the more reason to preserve the house that commemorates her.

“For people to understand history, it has to stay in people’s minds,” Louderman said. “She’s just a very important figure. She was one of those women who didn’t tolerate not being respected. She’s a good example for a lot of people.”

O’Cheltree echoed Louderman, noting the significance tourism holds in Hannibal.

“I hope that we’re able to keep this home around and spread the word about her and the other attractions in town,” O’Cheltree said. “We’re just looking at a way to not lose the property and to get some exposure downtown.”

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