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In 1874, Samuel Clemens — better known by his pen name, Mark Twain — moved into a 25-room Farmington Avenue mansion in Hartford, Connecticut, with his wife, Livy, and their two young daughters, Susy and Clara (baby sister Jean would come along in 1880). The family spent a total of 17 lively years in the house, and it’s where Clemens wrote some of his best-loved works.
Tour the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The family left the house when they moved to Europe in 1891. Given Susy’s sudden death from meningitis in 1896 at the age of 24, and Jean’s death from drowning in 1909 at the age of 29, the Clemens’ time in Hartford came to represent some of their happiest years.
The house became a boys’ school and then an apartment building before being rescued in 1929 by the Friends of Hartford, which established the Mark Twain Memorial and Library Commission to restore the house to its original appearance.
Named one of the 10 Best Historic Homes in the World by
National Geographic, the Mark Twain House in Hartford is today a thriving museum that attracts visitors and Twain fans (not to mention architecture buffs) from all over the world.
Here’s a look at my visit to the Mark Twain House in the summer of 2016. My thanks to Deb Cohen for assisting with my visit, and to Steve Courtney and his book
for the information in the captions below. The Loveliest Home That Ever Was Virtual Tour:
The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut Welcome to the Mark Twain House & Museum, open daily! Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker When you arrive, make your way to the museum to take in the exhibits there. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Next to the gift shop is a likeness of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, made entirely out of Lego pieces. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The gift shop itself is stocked with every Mark Twain book, gift, and memento you can imagine. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Inside the museum center, you’ll learn more about the members of the family who lived in the house, including Sam and Livy Clemens’s daughters, Clara, Susy, and Jean. Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons And, naturally, you’ll learn more about the author himself. This picture was taken just before the family moved into the Farmington Avenue house. Photo Credit : Wikimedia Commons Assuming you’ve purchased a house tour ticket, you’ll make your way to the house itself, located next door to the museum. If you’ve seen any photos of the Clemens family at their home in Hartford, you’ll likely recognize the porch with its painted brickwork. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Getting ready to step inside the Mark Twain House. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker As you walk into the entrance hall, your eyes will need a moment to adjust to the darkness. The room is kept dim to mimic how it would have appeared in the late 19th century under the glow of gas lighting. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Iridescent stenciling accented by wooden moldings is everywhere in the entrance hall, giving it a Middle Eastern vibe. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Be sure to look up. The banisters and balustrades were deliberately distorted to make the stairwell appear even more impressive to the visitor’s eye. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Fanning off from the entrance hall are the drawing room, dining room, and library. In contrast to the entrance hall, the drawing room was designed to be a bright and colorful place to receive guests. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker This Steinway piano in the drawing room stands in for the original one owned by the Clemenses. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Up next is the dining room (not pictured is a large custom sideboard), which leads into the library. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker In the library, darkness descends again but is eased by the sunny conservatory at the back. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker A cozy reading chair in front of the fire. The library was considered “the social center of the house.” Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker This magnificent carved mantelpiece was brought over from Ayton Castle in Scotland. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The sculpture of Eve just outside the conservatory was created by Karl Gerhardt, a German-American artist from Hartford. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Clemens would romp around like an elephant in this conservatory to amuse his daughters. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Another view of the conservatory with its bubbling fountain. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Also on the first floor is the Mahogany Room, which was undergoing meticulous renovations during my visit (it reopened in December 2016). Beyond is a spacious en-suite bathroom that doubled as a dressing room for the Clemens children when they put on plays in the library. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker In the master bedroom upstairs is Livy’s desk — the perfect spot to enjoy a cup of tea. I’m particularly fond of the wallpaper in this room, too. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The focal point of the master bedroom is the walnut bed the Clemenses purchased in Venice in 1879. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Clemens in his favorite bed in 1906. He called it “the most comfortable bedstead that ever was, with space enough in it for a family, and carved angels enough surmounting its twisted columns and its headboard and footboard to bring peace to the sleepers, and pleasant dreams.” Photo Credit : Courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum Sam and Livy famously put their pillows at the “wrong” end of the bed, facing the angel-strewn headboard. The often-repeated line is that Clemens “wanted to see what he paid for.” Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The angels on the corner of the bed are removable, which made them ideal playthings for the Clemens daughters. You can see they’re worn in spots from so much handling. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Near the master bedroom is a room that originally served as Livy’s personal space for reading and sewing but later became a room for teenaged daughter Susy. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Also on the second floor is the room Clemens referred to as “Ma’s bedroom” in honor of its most frequent long-term occupant, Livy’s widowed mother. The ceiling stencil was reproduced from the original. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Today’s nursery is outfitted with two brass beds, based on Clara Clemens’s memories of her childhood. The whimsical wallpaper, a reproduction of the original, tells the story of an animal wedding. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker Ready for afternoon tea in the nursery. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The bathroom connecting the nursery to the study and school room. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The fireplace in the schoolroom, which was originally Clemens’s study. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The Fischer upright piano in the schoolroom was given to the girls for Christmas in 1880. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker On the third floor, you can peek into a room that was most frequently occupied by the family’s beloved butler, George Griffin, on evenings when his duties required him to stay late. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker There’s also a guest bedroom that Clara and Susy both thought of as “spooky.” Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The third floor’s star attraction is the Billiard Room, with its three doors leading out to three balconies. The room served as Clemens’s office and private space; he wrote some of his most famous works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, at the table in the back corner. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The room was often full of male guests, thick cigar smoke, and sound of clacking billiard balls. This billiard table was a gift to Clemens in 1904. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The third floor also offers another architectural view to admire. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker A back staircase returns you to the first floor for a look at the kitchen and pantry. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The kitchen wing was only recently renovated for visitors (until 2003 it housed museum offices). It has been meticulously restored to what might have been there during the Clemens era based on “building archaeology.” For example, this Cyrus Carpenter & Co. coal stove fit a shape visible on the chimney. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The butler’s pantry was where the family’s china, crystal, and silver were kept. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker After the house tour, I took a moment to enjoy the sun-dappled exterior with my new knowledge of what lay inside. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker The Clemenses were animal lovers, most notably when it came to cats. And wouldn’t you know it, as I was leaving I saw a black cat trotting along the edge of the parking lot. No doubt the Clemens family would approve. Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Have you ever visited the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut? If you want more, check out their
3-D Virtual Tour. This post was first published in 2017 and has been updated. Mark Twain House & Museum. 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT. 860-247-0998; marktwainhouse.org SEE MORE: