What: Building / Architecture
Address: 351 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT 06105
Phone: (860) 247-0998
Hours: M-Sat 9:30am-5:30pm; Sun 12pm-5:30pm
Description: The Mark Twain House and Museum was the home of Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Langhorne Clemens) from 1874 to 1891 in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. The architectural style of the 19-room house is Victorian Gothic.
The house is also notable for the major works written during his residency, including The Gilded Age, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Huckleberry Finn, A Tramp Abroad and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.
Mark Twain moved to Hartford in 1871 and purchased the property for his new house in north Hartford. He did so to be closer to his publisher, American Publishing Company. Of Hartford, Twain said, “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief… You do not know what beauty is if you have not been here.” While in Connecticut, the family remarked “[the house] had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with.”
The top floor was the billiards room and his private study, where Twain would write late at night; the room was strictly off limits to all but the cleaning staff. It was also used for entertaining male guests with cigars and liquor. Twain had said “There ought to be a room in this house to swear in” and “It’s dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that.”
The children had their own area, with a nursery and a playroom/classroom. Twain played with his children in the conservatory, pretending to be an elephant in an imaginary safari. Twain noted the house “was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.”
Twain loved living in the house, partly because he knew many different authors from his Hartford neighborhood, such as Harriet Beecher Stowe who lived next door and Isabella Beecher Hooker. Also, he would stop in to visit his friend, actor William Gillette at Gillette Castle (today Gillette Castle State Park).
In 1881, with the success of Tom Sawyer, Twain had Louis Comfort Tiffany supervise the interior decoration of the house. Twain was also fascinated with new technologies, leading to the installation of an early telephone in the entrance hall. In that same year, Twain formed the firm Charles L. Webster & Company, which published Twain’s writings along with Ulysses S. Grant’s memoirs.
The company went bankrupt in 1894 because of the automated typesetting machine, leaving Twain with a large amount of debt. After enduring several bank panics and losses from investments in a typesetting machine, the Twains moved to Europe in 1891 where living was cheaper.
Twain began lecturing across the continent to recoup some money for their family, but tragedy prevented their return to the house. In 1893 Twain’s publishing company went bankrupt, daughter Susy Clemens died of meningitis in 1896 after a visit to Hartford, and Olivia refused to ever visit the house again. In 1903 the house was sold.
The house was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect from New York City. When the house was being built, the Hartford Daily Times noted, “The novelty displayed in the architecture of the building, the oddity of its internal arrangement and the fame of its owner will all conspire to make it a house of note for a long time to come.” The total cost of the house was $40,000, paid out of Mrs. Clemens’ inheritance.
The house was built on 3.5 acres of land and designed with seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a carriage house, and plant-filled conservatory. Bay windows extend up to form turrets that were topped with porches, allowing Twain and guests a view of what was a very pastoral area of Hartford. The home is in the style of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, including the typical steeply-pitched roof and an asymmetrical bay window layout. Legend says the home was designed to look like a riverboat.