Twain's House


Patricia Truslow, Contributor

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twain houseThe boyhood home of Mark Twain was in Hannibal, Missouri, located close to the banks of the Mississippi River. John Clemens, his father, moved the family to Hannibal from Florida, Missouri when little Sam was around four-years-old. The years Twain's home was in Hannibal provided him with friendships, experiences and observations that he would use to write hundreds and hundreds of literary masterpieces.

The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut was the home of the famous author from 1874 to 1891. Twain first visited Hartford in 1868, during the time he was writing his first published work, Innocents Abroad, which was published by American Publishing Company, located in Hartford. In order to be near to his publisher, Twain purchased property in Hartford and built the home, moving into it in 1874. Twain said of Hartford: "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." At the time, it was the most financially stable town in America for earning a living.

The nineteen-room Mark Twain house was opulent by the standards of the day. Edward T. Potter, a New York architect, designed the house, the cost of which was paid for with the inheritance of Twain's wife, Livy. The style of the house is Victorian Gothic Revival, featuring a pitched roof that resembles a steeple. People of the time often said Twain's home resembled a steamboat.

The top floor was primarily two rooms, one for billiards and one a study where Twain would write at night. The only members of the Twain household that were allowed on the top floor were Twain and the cleaning staff. Otherwise, the floor was used for his male guests where liquor and cigars were plentiful, and swear words dominated much of the conversation. Twain said of this floor: "There ought to be room in this house to swear in. It's dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that."

A special area for the children's nursery and a playroom was located on the second floor. Livy Clemens also tutored her daughters in a large classroom on the same floor. There was also a conservatory where Twain often entertained and played with his children. Mark Twain loved the house, because he felt it "was of us." Additionally Mark Twain's house in Hartford provided him an opportunity to be among his author friends, such as his neighbor, Harriett Beecher Stowe.

It was in this home that Mark Twain wrote many of his best literary works, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi. Some of the proceeds from the sale of Tom Sawyer were spent renovating the home in 1881, when it was only seven years old.

In 1891, the Twains left the home in Hartford and moved to Europe to escape hard financial times. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and received an extensive renovation in 1974. Today, the home of Mark Twain is a showcase of his life and literary work. The address of the home is: 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06105. It is open on Wednesdays from 9:30 AM until 5:30 PM.

When the family returned to the United States in 1900 following the death of his wife, Twain lived at Stormfield in Redding, Connecticut where he died in 1910. Stormfield was built without Twain overseeing the construction; he only approved the plans for it, saying he wanted no responsibility for it, only the pleasure of seeing it when it was completed. He arrived in Redding on June 18, 1908, never to leave. He originally named the house "Innocents at Home," but changed the name to "Stormfield" after a heavy storm came through in the Fall of 1908. His work, "Captain Stormfield" had made enough money to pay for the construction of Mark Twain's last home.

Following his death, the property remained empty until it was purchased in 1923 by a private family. During extensive renovations, the house caught fire and burned to the ground. Stormfield was rebuilt modeling Twain's home, but on a smaller scale. It remains privately owned.