Connecticut

Exploring The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut

On a bustling city street in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, the Mark Twain House & Museum offers a vibrant, intimate look at the Clemens family during some of their happiest days.

By Aimee Tucker

May 24 2021

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The Mark Twain House & Museum

Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Please note that many establishments throughout New England have modified their hours and/or operations in response to COVID-19. Please check with individual businesses and organizations for the latest information before making travel plans.
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.
Mark Twain House
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 The Loveliest Home That Ever Was for the information in the captions below.

Virtual Tour: The Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut

Welcome to the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT!
Welcome to the Mark Twain House & Museum, open daily!
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Mark Twain House
When you arrive, make your way to the museum to take in the exhibits there.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Inside you're greeted by a Mark Twain made entirely out of LEGO pieces.
Next to the gift shop is a likeness of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, made entirely out of Lego pieces.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
And the gift shop itself is full of every Twain book, gift, and memento you can imagine.
The gift shop itself is stocked with every Mark Twain book, gift, and memento you can imagine.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Inside the Visitors Center, you'll learn more about the Clemens family, which included Sam and Livy's three daughters, Clara, Jean, and Susy.
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
mark twain house
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
After purchasing your tour ticket, you'll soon be making your way to the house itself, which is just 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.
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
Mark Twain House
The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Getting ready to step inside the Mark Twain House.
Getting ready to step inside the Mark Twain House.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Mark Twain House
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
Mark Twain House
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 to enjoy the ceiling view three stories higher.
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. Pictured here is the drawing room, a bright and colorful place to receive guests.
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
The Steinway piano in the drawing room. This one did not belong to the Clemenses, but stands in for the original they did.
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. Around this table, many a memorable family meal and lavish dinner party were enjoyed. Not pictured is the large custom sideboard.
Up next is the dining room (not pictured is a large custom sideboard), which leads into the library.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
As you step into the library, darkness descends once more, punctuated by the bright and sunny conservatory at the back.
In the library, darkness descends again but is eased by the sunny conservatory at the back.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
But first, pause to admire the cozy reading chair in front of the fire. The library was considered "the social center of the house."
A cozy reading chair in front of the fire. The library was considered “the social center of the house.”
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Pictured here is a small piece of the magnificent carved mantelpiece, brought over from Ayton Castle in Scotland.
This magnificent carved mantelpiece was brought over from Ayton Castle in Scotland.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The sculpture of Eve in the library, just outside the conservatory, was sculpted by Karl Gerhardt, a German-American sculptor from Hartford.
The sculpture of Eve just outside the conservatory was created by Karl Gerhardt, a German-American artist from Hartford.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The sunny, plant-filled conservatory where Twain would romp around like an elephant to amuse his daughters.
Clemens would romp around like an elephant in this conservatory to amuse his daughters.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The space, with its bubbling fountain, continues to delight new visitors to the house well into the 21st century.
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. When not in use as a guest room, it's where Livy Clemens wrapped the Christmas presents and prepared the Christmas baskets for the city's poor.
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
Upstairs, we visit the master bedroom. Pictured here is Livy's dressing table.
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 room, however, is the walnut bed the Clemenses purchased in Venice for the equivalent of $200. Later in life, Sam Clemens would be photographed in this bed, smoking and reading and surrounded by papers.
The focal point of the master bedroom is the walnut bed the Clemenses purchased in Venice in 1879.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Mark Twain
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 headboard. The oft-repeated line is that Clemens "wanted to see what he paid for."
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 were removable, making them ideal playthings for the Clemens daughters.
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.
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 was the room Clemens referred to as "Ma's bedroom," in honor of its most frequent occupant, Livy's widowed mother.
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' memories of her childhood. The whimsical wallpaper, a reproduction of the original, tells the story of an animal wedding.
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.
Ready for afternoon tea in the nursery.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The bathroom connecting the nursery to the study and school room.
The bathroom connecting the nursery to the study and school room.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The fireplace in the schoolroom, which was originally Clemens' study.
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.
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 belonged to the family's beloved butler, George Griffin.
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
The third floor is also home to a "sppoky" guest bedroom, according to Clara and Susy.
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, however, is the Billiard Room, with its three doors leading out to three separate balconies. Clemens wrote at the table in the corner.
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 billiard table in the house today was a gift to Clemens in 1904.
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 in the form of the house's windows.
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.
A back staircase returns you to the first floor for a look at the kitchen and pantry.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
The kitchen wing of the house was only recently renovated for visitors. Until 2003, it housed museum offices! Today it has been meticulously restored to what might have been there during the Clemens era based on "building archaeology." This Cyrus Carpenter & Co. coal stove fit a shape visible on the chimney.
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 butlers' pantry was where the family's china, crystal, and silver were kept.
The butler’s pantry was where the family’s china, crystal, and silver were kept.
Photo Credit : Aimee Tucker
Back outside, I took a moment to enjoy the exterior with my new knowledge of what lay inside.
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
And wouldn't you know it, as I got into my car, I looked up and saw a black cat trotting along the edge of the parking lot. No doubt, Sam Clemens would approve.
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

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