Country Decor Inspiration: The Mark Twain House
No matter where you go in America, you’ll find historic houses. Some are little more than log cabins, while others are stateside versions of the grand palaces of Europe.
Regardless of size or splendor, many of these houses have the same thing in common: someone notable was born there or lived there.
And because we’re interested in homes and history and how they intersect with country decor here at Piper Classics, we’ve decided to devote some space on our blog to some of these houses.
Today we’re heading to Connecticut, to the Mark Twain House, the one-time home of a man considered – as William Faulkner put it – “the father of American literature.”
“It is a home…”
While Mark Twain – a pen name for Samuel Clemens – is often associated with his home state of Missouri, it was in Hartford, Connecticut that he did his most notable work.
Clemens and Olivia “Livy” Langdon were married in 1870. They moved to Hartford the following year, first renting a home in the Nook Farm section of the city, an area that was home to a number of writers and publishers.
In 1873, Samuel and Livy hired New York architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to design their new home, a 25-room home on Farmington Avenue in Hartford, at the cost of $40,000 to $45,000. (That’s the equivalent of building an $800,000 home in 2016.)
In 1874, the family moved into their new home. There was still work to be completed, and Clemens would grumble about the growing cost of building the home, saying he’d been “bullyraggled” by plumbers and carpenters.
Still, Twain would later recall his years there as the happiest, most fruitful time of his life. When the house was completed, he wrote “It is a home, and the word never had so much meaning before.”
While living in the Farmington Avenue home, Twain completed some of his most well-known novels.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi, which recall his youth in Missouri. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and The Prince and the Pauper blend elements of adventure stories – time travel, mistaken identities – with social commentary.
And then there’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
It’s always been controversial. It gets banned by school boards today, and was banned by libraries soon after its publication in 1884. (“More suited to the slums than to respectable people,” one library said at the time.) Despite the controversy, it’s considered a classic, one of the nation’s most beloved novels.
“All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote.
By 1891, financial problems had forced the Clemens family to relocate to Europe. Twain longed for the home in Hartford, calling the houses of Europe” “ugly” and “repulsive” by comparison.
We can feel his pain. While the Hartford home may have been opulent, a look inside shows that it’s not off-putting. Fans of our country décor would be right at home. The website contains a virtual tour if you aren’t able to get a trip to Connecticut on the schedule.
There’s a simple country kitchen, complete with a big, sturdy-looking wooden table.
The master bedroom contains simple wall art depicting pastoral scenes, books by the bedside table and a cozy fireplace. We’d miss it too, especially after years raising children and doing our life’s best work.
Mark Twain was a writer of such talent that it seems wrong not giving him the last word. So we’ll close with him describing his home in Hartford:
“To us, our house…had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and the peace of its benediction.”