A confirmed Mark Twain fan, I sense I’m not alone so I want to recommend a visit to the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CN. It’s right off I-95 and easy to find. I just followed the signs that delivered me to the parking lot, and in doing so, discovered a great way to break up a long drive and stretch my legs.
The $16.00 one-hour tour through the Victorian mansion opened my eyes to some interesting things. Completed in 1874, Mark Twain spent 17 of the happiest and most productive years of his life here before taking his family to Italy. Some of the original furnishings have been obtained and aside from the guest room on the first floor, every room has been restored to its original design. I found the work they did on the house almost as fascinating as the house itself. Apparently, they have painstakingly, carefully, removed layers of wallpaper in search of the original wall coverings and did a fantastic job.
The first floor was for guests and no expense was spared. The decoration in the receiving room, where you entered the house, looked like wood inlay to me but it was actually stenciled, white paint on dark wood. I was surprised to learn this was the brainchild of Louis Tiffany before he moved on to bigger and better things in NYC. Unfortunately, the kitchen and the servants’ quarters were off-limits on the tour.
I understand the Paige Compositer, a printing press, is kept in the basement of the house and most likely it’s chained to the floor so it can’t escape. As famous as Mark Twain is for his writing, unfortunately his genius in choice of investments fell short. It can be seen nowhere better than the Paige typesetting machine. He invested $300,000 in this failed invention which would equal $7,720,000 in 2010. Although his brave and daring intentions shined brightly on this endeavor, if he were around today the contraption would most likely be resting on the bottom of the ocean.
The second floor had all the bedrooms where he and his wife, Livy, had their master bedroom and his three daughters had theirs. In the master bedroom, I couldn’t help but notice the pillows were arranged at the foot of the ornate bed rather than the head. The knowledgeable docent informed us Mark Twain did this on purpose so he could look at the wood carved headboard while in bed and ‘get his money’s worth’.
The best part, for me, was the library on the first floor and especially the billiard room up on the third floor where he ‘pulled a cork’ and entertained friends until all hours of the night. Once I learned this was also the room in which he produced many of his greatest works including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, I squinted and tried to imagine Mark Twain sitting at his desk penning these great books and for one second, maybe it was my imagination, maybe it was a ghost, I saw my favorite author.