Designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter of New York in the American High Gothic style, the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, was the home of Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) and his family from 1874 to 1891.
In 1881, an adjoining piece or property was purchased and the grounds re-landscaped. There was also some renovations including the driveway being redrawn, the kitchen being rebuilt, and the front hallway was enlarged. With the addition of new heating and plumbing, the total cost of the home was $70,000 not including $22,000 spent on furnishings and $31,000 for the purchase of the land the home sat on.
Clemens’s daughter Susy died at the home on August 18, 1896 of spinal meningitis while much of the rest of her family was traveling. Following the tragic death of their daughter, the Clemens’ could not fine the will to remain in the house and spent the rest of their lives abroad. They eventually sold the home in 1903.
In 1929, the once private home was placed in the care of the Mark Twain Memorial, a non-profit organization created for the purpose of caring for the home. It was Katharine Seymour Day, a personal friend of the Clemens and grandniece of Harriet Beecher Stowe who was largely responsible for saving the Twain House from destruction in 1929. She founded the Friends of Hartford organization, which raised $100,000 to secure a mortgage on the home. The entire process of restoring the property, retrieving family artifacts, furnishings, and personal Clemens possessions ended in 1974 when the Twain House opened to the public as a house museum. The 1974 opening of the museum also marked the 100th anniversary of the house.
In 2003, a visitors’ center and a museum dedicated to showcasing Twain’s life and work was built. The cost of the renovations was kept private but it has been reported that it was a multi-million dollar project. Financial difficulties for the museum carried over from the renovation were compounded by fraud, and in 2010 it was discovered that the museum’s comptroller had been embezzling millions of dollars from the site. He pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to a short prison sentence.
Books written by Clemens at this home
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
- The Prince and the Pauper
- Life on the Mississippi
- Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- A Tramp Abroad
Mark Twain Home Facts
- The building functioned at points in its life as a school, an apartment building, and a branch of the public library.
- The Mark Twain House and Museum was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1962.
- In 2012 it was named one of the Ten Best Historic Homes in the world by National Geographic.
- Justin Kaplan, Clemens biographer once called the home “part steamboat, part medieval fortress and part cuckoo clock.”
- The cost of the original house was paid by Mrs. Clemens’ inheritance.
- The restoration received the prestigious David E. Finley Award in 1977 for “exemplary restoration” from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.