Mark Twain House Hartford, Conn. Visited: March 28, 2004 NPS Site Visited: Not an NPS Site Local Website
WHAT IS IT? Ornately and expensively decorated and designed 19-room house lived in by Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and his family from 1874 to 1891.
BEAUTY (6/10) Samuel Clemens married into money and contracted with a controversial architect to design the house in well-to-do Hartford, Conn. Unique features like twin chimneys for each of the 9 fireplaces inside, numerous porches, painted bricks and servants quarters which face the main street (to tick off the neighbors) add to the home’s eclectic charm. The interior is lovingly restored, with several original items. Stenciling and painted inlay on all of the walls and ceilings have been restored by a father and son team who have been working with the Twain house for over 30 years.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (5/10) Samuel and his wife Olivia built this house to be their dream home. Is there a voice more American than Twain? As he told his admirers in Europe, “I am not an American. I am the American.”
The house itself has little historical value other than it perfectly reflects the irascible whimsy personified by Mark Twain.
CROWDS (6/10) We were among a group of about 10 people.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5) Relatively easy to find from the highway. Individuals who have trouble walking will find it difficult to climb the three flights of stairs in the Twain house.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (4/5) Expansive collection of Twain’s books available in paperback or more costly hardbound editions. Postcards were a little pricey.
COSTS (1/5) Quite expensive. $16 per adult. If you’re a AAA member, you’ll receive a $1 discount from each ticket.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5) Fine. The interior of the house can only be seen as part of a tour.
TOURS/CLASSES (6/10) Our tour guide clearly enjoyed talking about Samuel Clemens, his life and his work. All questions were held until the end of the tour, which made it difficult to remember the ones you wanted to ask. Nonetheless, every question that we had was answered within the tour monologue. Although the tour took over an hour, it did feel a bit rushed.
FUN (8/10) Mark Twain is probably Michael’s favorite American author, but his preferences are known to change without much notice. He was going to be harsher in his critique than an open-minded tourist. Twain’s home most definitely delivers the goods. Twain’s literary personality is quite similar to the personality reflected in his house. This insightful window into Twain was more than fun for Michael. The stories told by the guide could have been much funnier, but we blame that on the guide’s timing not the stories themselves.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (7/10) If you love Twain, you probably going to find a way to visit the site regardless. We sure did. If you’re not familiar with our nation’s greatest writer perhaps the personality of the house will motivate you to give him a read. Visiting the house is pricey, but Michael would not have missed it. We only wish that the smell of the house during Twain’s residency could be restored. Between Twain’s 25 cigars a day, 12 cats, 4 collies, 3 daughters, numerous visitors and all their night billiards binges, one can only imagine the glorious stench of exuberant life everywhere.
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