On our last day of our New England weekend we went to visit a a corner of houses belonging to a couple of the country’s most esteemed authors. The street itself was a lovely collection of homes and gardens and seemed like a great place to live. We were commenting on the surrounding neighborhood when the striking architecture of one house on the top of a hill stopped us mid sentence as we looked in awe at the incredible detail of the building- we had arrived.
Mark Twain House & Museum
The first stop was to visit the Mark Twain House. We began with a tour of the home of Samuel Clemens, more commonly known as Mark Twain. His home has been described as part steamship, part medieval fortress, and part cuckoo clock.
Tours of the house run every day from 10:00am- 4:00pm and tickets cost $24/adult, $14/child. The interior offers an incredible look at gilded age finery. Some of said that it is Downton Abbey’s American cousin. (Sadly, they do not allow photography inside the house but you can check out some of the rooms online HERE). The tour was a fascinating look at one of the country’s greatest authors and what influenced him in his writing.
Along with his wife Olivia and their three daughters, the Clemens family called this house home from 1874 to 1891. It was here that Twain wrote his most beloved stories including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Prince and the Pauper, and so many more.
Next to the house was the Mark Twain Museum that gives visitors a greater understanding of the man behind the words. He called many places home before finally settling down here in Connecticut. He had what he called the ‘vagabond instinct’ and that would fuel many great experiences and inspirations for his writing.
Twain was not known to mince his words or to temper opinions. He wrote about things as he saw them and was unapologetically true to what he believed and thought about the world. People often said that his was a pen that was warmed up in hell for the fiery unbending way of sharing his opinion.
Financial troubles came later to the family after some financial investments into some technology research didn’t pan out as it should. To recover some of the funds, Samuel Clemens began touring and giving speeches. His wife and oldest daughter accompanied him through Europe with his speaking appointments. The two youngest daughters stayed home, too young to join the family. Tragedy struck however when the youngest of the daughters became ill and passed away while the family was abroad. After that the house was sold, too painful for the family to return to, and they went abroad for the following years.
The house is an incredible work of architectural wonder and to see it and to learn about the man who created such wonderful stories was amazing.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House & the Stowe Center
Adjacent to the Mark Twain House is the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Harriet Beecher Stowe is considered one of America’s most influential writers with her novel that brought more of the tragedy of slavery to light in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This book was cited as helping to lay the foundation of the American Civil War and continues to be a powerful example of anti-slavery writing.
This lovely cottage was Stowe’s home from 1873 till her death 23 years later, where she passed away in the upstairs bedroom surrounded by her children and sister. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 and later was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 2013. While she wrote her famous novel while living in Maine, it was here that she really enjoyed the fruits of her success.
Because of Stowe’s sobering book about slave life in America, she has been a pivotal point in more modern discussions on social justice and positive change in the country. Next to her home is the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center that serves as a mission center dedicated to bringing about such changes in society and understanding.
Stowe would continue writing late into her life. Her books were successful but nothing to the level that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was. She was on regular lecture tours throughout the country and assisted in the establishment of the Hartford Art School.
Katherine Seymour Day House
There is one final house here on this famous corner, that of Katherine Seymour Day. She was a grandniece of Harriet Beecher Stowe and was a preservationist and it is because of her purchase of the homes and the later efforts to preserve them as historic landmarks that saved them from being demolished to make way for development.
Her home is another wonderful example of beautiful architecture displaying the finery of the early 1900s. A visit here is not complete without a nod to the woman who gave the opportunity to see these homes of such powerful authors.
If you want to see more homes of authors I love, then you may be interested in these places:
Thanks for joining me on this visit to the Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe homes. May your words be filled with power and compassion.