Take 12 Trips: An Original Travel Writer
Located in Hartford, Connecticut is a charming piece of American history – The Mark Twain House and Museum. Completed in 1874, this house was built for Samuel Clemens, the well-known author by the pen name Mark Twain. Classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are among Twain’s most famous works and make him one of the most beloved American authors. As a lover of history and literature, I was attracted to his stories of life on the Mississippi River as a way to learn about another region of my own country; however, there was another element of his stories that I found appealing: adventure. As an avid traveler, Twain sought adventure in his life and used this as a basis for his stories. Today, visitors flock to the historical property and museum to relive the stories of this quintessential American author and early travel writer.
For years my mom and I have talked about visiting the Mark Twain House during Christmastime and this year I decided it would be the December edition of my Take 12 Trips. While researching our visit, we came across a list of events at the museum that included a performance on the same day we planned to visit. Which show was being performed that day? None other than Frank Capra’s Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. A fan of both the heartwarming movie and the entertaining George Bailey, the opportunity to combine a visit to the Mark Twain House with a performance of my favorite Christmas movie seemed too good to be true. Additionally, being able to attend with my family members was a wonderful way to explore somewhere new, spend time with family and begin to celebrate the holidays.
The performance did not disappoint. Twelve actors and actresses collaborated for a live radio play of the Christmas classic. Accurate and engaging, these performers brought us back to 1947, and in the Golden Age of Radio imitated how Bedford Falls residents would have listened to the drama. It is the perfect reminder during the holidays of what is most important and left us all with its lesson, “no man is a failure who has friends.”
Following the radio play, the focus was back on Mark Twain as there was time to wander around the museum exhibit prior to the house tour. In addition to highlighting Twain’s key contributions to American literature, the exhibit emphasized his travels and corresponding works. In 1861, Twain moved from California to Hawaii and began sending back publications from his exotic life on the Sandwich Islands. This was beginning of several years of lecturing and writing travel books. Five of his most well known travel books include Roughing It, The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Life on the Mississippi and Following the Equator and it was Twain’s own trips which provided the underlying research for these stories. The museum continually refers to his wanderlust Twain’s love of travel and writing was prevalent throughout the exhibit. The quote hanging above the entrance read, “I have sampled this life” and it is evident that his adventures contributed to his sampling of all the world had to offer.
Following with the house tour, we were given another glimpse of how this accomplished writer lived. His Hartford home was completed in 1874 and his years spent in the Nook Farm neighborhood with his family were what he recalled as the happiest and most productive of his entire life. Unfortunately, no photos are allowed of the inside of the property and as our tour started at dusk, I was not able to capture the best shots of the outside; however, this picture below, courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum, shows that it was designed by architect Edward Tuckerman Potter to resemble a steamboat.
Touring the inside of the house was like stepping back in history. The only way to visit the house is through a guided tour and the guides do an incredible job of painting a picture of what it was like for the Clemens family to live there in the late 1800s. The dim lighting is made to reflect the gas lighting of that period of time. Even Twain’s contraption to circulate gas to the lamp by his bedside table has been recreated.
The rooms are well preserved with hand painted wallpaper and wood carvings providing and are filled with a combination of original Clemens family artifacts and similar period pieces. High ceilings and low banisters make the three-story staircase exquisite and the Christmas decorations strung throughout the house made the atmosphere warm and inviting. The rooms are left as though the Clemens family was just there and will be returning any minute. The Christmas china is set at the dining room table with imported oysters and cake ready to be served. The children’s schoolroom has presents half opened and the author’s study has papers and notes strewn about. Twain wrote some of his greatest works in the third floor billiard room that doubled as his study and his original desk remains in the corner.
A lover of history, literature and architecture, this was the perfect place for me to visit. The combination of the house’s beauty and the greatness that occurred here is staggering. Additionally, I unexpectedly found inspiration as a traveler for it can be assumed that many of Twain’s greatest adventures were planned right there on Farmington Ave.
Location: 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford, CT (around 120 miles from New York City and 100 miles from Boston)
Hours of Operation: Mondays – Saturdays 9:30- 5:30pm and Sundays 12 – 5:30pm (last tour leaves at 4:30pm, closed Tuesdays from January – March)
Price: $16 for adults