Completed in 1874, the Mark Twain house was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter and Alfred H. Thorp for noted American author and humorist Samuel Clemens and his family. The Clemenses lived here from 1874 until 1891, during which time Mr. Clemens wrote a number of novels now recognized as classics of American literature, including "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" (1876), "A Tramp Abroad" (1879), "The Prince and the Pauper" (1880), "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (1884), and "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" (1889).
The house was erected on a portion of the property known as "Nook Farm," a close-knit, prestigious enclave that included, in addition to the Clemens family, authors Harriet Beecher Stowe and Charles Dudley Warner, and suffragist Isabella Beecher Hooker. The Clemenses were known for their ostentatious lifestyle and entertaining. Guest included noted personalities of the day, including literary figures William Dean Howells, Thomas Bailey Aldrich and Bret Harte; actor Edwin Booth, and British explorer and journalist Sir Henry Morton Stanley.
The Mark Twain House, with its irregular configuration, many gables, projecting bays, balconies, and covered porches provides a stunning example of the eclectic European-inspired Continental Picturesque style favored by the well-to-do from the late 1850s through the early 1870s.
The design also follows several local conventions with its use of Windsor brick and Connecticut River Valley brownstone and with its glass-enclosed Conservatory modeled after a design attributed to Nook Farm neighbor Harriet Beecher Stowe. Of particular note, Louis Comfort Tiffany and his firm Associated Artists decorated the first floor rooms and central hall of the house.
The Aesthetic Movement decor was influenced by East and Near East design and features intricate geometric stenciling on walls and doors, specialty wallpapers and some pierced brasswork and carved teak woodwork. Also, the house was fitted with the most advanced technological equipment of the day, including a telephone, speaking tubes and bells, burglar alarm, gas lighting, central heating, and extensive plumbing.
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