Visiting the Mark Twain House and Museum
Mark Twain is one of America’s most beloved authors. It may come as a surprise to many to learn that he spent a number of his most productive writing years living in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1873, Mark Twain and his wife Olivia started construction of a Victorian-style home on Farmington Avenue after moving from Buffalo, New York. The family would live in the home until 1891 when financial troubles prompted a move to Europe, although they still retained ownership of the property. The death of daughter Susy in the home in 1896 while Twain was still in Europe made it too difficult for the family to ever reside in the home again, and it was eventually sold in 1903.
Despite the sad circumstances that resulted in the sale of the house, the years that Twain spent in Hartford were among his happiest and resulted in the writing of his most notable literary works. Having a community of writers in Hartford at the time, including his next-door neighbor, Harriet Beecher Stowe, certainly helped inspire Twain to write.
For its day the Twain house was considered a virtual mansion. At over 11,500 square feet and containing 25 rooms it was quite large. It had all of the modern conveniences of its day including hot and cold running water, gaslight illumination, 7 bathrooms, and one of the earliest models of a new invention called the telephone. The Twain’s went to great expense to build and furnish the home, and Mark Twain is quoted as saying about his new home, “It is a home - & the word never had so much meaning before.” Over the next 12 years while living in the house Mark Twain would write The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Prince and the Pauper (1881), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), as well as many other books, short stories and play’s.
Today, the house has been meticulously renovated and preserved so that the public can have a unique and intimate glimpse into the life of one of America’s most notable authors. Visits are by guided tour only and this is the only way to fully appreciate the experience. A rather interesting twist to the guided tour is to take a Living History tour where your guide gives the tour from the perspective of one of the family members. We were fortunate to have Mark Twain’s wife, Olivia, give our tour. It was fascinating and I highly recommend this particular tour. Other options include a Graveyard Ghost Tour and a Get a Clue Tour formatted after the game, Clue.
Mark Twain’s real name was Samuel Langhorne Clemens. His pen name comes from a riverboat term meaning a measured river depth of two fathoms: mark for measure and twain for two.
No matter which tour you decide on, I think after seeing the house you will have a greater appreciation for the legacy of Mark Twain. He was a devoted father and husband, and certainly had a passion for traveling, which took him across the globe. His home here in the west end of Hartford is a fitting tribute to his life and a time capsule to a fascinating era in American history. From the growth of America during its westward expansion - to a nation engulfed in conflict over slavery - and then the industrialization of the country, Mark Twain was witness to it all.
- The Mark Twain House & Museum is open daily: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
- Closed New Year’s Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, and July 4th.
- During January and February, the Museum is closed on Tuesdays.
All visits are by guided tour only. Tours are limited to 14 people on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Photography is not allowed in the house. Photos can be taken of the exterior and in the museum area.
- Adults: $20
- Senior Citizens age 65+: $18
- Children 6 to 16: $12
- Under 6: Free
- Guided Tours last about 45 to 60 minutes.
Living History Tour
- Adults: $25
- Seniors: $25
- Children (1-16): $17
- The Living History Tour lasts about 75 minutes.
Graveyard Ghost Tours are by reservation only.
- Adults/Seniors: $25
- Child: $17
Get a Clue Tours
- Adults/Seniors: $25
- Child: $17
- On special nights only, please see Museum website for schedule.
351 Farmington Avenue,
Hartford, CT 06105
There is ample free parking on the premises.
To us, our house… had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.— Mark Twain
What to Expect on Your Tour
As you enter the grounds of the Mark Twain House and Museum you will first enter the newly constructed museum center. Here you can purchase your tour tickets, watch the 15-minute Ken Burns film - Mark Twain, browse the book store, and explore the museum exhibits. When your tour starts your guide will usher you from the museum and visitor lobby through the grounds to the house. Along the way, you will pass the Carriage House, which is not part of the tour.
The main house is 3-stories with no elevators so make sure stairs are not a problem for you. Your tour will take you through the house working from the first-floor Entrance Hall up to Twain's beloved Billiard Room on the third floor. It is here that Twain did all of his writing. Along the way, you will see the Library, Dining Room, Conservatory, the Drawing room, and the numerous bedrooms including the Mahogany Room (guest suite). You will certainly notice the extensive detailed woodwork throughout the house and the many furnishings gathered from the Twain‘s trips around the world
After completion of the tour, you will have an opportunity to walk the grounds at your own pace and can now take as many photos as you desire. The home is a stunning example of Victorian Gothic architecture and it is clear that the Twain’s loved their home and were very happy living here. While you are here consider a visit to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, which is right next door. What an amazing convergence of literary genius.
The formal restoration of the Twain home started in 1963 when the house was designated a National Historic Landmark. The work was completed by 1974, in time for the 100th-anniversary celebration of the house. Today, the Mark Twain House & Museum is one of the most visited historical sites in the Hartford area.
© 2019 Bill De Giulio