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Visiting the Homes of Mark Twain

By Audrey Golden. Apr 21, 2016. 9:00 AM.

Topics: Legendary Authors, Mark Twain, Literary travel

Samuel Langhorne Clemens, or Mark Twain as he’s more commonly known, has become one of the most quintessential nineteenth-century American authors. Given his longstanding popularity, visits to regions of the country that influenced his work have become popular destinations for readers and fans of such novels as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889). While some might argue that the whole of the Mississippi River and the many towns surrounding it play an important historical role in Twain’s collected works, there are a handful of sites where the author actually lived (and in some cases wrote) that can be toured.

The Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri

Mark_Twain_JumpingFrog_dustjacket_BTYWSamuel Clemens was raised in Hannibal, Missouri, a small town in the northern part of the state that’s on the banks of the Mississippi River. While he was born a short distance away in Florida, Missouri, he lived in Hannibal with his family until he was 17 years old, according to The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum. The museum runs admission to the numerous buildings that chronicle the author’s early life in the Midwest. In addition, it houses a number of significant documents and objects related to the novelist’s career in an adjacent museum.

What can you see in Hannibal, Missouri? In short, the part of town where Mark Twain’s family house stands is surrounded by Becky Thatcher’s House, the Huckleberry Finn House, and the J.M. Clemens Justice of the Peace Office where Clemens's father practiced law. The Becky Thatcher House was actually the childhood home of Laura Hawkins, Clemens’s friend who inspired the character of Becky. Similarly, no one by the name of Huck Finn actually existed, either. Rather, Huck Finn was a character based on Tom Blankenship, another boyhood friend of the author.

In addition to touring these homes, visitors to Hannibal can also see the famous whitewashed fence from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and can actually pick up a paintbrush (without the paint, of course) to perform the role of Tom. 

The House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut

Mark_Twain_by_AF_Bradley-1In 1870, Samuel Clemens got married, and he and his wife, Olivia “Livy” Clemens, moved to Hartford, Connecticut a year later. They rented properties in the New England city until they were ready to build a home of their own. In 1873, according to The Mark Twain House & Museum, the couple hired a New York architect to design their Hartford house. They lived in the house until 1891, when financial difficulties necessitated a move to Europe.

When you visit the home, you’ll be able to tour most of its many rooms. Most notable, perhaps, is the library. It was here where Clemens is said to have told stories and recited poetry for his friends and family. You can also visit the Billiard Room, which served as the personal office and study of the author. It was in this room that he drafted many of his famous novels. 

Mark Twain’s Stormfield

Although it’s not a museum like the houses in Hannibal or Hartford, fans of Twain should know that the author also had a home in Redding, Connecticut. Clemens built the mansion that he’d name “Stormfield” in this small, affluent town in 1908 and died only two years later before having a chance to enjoy the property. In 1923, a fire devastated the area, and the house burned to the ground. A mansion similar to the one constructed by Clemens around the turn of the century was rebuilt on the property, but unlike other homes of the author, this one is private. Indeed, according to a relatively recent real estate listing from Sotheby’s International Realty, the home was for sale for a cool $4 million.

Whether you’re traveling in the Midwest or driving along the Eastern Seaboard, you should consider planning a stop at one of Twain’s homes. The properties not only showcase elements of the author’s life, but they also invite visitors into the fictional worlds of his nineteenth-century literary works.

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Audrey Golden
World literature scholar and erstwhile lawyer. Lover of international travel, outdoor markets, and rare books.

 

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