Monday, January 2, 2012

Future Home of Victorian Swag: Mark Twain House, Hartford Connecticut

Aaaaand, we’re back! After a week of holiday festivities (and too many cookies for most of us) we are back and blogging again. First let me say Happy New Year to all of you, dear readers. We hope your year is filled with tons of fun and plenty of Victorian Swag!

This first post of the New Year will wrap up my Future Home of Victorian Swag series. I have been waiting for this finale in order to showcase some truly impressive Victorian architecture. And what better place to end than at a Victorian Mansion that was home to one of America’s greatest writers? That’s right, I am talking about the Hartford, Connecticut home of Mark Twain (a.k.a. Samuel Clemens). As you already know, I have a soft spot for the Midwest and Twain just so happens to be one of my literary heroes. His house in Missouri is really nothing to write home about, but his Hartford, Connecticut home is a Victorian beauty.

Since the blog is called Victorian Swag, perhaps a bit of background on the style is in order. As you probably know, Victorian architecture in America is notoriously ornate, colorful, and full of imaginative details like balconies, towers, stained-glass windows and varying textures and patterns, (exactly why we love it). No two houses are alike and the styles range from serious brick facades to towering turreted masterpieces. Architectural styles popularized during this time period in the U.S. (mid 19th Century to early 20th Century) include Second Empire, Stick-Eastlake, Queen Anne (the most ornate and recognizable of the styles and coincidentally my favorite), Romanesque Revival, and Victorian Gothic. 

The Mark Twain house was built in the early 1870s in a distinctly Victorian Gothic style to house the Clemens family after their move from Hannibal, Missouri (shout out!) to New England. The house is not just a beautiful home; it is also the place where Twain wrote some of his most famous books, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Oh, if walls could talk! While the family history of the house is nothing short of tragic, the house itself is delightful with all of its angles, asymmetry, balconies, and towers. The house is a museum now, but that hasn’t stopped us from moving in and soaking up all of the Victorian goodness this place has to offer.
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Without further ado, here are the scores:
(Disclaimer: my love for old American homes and crazy Victorian architecture may have biased some of these scores)
Location: 8 – Apparently, sleepy Connecticut towns were the perfect place to write about the beauty of the Midwest. If Twain was inspired here, I am sure we won’t have a problem.
Exterior/Landscape: 9 – The exterior of the house is probably the most impressive. The Conservatory, stick-style front porch and cone-topped turret are definitely my favorite features. I adore the red brick façade with all of its quirky geometric patterned details. The fish-scale slate shingles on the roof are delightfully whimsical.
Interior: 10 – Ok, so this is where my bias really kicks in. The inside of this 19-room mansion is impeccable. The deep woodwork of the trim, moldings, doors, and floors is perfect. The staircase is extremely swoon-worthy and the conservatory (complete with waterfall!) is just awesome. The furniture is beautiful and completes the style of the home perfectly. And can we just talk about the Billiard Room? One of the most popular rooms for entertaining, it was also Twain’s room of choice for writing. I think the Victorian Swag authors could be inspired to write an American classic or two in there. The interior is just so fabulous and cohesive. It should be required to wear period clothing in order to enter this house! I can just imagine a period piece or a fantastic steampunk-inspired movie being shot in this house.
Overall Design: 10 – Surprise, surprise; another perfect 10. I love the fact that the interior matches the exterior and that the architect (Edward Tuckerman Potter) took so much liberty with the design, adding quirky details and infusing whimsy into all possible corners.
Creativity/Originality: 10 – The originality is evident everywhere in the design. We can’t wait to hang out in this masterpiece this week!
Party Hostability Factor: 9 – As you might imagine - it being our last house and all - the ladies of Victorian Swag will be throwing a fabulous party, a Victorian party, nonetheless. We will be dressed in our period Victorian best and serving our favorite Victorian dishes. Get ready for some mince pies, elaborate desserts, and plenty of chilled champagne! The porches, balconies and open lawns are great for hosting such a gathering. There is plenty of space in the formal dining room and library for chatting and tons of rooms to explore (race you to the top of the turret!). We can’t wait to see you at the best party of 2012.  So eat, drink, and be merry!
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  1. Let's go! We can stay with my aunt (she lives there), and drive to see nearby Princeton (GORGEOUS!) and get pastries from Luci Bello's and go berry picking!