2. Hartford , Connecticut
MARK TWAIN HOUSE AND CONSERVATORY
Atop a hill not far from downtown Hartford, Connecticut, the house where Mark Twain raised his family and wrote his best-loved works stares down at passers-by with an appropriate superiority.
Just as Twain was no typical American, this late 19th-century gem is no ordinary house. The red-brick Victorian Gothic mansion, with its seven bedrooms and seven bathrooms, carriage house and plant-filled conservatory, was built in 1874 by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect from New York. The home is elaborately decorated with patterned brick motifs and intricate woodwork. Elaborate decorative brackets support the gables and eaves of Mark Twain’s home and carriage house.
Fashionable, wealthy, Victorian homes often included a conservatory, or small green house. At the Mark Twain House, the modest conservatory that extends out from the library is a round structure, or polygonal conservatory, with glass walls and pointed glass roof, a floor of crushed stones, and plants, hanging and potted. All this surrounds a small, in-ground fountain, its watery spout glinting reflective light. One must imagine the sound of the water playing over this modest fountain would have been invigorating. To enter the brick and glass conservatory, you would pass through double folding sliding doors fitted with slightly ornamental glass, so as to break up the uniformity, leaving enough clear glass to set your eyes on the view of flowers. The most well-lit room in the house, it boasts more window space for its size than any other. The plants that filled the conservatory were an imaginary jungle where Twain pretended to be an elephant in mock safaris with his children. The retreat into privacy, the escape into an artificial paradise is what drew the family to the conservatory. The design and arrangement of the glass conservatory afforded the Twain family with a view across the flowered lawns to the neighboring home. Twain noted the house “was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.”