During the Thanksgiving holiday of the Fall of 2005 Sarah and I and her mother and father visited her Uncle Charles for a wedding in Hartford, Connecticut.
We had an excellent time and it was an event that will never be forgotten. While we were there we did some sightseeing which included one of Mark Twain's residences. I sent the following note home via email. Hartford is cold, apparently they have real winters up in this part of the country. I almost miss the bitter cold, the kind that makes you wonder if your face is going to sustain some type of permanent damage before you get into a car or a house.
It's clearly the dry air and the wind that make the difference. Just that alone reminds me of my childhood in Wisconsin.
We landed in the middle of a blizzard last night, a few inches of snow fell over the evening after we arrived and made the roads a tad slippery on our 20-minute or so drive to the hotel. Landing in the snow was amazing, it looked like fog as we came down into it but it was clear as the light on the end of the wing was illuminating it that there were thick particles, not just clouds, in the air. The 30-mile-an-hour winds in the last 1000 feet or so of our descent made for a more than interesting ride.
Last night we had enough time to get settled and spend about an hour or so touring Uncle Charles' house here in the little town/suburb of New Britain, CT. It's an amazing house, all brick, built in the 1930s, with an absolute labyrinth of underground passages making up the basement. It's a three story house with original wood floors in nearly every room.
This morning we bundled up and drove about 8 miles back toward Hartford to tour Nook Farm, a small hilltop where Mark Twain, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and her sister (Isabelle I believe??) all had houses side-by-side. There is now a very nice museum for Mark Twain there built just across from the house, on the other side of his carriage house.
The mansion is amazing, but the most interesting fact is that neither his wealth nor status as a successful writer helped him build it, because at that time neither existed. He simply married well, his wife paid the full cost of $45,000.00 when they built it in 1874.
The majority of his most famous works were actually written on a small corner desk in the billiards room in the top floor of the house. He lived in Hartford when he was in his 30s and into his 40s, at which point he already had 7 servants, including a butler and a coachman all living on site. The restoration of the house is simply amazing, since it's actually been an apartment complex, a boys school, and a public library since the time he lived there.
Of some interest is the fact that Nook Farm was named after the nook in the Park River that the property is located within, and the old pictures verify it being nearly out his living room window. Although, today, for pollution reasons the Park River has been "put underground" as the tour guide mentioned. The area where the river used to be is now a series of parking lots, a condominium, and several busy city streets.
I'm not sure whether the fact that the river has been completely covered up and you wouldn't know it ever existed is the most odd piece of this situation, or whether it's the fact that the tour guide said "put underground" as her way of describing what had been done to the river as if this were something one could just do in a lazy afternoon. It is a shame that the river cannot be seen in any direction from the Twain house today.
I picked up a couple of magnets with his quotes on them today, including "The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds" and "The lack of money is the root of all evil" and "Scotch whisky ... I always take it at night as a preventive of toothache. I have never had the toothache; and what is more, I never intend to have it."
I didn't purchase a magnet with this one, but I found humor in his simply understated remark "I have sampled this life" written above one of the rooms in the museum dedicated to stories of his travels and adventures.
I've provided a good picture of the outside of the house that we took today and a picture of Sarah and I on our way in to give Mr. Clemmons himself a holiday greeting. Regretfully, we just missed him.