Interior & Grounds

Sam Clemens found the details of building and decorating a house frustrating. He complained of being “bullyragged” by plumbers and carpenters. His wife‚ Livy‚ however‚ enjoyed the challenges of domestic life and much of the house reflects her tastes and sensibilities.

Their home measures 11‚500 square feet‚ and has 25 rooms distributed through three floors. It displayed the latest in modern innovations when it was built in 1874. It was lit by gaslight; it had seven bathrooms with hot and cold running water and flush toilets – and at least one bathroom had a shower. Rudimentary ductwork carried warm air from the furnaces in the basement‚ and in 1878 Clemens had an early model of the telephone installed in the kitchen. There were also two features that ran on batteries: a burglar alarm system and an ”enunciator” bell for calling the servants.

The couple spent $40‚000 to $45‚000 building their new home‚ so once they moved in they kept the interior simple. Over the next few years Olivia sought advice on what to do with the interior‚ made plans and shopped for the new home. Between 1874 and 1881, Mark Twain published The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; Old Times on the Mississippi; Sketches‚ New and Old; and A Tramp Abroad as well as numerous short stories and a play.

Interior Design – Tiffany’s Associated Artists

Sam's mounting success as a writer and lecturer enabled the Clemenses to do up their new house in grand style. In 1881‚ they contracted with Louis C. Tiffany & Co.‚ Associated Artists‚ (Tiffany was the son of the founder of the famed jewelry store‚ Tiffany & Co.) to decorate the walls and ceilings of the public spaces in their home‚ particularly the newly enlarged entry hall.

Associated Artists were members of the Aesthetic movement‚ and were known for their exotic interiors. The same year they decorated the Mark Twain House interior they were hired by U.S. President Chester Arthur to redecorate the state rooms of the White House. The company was made up of four designers: Louis C. Tiffany‚ Candace Wheeler‚ Lockwood DeForest and Samuel Coleman. Each brought ideas from different parts of the world where they had traveled and studied‚ and each had a hand in the design of the Mark Twain House interior. The first floor of the house is filled with design motifs from Morocco‚ India‚ Japan‚ China and Turkey.

The Carriage House

Completed in 1874, the Carriage House – often called “the barn” or “the stable”by the Clemens family -- was designed by architects Edward Tuckerman Potter and Alfred H. Thorp as a companion structure to the house. “Its massive size and its generous accommodations” -- for coachman Patrick McAleer and his family, who lived there from 1874 to 1903 -- “mark this structure as an unusual carriage house among those intended for a single family's use,” according to the Library of Congress’s Historic American Buildings Survey. 

 “The building has the wide overhanging eaves and half-timbering typical of the Chalet style popular in the late 19th century for cottages, carriage houses, and gatehouses,” says the Buildings Survey. From under one eave on the north side of the roof, a carved wooden griffin glares out.

For the Clemens girls, the barn was a place of wonder, and McAleer its presiding spirit. “They conferred their society freely upon him in the stable, and he protected them while they took risks in petting the horses in the stalls and in riding the reluctant calves,” Samuel Clemens wrote. McAleer also “allowed them, mornings, to help him drive the ducks down to the stream which lazily flowed through the grounds, and back to the stable at sunset.”

Clemens himself set up a study in the hayloft in the spring of 1875. His friend William Dean Howells said that “he took the room above his stable, which had been intended for his coachman. There we used to talk together, when we were not walking and talking together, until he discovered that he could make a more commodious use of the billiard-room at the top of his house.” This hayloft study was possibly in one of the two second-floor rooms with access to a balcony at the south end of the building, now facing the modern Visitors Center, says the Buildings Survey. 


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