Past Exhibits

The House that Mark Built

The Architecture and Gadgetry of the Twain House

"The House That Mark Built," a Mark Twain House & Museum exhibition from January through March 2010, took a look at the home's bricks, mortars and gadgetry, and a place for kids to try their hand at some building of their own.

The exhibition was the first in the Mark Twain House & Museum's Centennial Celebration, which includes more than 30 one-time only events, lectures, exhibits and other festivities marking a an important year in Twain's legacy: the 125th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the 100th anniversary of Mark Twain's death; and the 175th anniversary of his birth.

The actual "House That Mark Built" was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect known mainly for his churches. The exhibit provided an overview of Potter's career as an architect, and showed that while the Clemenses' house did fit into the conventional architecture of the day, the "curious house" was more than a bit unique.

Newspaper and magazine articles from the 1870s and 1880s on display showed varied reactions to this newest home in Hartford's Nook Farm neighborhood. The Hartford Daily Times wrote: "The novelty displayed in the architecture of the building, the oddity of its internal arrangement and the fame of its owner will all conspire to make it a house of note for a long time to come." Letters written by some of the Clemenses' friends and family also showed diverse reactions to the home. Visitors saw some of the original building materials used by the builders, including the elaborate exterior wood carvings, slate from the roof and samples of the brick.

The exhibition also explored technological innovations. Samuel L. Clemens had a passion for modern technology, and the house's systems reflected this. Central heating, telephones, a burglar alarm, the latest bathroom technology and the systems for calling servants to the various rooms of the house are examples of this. Many of these gadgets also found their way into Clemens's writings, samples of which were on display.

The modern-day Mark Twain House & Museum is also interested in technology, but in this case in using them to restore and preserve the house that Mark built. New HVAC systems, ultra-violet protectant films, compact fluorescent light bulbs and other products aid in the preservation of this historic house. The exhibit highlighted some of these new technologies, and how they helped to safeguard the house for future generations of visitors.

The Exhibition Sponsor for "The House That Mark Built" was United Technologies Corporation. The Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation is the sponsor of the museum's 2010 Exhibitions. The Hartford Financial Services Group, Inc., is the museum's Centennial Sponsor.


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