Work Resumes on the Clemenses’ Best Guest Room
Restoration work has begun on the first-floor guest suite‚ known as the Mahogany Room‚ in the Mark Twain House. This was the principal guest room for the Clemens household‚ where friends such as Clemens’ editor‚ William Dean Howells‚ and Grace King‚ a writer famed for her Louisiana stories‚ would stay when they came to visit. (The New York Times recently published an article about the progress of the restoration.)
But the room also played an important role in the family life of the household. During the Christmas season‚ Livy would use it to “do up” her baskets for the poor. The Clemens daughters also used it as a “green room” for storing costumes and props for their amateur theatrical presentations.
All furnishings and other museum objects have been moved out of the mahogany bedroom‚ dressing room and bath to prepare for the restoration. The elements of a prior restoration–reproduction wallpaper in the bedroom‚ painted vinyl canvas in the bathroom and painted canvas in the dressing room‚ as well as post-Clemens era flooring–has also been removed.
Getting Ready for Restoration
To get ready for the new restoration‚ specialists have performed a series of tests on the space‚ including paint and finish analyses on the walls and ceilings to try to determine the original color scheme for the rooms‚ and analysis of several carpet fibers that were found beneath the post-Clemens flooring. We also contracted with a historic preservations consultant to synthesize all the past research that has been performed and augment it with additional investigation to clear up any inconsistencies.
We are currently working with David Scott Parker Architects, an architectural firm that specializes in historic preservation and has extensive background knowledge of Louis Comfort Tiffany and the Associated Artists who are known to have decorated the bedroom. Little is known about the decoration of the suite, as the contract between the Clemenses and Associated Artists states that the bedroom will have its “walls and ceiling papered.” It is difficult to determine if the dressing room and bathroom were decorated by them as well. The firm is using their knowledge of Associated Artists and the practices of the time period to determine the best approximation of how the room may have been decorated.
We have enjoyed hearing the wonderful sounds of repairs and restoration throughout summer and tinto the fall. We are eager to open this room to the public and display Clemens objects that were in this room, such as the mahogany bed set which has been housed in our collections storage.