A Virtual Tour of Mark Twain’s Last Home With a Glimpse of His Library

by Kevin MacDonnell (MacDonnell Rare Books)

Mark Twain's last home, although it no longer exists --and perhaps because it no longer exists-- exerts an emotionally charged gravitational pull on those familiar with the last years of his life. It was at Stormfield that the last dramas in the great man's life played themselves out in ways whose dynamics and plot-twists continue to provoke vigorous debate among Twain biographers and literary scholars. With the guilt-edged memory of his oldest and perhaps favorite daughter's death still ever-present, and the memory of his beloved wife fresher still, Sam Clemens found himself surrounded by a household of self-serving and manipulative sycophants (chief among them, Isabel Lyon and Ralph Ashcroft), a loyal maid of more than twenty-five years (Katy Leary, aka Katie Leary), a staff of frequently feuding servants and butlers who were spooked by burglars when they weren't leaking family gossip to the neighbors, and his official biographer, Albert Bigelow Paine, often close at hand and taking notes on everything. Crowded as it might seem, Twain's own adult daughters put in few appearances until the last months he was at Stormfield. Clara was busy asserting her independence, while Jean found herself banished from his presence against her will.

The fame and goodwill of Mark Twain's public persona had allowed Sam Clemens to recover from a bankruptcy, but his ability to produce creative works of the length and complexity of Mark Twain's earlier writings was hampered by the steady arrival (and acceptance) of invitations to dinners and speaking engagements that filled his schedule. As the honors and recognition and money flowed in, his creative process seemed to ebb, becoming a series of false starts, with only the shorter weaker efforts finding their way into print as finished pieces of writing. When Mark Twain was not accepting speaking engagements, Sam Clemens often sat at home at Stormfield, feeling starved for visitors, compulsively playing billiards late into the night, and consuming his fair share of the whiskey, with predictable results. During his last year at Stormfield, Sam Clemens began to realize the degree to which he had allowed himself to be manipulated by two members of his household, a painful moment of self-discovery that triggered rage and self-reproach, and the inspiration for the longest piece of writing he would complete in his last year. When his daughters finally did come home, one soon married and the other died on Christmas Eve morning before a reconciliation with her father was complete, inspiring a bittersweet prose threnody, his last writing of any substance.

Yet, it would be a mistake to think that life at Stormfield was a tearful torrent of tragedies, tirades, tortuous trepannings, and teeming troubles. Along with all of the melodrama there were sunny interludes of happiness as well. Trips to Bermuda offered welcome respites that seemed to restore his health and subdue the wrenching pain from his weakening "tobacco heart." Angelfish, the young girls he befriended and formed into a harmless harem of pen-pals and playmates, provided a youthful diversion even if they did not always play the roles of surrogate daughters or visit promptly when summoned. Clemens' time spent helping Paine prepare materials for Mark Twain's official biography and the dictating of his autobiography was therapeutic. While the quantity of visitors to Stormfield was not to his liking (despite his complaints Twain proudly recorded 180 visitors the first year), the quality was often gratifying, including several life-long friends and family like William Dean Howells, Joe Twichell, Laura Hawkins Frazer, Dan Beard (who was also a neighbor), as well as Susan Crane and other Langdon family members --not to mention a sporadic assortment of eager ego-stroking publishers, editors, reporters and photographers. Visits from angelfish like Frances Nunnally, Dorothy Quick, Helen Allen, Irene Gerken, or Dorothy Harvey were invariably memorialized with snapshots on the loggia (which was called the "fish-market" on such visits). Ossip Gabrilowitsch was a frequent visitor, and after he arrived July 30, 1909 to recover from a serious recent surgery, Clemens was treated to classical piano music by a virtuoso whose solo recordings are still admired today. Daughter Clara was a competent pianist and singer who played his favorite Chopin nocturne even though her fingers could not reach a full octave, and Clemens himself could bang out an old-time spiritual or two on the keyboard when the mood struck. The orchestrelle, a kind of mechanical player-pipe-organ that could imitate the sounds of various instruments, sat at one end of the living room and could be operated by Paine, Lyon and other members of the household to play some of Clemens' favorite music; he was in the habit of playing it himself before retiring for bed.

Daily life at Stormfield also included meanderings in the quiet countryside where Clemens sometimes encountered startled neighbors, or children picking through his bottle-dump for colorful whiskey bottles --Mark Twain was only too happy to point out the best ones. He held an open house for gawking neighbors not long after moving in, and he sponsored a concert to benefit the local library with 525 guests in attendance. Clara and opera singer David Bispham were accompanied by Ossip on the grand piano in the library, with Mark Twain acting as emcee. To sit or stand in the library, 160 guests paid $1.50 each and squeezed into the 820 square foot room; tickets for the dining room were $1, the front hallway was 75 cents, and seats in the billiard room and rear terrace were 50 cents. When Mark Twain wasn't entertaining, Clemens' well-established habits of reading and correspondence continued unabated, sometimes until 3 AM. There were long dinner conversations with members of the household that also lasted into the early morning hours, and even poetry recitations that provoked ecstatic gushings in the diary of his secretary, Isabel Lyon.

The story of life at Stormfield has been examined in great detail several times and it is not the intention of this "virtual tour" to recite that history in full once again, but instead supply the less familiar details about the history of the house itself and its surroundings in order to enhance the tour that will begin shortly. Sam Clemens' original concept for Stormfield was as a country house to escape 21 Fifth Avenue in New York City for the summer, but he made it his permanent home in just a few months. The remote location was Albert Bigelow Paine's idea  (Paine had purchased land nearby) and in 1906 Clemens began buying property in the Redding, Connecticut area, beginning with a 75 acre site, and quickly accumulating a total of 248 acres. Plans were drawn up by William Dean Howells' son, John Mead Howells, and Isabel Lyon, the narcissistic heavy-drinking secretary upon whom Clemens' was becoming increasingly dependent, was put in charge of decorating. Her taste in Persian rugs (Khiva and Bokhava rugs in dull red, deep green, and tan colors), heavy tapestries and drapes, and bric-a-brac (mostly Russian copper and brass pots) is obvious in many of the interior photographs. She even ordered a cupid for the fountain under the pergola, but for some reason it was still not installed months after move-in. When Alvin Coburn and Archibald Henderson visited in December, 1908, Mark Twain himself posed as the statue in the fountain, and as Coburn took his photograph for Archibald Henderson's book, Isabel Lyon, standing off to one side, snapped her own photo.

Construction began with a simple ground-breaking ceremony held by Miss Lyon, John Howells, Paine, Lounsbury, and one or two others on May 23, 1907, when they poured a prophetic bottle of whiskey into the first hole dug. By September, 1907, the framing was up, and Clara had reviewed the plans with John Howells and discovered that they did not include the music room she had assumed would be included. In February, with the house now well under way, Clara's music room and loggia were added, at a cost of $4,100, giving the house a grand symmetrical facade. Just days before Clemens was to move in, Isabel Lyon met with the workers and cajoled them into staying late into the night to meet the deadline, and she toasted them with whiskey and treated them to an orchestrelle concert when they finished the job in time for her to move the furnishings into place. But construction was still not quite finished when Mark Twain moved into his new home about six o'clock in the evening on June 18, 1908 with much public fanfare.

The elegant villa represented an investment of between $45,000 and $60,000 (roughly twice Clemens' original expectation), mostly derived from the periodical publication of his Autobiography, and was originally going to be called `Autobiography House.' But on July 20 Clemens christened it `Innocence at Home' at the top of the first page in his first guest book. This was in reference to his young female friends, the angelfish, in whose honor he decorated his billiards room, also known as the "aquarium" after he hung pictures of angelfish on its walls. When Mary Rogers gave him a larger fancier guest book he copied the information from the first guest book into his second guest book and did some silent editing, including changing the date of this christening to the very day he moved in. But daughter Clara, always uneasy about the angelfish, objected, and the name `Stormfield' took its place. Twain explained that he was only able to afford the added expense of the loggia and music room additions to the house after selling his book, Extracts From Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven, to Harper Brothers, and so gave that name to the entire house, but the day he decided on the name "Stormfield" he stood admiring a raging thunderstorm rumble across the eastern fields, and that explanation has also been given for the name.

After his death in April, 1910, Clara and Ossip Gabrilowitsch continued living at Stormfield until she gave birth to her daughter Nina at the end of the summer, and then moved to Munich, Germany after a two-week rest in New York City. They used the house now and then until 1914, and after Ossip's brief imprisonment in Germany, they went to Switzerland, later living in New York and Philadelphia before settling in Detroit in 1919. In July, 1917 they had put Stormfield on the market, later allowing it to serve as a convalescent home for soldiers in 1918, and it was finally sold to Mrs. Margaret Givens in December, 1922, who planned to remodel it. Mrs. Givens and her two children were in the house in the early morning hours of July 25, 1923 when they discovered a fire in the laundry room, and fled the house in their night-gowns. The house burned to the ground as the local fire department and frantic neighbors rescued whatever they could, including the great Scottish mantle. The property was sold to George Leland Hunter in April, 1924, and he built a new but smaller home (ten rooms versus the original eighteen) on the site a few years later, based partly on the original floorplans, and over the years most of the original acreage was sold off. The new Stormfield, sitting on 28.5 acres, found a new owner in 2003 after having been offered for sale with an asking price of $3,450,000.

Stormfield was originally designed as a sixteen room Italian villa, but the addition of a loggia with Clara's music room directly above it brought the total size to more than 7,600 square feet, with eighteen rooms, not including a large attic, two large cellars (with a boiler under the pantry and a coal furnace under the billiards room), a large laundry room, a large "butler's" (walk-in) pantry,  and terraces at the front and back doors. The original plans called for the house to face south, but it was built facing southwest --perhaps a bit more west than south -- and for the sake of simplicity references to compass directions will be given as if it had faced due west. The center section of the structure measured sixty-nine feet wide (north to south) and forty-one feet deep (west to east). The north and south wings each measured twenty-eight feet wide (north to south) and eighteen feet deep (west to east). From ground level to the gutters, the building stood twenty-one and a half feet tall, with a total width of one hundred and twenty-five feet, and had ten foot ceilings on the first floor and nine foot ceilings on the second floor. Heating was supplied by steam, lighting was supplied by a 100 light acetylene gas system (electricity was not yet available in that area), and water was supplied by a spring-fed system that included two 1,000 gallon copper tanks in the attic fed by an 8,000 gallon stone reservoir. Built facing west-southwest, with a pergola at the end of a long walkway that sloped downward through the east-facing rear garden, Stormfield looked as substantial as a block of granite, but was constructed using conventional wood framing with the studs placed at 16 inch centers, with wood sheathing covered in light grey stucco less than an inch thick. The fireplaces and terraces were brick, and the chimneys were covered in stucco and topped with stone. The loggia, bathrooms, pantry, kitchen, laundry, and foyer were tiled. The tile roof was probably a dull red, and there was a sheet metal deck down the middle of the roof, out of view from the ground, with three skylights for the attic. The skylights included "ventilating ceiling sashes" in the second floor hallway. The thick balustrades around the front and rear terraces were made of wood, not stone.

There was a "telephone closet" under the stairs on the east side of the foyer, just as there had been a telephone booth under the stairs in the foyer of the Hartford home. One odd feature was that Clemens' private bathroom was shared with the adjacent guest bedroom, the only shared bathroom in the entire house (although Clara's private bathroom did have a second door to the outside hall). When Paine began staying regularly at Stormfield as Clemens' health declined, he stayed in that adjacent guest bedroom with the shared bathroom. Another odd feature was a false chimney directly above the north walls of the dining room and Clara's bedroom with no fireplaces or brickwork beneath it, intended simply to give a proper symmetry to the architectural design. However, that symmetry was compromised when the north wing of the house was added. On the far north-facing end of the wing with the loggia and music room was a large chimney that served them both; but no chimney, false or real, was added to the far south wall of the servants' wing.

Separate from the house was a large (approximately thirty by forty-two foot) two-story carriage-house (with nearly 2,000 square feet) that still stands today to the right of the lane leading to the hillside site. Also wood-framed, with cement floors and built-in drains, it had a stucco exterior and a shingled roof, and carriages entered through a pair of ten foot tall sliding doors. On the ground floor it had a built-in "carriage wash" to clean both of the family's carriages, a harness room, and four stalls. Upstairs it had living quarters for the groom or coachman, feed bins, a hay loft, and a large storage loft. Oddly, this carriage-house does not appear on a 1910 survey of the property, while a "barn" does appear along the driveway to the south of the house.

By all accounts, the forests and fields around the house were lovely through every season. Native savins (a dwarf juniper, called cedars by the locals), bay, laurel, dogwood, and birch were common to the area, and yew trees surrounded the pergola in the rear garden that sloped down to one of two trout streams on the property. White daisies were in bloom the day Clemens moved in (he mistook them for buckwheat), and huckleberries were abundant (Clemens had a fondness for huckleberry pies). A reporter in September, 1908, reported the house was surrounded by fields of "goldenrod and smilax; and beds of asters and tangles of berry bushes about it." Approaching the home from the north along a pathway shaded by large trees, a visitor first passed over a stone bridge and next the large carriage house on the right. A moment later the large open hillside would appear, almost completely cleared of trees and bushes, with the stately home situated slightly downhill and to the left, a gently curving section of the circular driveway leading to the west-facing front terrace. Our virtual tour will begin in a moment as we emerge from that shady country lane.

The tour consists of forty-one photographs of the exterior and interior of Stormfield, of which half are previously unpublished. The photographers include Jean Clemens, William Ireland Starr, Frederic Bulkeley Hyde, Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, Alvin Langdon Coburn, and a few that cannot be identified with certainty (Miss Lyon and Paine very likely account for some of the unidentified images). There are, of course, many familiar photographs of Stormfield.  The Edison movie of Mark Twain sauntering around the front of his home and having tea immediately come to mind, as well as the familiar images of Mark Twain posing with Helen Keller, William Dean Howells and other memorable visitors, the striking color images taken by Alvin Langdon Coburn when he and Archibald Henderon visited, and Frank J. Sprague's photographs of Sam Clemens nearly upstaging Clara at her own wedding by prancing around in Mark Twain's Oxford robes. However, the images selected for this tour were chosen precisely because many are not familiar, they can be ordered in a logical sequence, and they show certain common reference points or details that will make it possible to correctly place nearly any other Stormfield photograph in proper context, as well as determine whether a given photograph was even taken at Stormfield (some photos taken at 21 Fifth Avenue, New York, have been incorrectly attributed to Stormfield over the years). After the tour, you can test your knowledge of Stormfield by guessing the locations of twelve additional images.

These photographs are presented as if we are strolling beside a visitor during Mark Twain's day, approaching the house and walking around the outside from front to back before returning to the front door, entering, and wandering freely from room to room, with each image numbered and plotted on the original floorplans showing approximately where the photographer was standing and the precise angle of his view. With the exception of four images from 1923 at the end, they are not presented in chronological order, as will be obvious from changes in the placement of furniture, changing seasons, and the growth of foliage. Because the various photographers used different equipment with lenses of varying focal lengths and depths of field, nobody can ever determine exactly where each photographer may have stood, but we can get close enough so that anyone reading any of the accounts of Sam Clemens' Stormfield years will experience a real sense of spatial immediacy. Today, anyone can tour Sam Clemens' birthplace home, his boyhood home, his Hartford home, and many of the locales and buildings where he lived or lectured or visited for shorter periods of time, and gain some sense of Mark Twain's time and place, but this is not possible for the Stormfield Sam Clemens knew. Photography has been described as a process of "capturing the light" and except for these and other images that long ago captured the light once reflected by Stormfield, Mark Twain's last abode does not exist for us. Yet, together with the testimony of Stormfield visitors and residents, these images have the power to provide a third dimension to our understanding of the events that unfolded there during Mark Twain's twilight years.



The following captions appeared under each of the 41 original photographs of Mark Twain's last home. They were accompanied by the original floorplans of the home, and a plat map of the grounds, with the location of every image plotted and also showing the angle from which the image was taken, providing a virtual tour of the home and grounds. The images and floorplans could not be reproduced here, but the captions are included here because they contain much information not presented in the main body of the article. To see the floorplans and original images, you may order back issues at The Mark Twain Journal website (ask for MTJ 44:1-2 (Spring-Fall, 2006).

1. The visitor to Stormfield has just passed the carriage house and emerged from the tree-lined lane. The house has come into view and the driveway curves first to the left and then back to the right where Sam Clemens' surrey (yes, with the fringe on top) awaits. There was actually a circular driveway that allowed an approach from either direction. This photo was taken very shortly after Clemens moved in, and the areas around the driveway still show evidence of where building supplies had been stacked during construction. Sam Clemens' surrey, by the way, is preserved at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, but is not yet restored for public viewing. His closed carriage (the brougham given to Sam and Livy by her parents as a wedding gift on February 2, 1870) is on display at the Mark Twain Birthplace Museum in Florida, Missouri. It too was used at Stormfield, returned to Clemens by his sister-in-law, Susan Crane, to whom he and Livy had given it when they vacated the Hartford home. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Given to her nurse and friend, Marguerite Schmitt, by Jean Clemens, November or December, 1909.

2. Approaching closer, details come into focus. The residual damage to the grounds from construction is clearer, some wicker furniture is visible inside and outside the archways of the loggia. Clara's music room above the loggia has one window open, the three shuttered windows of Clemens' bedroom (second floor, just to the right of the widest chimney) are also open. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

3. Approaching even closer and changing the angle, the immense size of the house becomes obvious when compared to the carriage and the coachman (in formal open front butler's tuxedo) who stands at the ready. The arched doorway leading from the living room (called "the library") to the loggia is barely visible between two loggia archways. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

4. This view, taken in winter, shows how the loggia could be enclosed during cold weather by hanging doors between the archways, making them nearly indistinguishable from the "French windows" of the dining room and library. Photograph by Alvin Langdon Coburn, December 21-2, 1908. Published in Henderson, Mark Twain. Jack Warner archive.

5. This view, taken at a later date (note that the ground-cover damaged during construction has begun to grow back), shows the shutters now removed from Clemens' bedroom. This postcard image is captioned `Innocents at Home' --an inaccurate rendition of what Mark Twain first named his new home. Photographed for Connery Brothers, Georgetown, Connecticut, in 1908.

6. This postcard image, taken at a much later date shows the construction damage completely obscured by a healthy summer and fall crop of native grass and wildflowers. The caption has been changed to `Stormfield.' This postcard, like some others was colorized, and such postcards cannot be always be trusted. Image #5 and other postcard views show the house with a red tile roof; this and most other postcards show it with a grey-green tile roof. So, which color is correct? At least one magazine reporter said in 1909 that the tile roof was green, and commented on how it blended with the countryside, and the postcard mailed from Stormfield by Ossip Gabrilowitsch (see image #18) also shows a dull green roof, so green would seem a safe bet. Or is it? One memoir by a man who grew up near Stormfield as a boy says the roof was red, as shown in the postcard for image #5, and a local newspaper report of the fire in July, 1923 also reports the roof as being red tile. Angelfish Dorothy Quick remembered the roof as being red. Photographed for Tichenor & Rudolph, Middletown, New York, late 1909.

7. This image was taken by an amateur photographer (known only by his initials) during a visit with Harry Lounsbury, who had been the general contractor for the construction of Stormfield (Helpful Harry also dealt firmly with the burglars and Isabel Lyon on Clemens' behalf, and drove Paine and Clemens from the train station in April, 1910, Twain's last trip home just a few days before he died). The month this image was made Clara and Ossip Gabrilowitsch had their baby at Stormfield, and shortly after closed the house with the help of Katy Leary, who had served the family loyally for thirty years. On her last day at Stormfield, Katy locked herself alone in Clemens' bedroom where the smell of his tobacco lingered, and wept. According to a man who grew up nearby, the Gabrilowitsches gave the cooking staff the pots and pans, and the garden tools to the gardeners, and then invited neighbors to come take whatever was left behind. Clara and Ossip then moved back to Germany, and Katy (who was given about a hundred books from Sam Clemens' library, now at the Center for Mark Twain Studies, Elmira College) moved to New York where she later opened a boarding house; one of her lodgers was Clemens' gun-toting butler, Claude Joseph Beuchotte. Photograph by "D. H. G." in August, 1910.

8. Approaching the front door, the front terrace and balustrade come into view. A familiar image of Twain looking at a heavily loaded automobile as Clara and Ossip prepared to leave after their wedding was taken from about this same spot. The downstairs arched window at left is the west end of the living room or library. The room above it is Clemens bedroom. The room above the entry is a guest bedroom which shares a bathroom with Clemens' bedroom. The arched window downstairs at the far right is the west end of the billiards room and fronts the alcove of that room. The room above the billiards room is Jean's bedroom. The small half-shaded window to the left of the downspout is Jean's bathroom window, where she died in her bathtub just before Christmas in 1909. Photograph by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, before April, 1909.

9. In view #2 this window is clearly visible just to the left of the front door, and was the west side of Isabel Lyon's office. In this portrait, Mark Twain is flanked by Ralph Ashcroft and Isabel Lyon. He had some postcards made from this image and he explained in a note on one such card that he was attempting to recite the Beatitudes while being coached by Ashcroft. Photograph by William Ireland Starr, December 14, 1908.

10. In this view Twain has perched himself atop the balustrade directly in front of Miss Lyon's office window. This is the corner of the balustrade seen in view #8. Photographer unidentified. This photograph was in possession of Frank and Walter Bliss in 1915.

11. Stepping back and now looking just past where Twain was perched, the loggia can be seen clearly. An alcove, resembling a small hearth may be seen in the shadows in the center column on the north end of the loggia. The familiar images of Twain posing with William Dean Howells were taken on the walkways visible in this view. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

12. Continuing around the north end of the loggia and now facing south, the entire rear elevation of the house is seen. Above the loggia, extending out from Clara's music room, is what a realtor in 1922 called a "sleeping balcony" and dubbed by Clara --ever the aspiring singer-- her "nightingale cage." Sister Jean and others simply called it Clara's "cage." The balustrade around the rear terrace is visible, as well as the terraced stone garden walls that flanked the pathway leading down to the pergola. Photograph by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, before April, 1909.

13. Moving toward the rear terrace, Twain suddenly appears seated along the northern-most garden wall. Behind him a wire ice-cream chair sits on the terrace. Photograph by Frederic Bulkeley Hyde, November, 1908.

14. Stepping back just a few feet and looking east, the wall where Twain was sitting in image #13 is now at the far right, and the pergola and fountain at the end of the pathway can be seen. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.  

15. Mark Twain can be seen playing cards (hearts was his favorite card game) with Albert Bigelow Paine's daughter Louise, Dorothy Harvey, and Harvey's friend Pauline Martin on the rear terrace with Clara's cage visible at the upper right. The ladder leaning against her cage does not represent some failed attempt by Ossip and Clara to elope; this photo was taken while some construction work and repairs were still in progress during the first week after moving in. Pauline, the youngest card-shark, sits in the wire ice-cream chair seen earlier in view #13. That chair and table are preserved at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford. Photographer unidentified, June 20-28, 1908. Published in Paine, Mark Twain, a Biography. Jack Warner archive.

16. Stepping down the path past the terrace and garden walls this view shows the details of the stone work and Clara's cage. The downstairs archway at far left is the rear doorway to the dining room (seen from the inside looking out in image #21). The card game in progress in view #15 was held in front of the window just to its right. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

17. Stepping to the other side of the path and swinging the camera just a little south, the rest of the rear elevation can be seen. The three archways near the center are the east end of the dining room and the room above it was Clara's bedroom, although Jean reported that Clara was in the habit of sleeping in her cage. The arched windows at the far right are the east end of the living room or library. The two arched windows to the left of the dining room are the east side of the pantry and servant's sitting room, and the two square windows at the far left are the laundry and kitchen. The rooms above the kitchen, pantry and south-wing servants rooms were also servants quarters. The two square upstairs windows at far right were a guest bedroom and Miss Lyon's former bedroom, both directly across the hall from Clemens' bedroom. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

18. This postcard view shows the entire rear (east) elevation from a point about halfway down the path to the pergola. The date of August 11, 1909 was written by Ossip Gabrilowitsch when he mailed this card from Stormfield shortly after arriving to recover from his operation. Ossip wrote to a piano maker that he was making a fast recovery, taking long drives and walks, and was nearly as strong as he had been before the surgery. Photograph by George W. Ruffles, Bridgeport, Connecticut, before August, 1909.

19. This view is from the pergola (the trellis itself is just out of view to the left and right of the bushes), showing the entire rear elevation, garden, and pathway. According to one neighbor's memoir, children who had been shown the pictures on the walls in Mark Twain's "aquarium" would gaze into the shallow waters of the pergola fountain expecting to see angelfish swimming around. Photograph by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, before April, 1909.

20. Returning to the front entry, a visitor would enter the home through a foyer flanked by Miss Lyon's office on the left and a closet and stairway to the right. Next, the visitor would step up two steps through an arched doorway into the main hallway, and facing directly ahead across the north-south hallway, this is what would be seen. The draped entrance to the dining room is flanked by two distinctive heavily carved hall chairs. Early morning light from the rear doorway (the "French windows") has backlit the view, obscuring some details. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

21. By stepping forward into the dining room and looking out the east-facing rear doorway or "French windows" some of the garden walls can be seen and the pergola is just out of view beyond the bright morning light. The dining room table, normally extended and centered in the room, has its leaves removed to allow an unobstructed view. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

22. Stepping now a little to the left and turning to face back toward the entrance to the dining room, a portion of the fireplace and some of the furnishings can be seen. One of the hall chairs is visible in the front hallway just outside the curtained entrance. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

23. Returning to the front hallway and standing by the hall chair seen in view #22 and facing north toward the living room or library, the fireplace can be seen with two huge candles on the mantle. The design in the curtain entry to the dining room at right can now be clearly seen, and a pile of laundry (somebody's dirty laundry perhaps?) sits next to the other hall chair. To the left of the entry to the living room, just out of view, is the doorway to Miss Lyon's downstairs office, with what appears to be the Stormfield guest book sitting on a small table nearby (it was sometimes kept in the library). If asked to sign the guestbook a visitor would see written in Mark Twain's distinctive hand on the first page these lines from Shakespeare's (Twain would say Bacon's) `Titus Andronicus' Act I, Scene I: "In peace and honor rest you here, my guest; repose you here,/ Secure from worldly chances and mishaps!/ Here lurks no treason, here no envy swells,/ Here grow no damned grudges; here are no storms,/ No noise, but silence and eternal sleep:/ In peace and honor rest you here, my guest!" Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

24. Standing at the threshold to the library or living room the details of the fireplace become clear. The entry to the library had a single six inch step down into the 20 x 41 foot room. Mounted on the fireplace is the lower half and some angels from the great Scottish mantlepiece that once adorned the Hartford library fireplace. A young visitor to the home reported that the great mantlepiece itself was too large to fit the space (the library had a ten foot, six inch ceiling, six inches more than the rest of the first floor areas), so it is likely that the upper half was put in storage, perhaps in the carriage house or barn. Both the upper and lower parts of this mantle were found in a neighbor's barn many years later and are now restored and installed in the library at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

25. Looking to the left of the fireplace toward the northwest corner of the room, the general layout of the library becomes clearer. The sofa and the highly carved table between the two arched windows both survive and can be seen today at the Mark Twain Birthplace Museum in Florida, Missouri. The original architect's plans showed Clara's grand piano in this western end of the library, but there is no sign of it in this or other images of this end of the room. If the piano sat at the other end of the room near the orchestrelle this might explain why the photographer of this image and the person who produced image #26 did not position themselves further back to the east end of the room to obtain a better image. Photograph by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, before April, 1909.

26. This similar view was taken shortly after moving in, showing an earlier arrangement of furniture and bric-a-brac, and more clearly showing the downstairs cypress crown-molding (with "picture moulding" running along the bottom edge of the crown molding) and what one reporter called "lustrous copper-colored grass-cloth" wall paper. These two distinctive details can often be used to distinguish between photos taken at Stormfield and elsewhere. The windows and doorways of 21 Fifth Avenue in New York, in sharp contrast to the woodwork at Stormfield, had white painted trim flanked by inverted finials that reflected the architecture of the exterior doors and windows of the New York home. They frequently can be seen in the background of photos taken at 21 Fifth Avenue, and in one image of Mark Twain sitting at the piano, a tell-tale finial can even be seen reflected in a mirror. Photographer unidentified, summer, 1908. Chapple Publishing archive.

27. Looking to the right of the library fireplace, Twain has reclined on a small sofa or day-bed to puff on his pipe. Behind him to the right is the arched doorway leading to the loggia (which can be seen from the outside in image #3). Photograph by Frederic Bulkeley Hyde, November, 1908.

28. Stepping back and taking in more of the room from the same angle, the doorway to the loggia has now been opened, the sofa that was seen in view #25 has now been placed where Twain was reclining, and at the far right between the two east-facing arched windows sat Clemens' orchestrelle that Paine played for him when Jean's body was being carried away for burial in Elmira. The orchestrelle can now be seen (and sometimes heard) at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal. Photographer unidentified, date unknown. Published in Lawton, A Lifetime With Mark Twain. Jack Warner archive.

29. Stepping up to the doorway leading to the loggia, Mark Twain now sits in one of the wicker chairs seen earlier. Behind him the alcove in the center column between the north side archways is quite clear, and may have held at this point a small ceramic German heater that Clemens admired for its ability to heat the entire loggia (at other times a statue can be seen in this alcove). Above the alcove is the largest of the "della Robbias" installed in the walls, and perhaps the only one to survive the 1923 fire. Della Robbias are glazed terra cotta friezes inset into circular framed panels on walls, a staple of Italian architecture for centuries (the architect's plans specified that these "decorative plaques" would be supplied by "the owner." It is unknown whether this one survives today, but a small stone lion, perhaps part of this or another panel from Stormfield is preserved at the Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford. The loggia was tiled with large tiles about one foot square, and photos taken on the loggia can often be identified by this detail. Photograph by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, before April, 1909.

30. Here is the loggia with the archways closed up for the winter and decorated for Christmas, 1908, with the stuffed elephant sent by publisher Robert Collier as a joke. Its arrival was preceded by ten bales of hay, several bushels of carrots, a delivery notice, a phone call, and even an elephant trainer from Barnum & Bailey's Circus (actually Collier's butler posing as a trainer). This created a panic in the household as the arrival of a baby elephant was expected any moment. The perpetually level-headed Harry Lounsbury, who drove the "elephant trainer" out to Stormfield, figured out the joke before the elephant made its appearance, but kept quiet so as not to spoil the fun. Twain recorded the elephant in his guestbook as "the Maharaja" and scribbled a note saying "God will punish Robert Collier, I know it." Photographer unidentified, December, 1908. Jack Warner archive.

31. Stepping back into the house from the loggia and back through the library, this view shows the front hallway facing south toward the billiards room. The entrance to the dining room is on the left, and just past the curtain at right is the entrance to Miss Lyon's office. The light reflected at the middle of the hallway is from the front door, which must have been left open to provide more lighting for this photo. At the far end of the hallway is the corner fireplace in the billiards room, sporting the long-lost mantlepiece sent to Mark Twain by his Hawaiian admirers for his birthday in November, 1908. In a photograph taken before November, 1908, a plain mantlepiece can be seen installed on this fireplace. But this mantlepiece, when the image is enlarged, shows a cartouche enclosing lettering at the center: "ALOHA." The precise meaning of "aloha" is open to interpretation, and Jean thought it translated "happy home." Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

32. Mark Twain poses with a cat in the corner pocket. The kitty is either Sinbad, Ali Baba, Aladdin, Danbury, or Billiards, but it's not Clara's cat Bambino, and probably not Tammany, who was mauled by a dog that same month. The doorway leading from the hallway into the billiards room can be seen hanging open behind them. Pictures of angelfish (both the fish and some of the young ladies themselves) adorn the walls, and the Hawaiian mantlepiece is out of view just to the right. Several photos of Mark Twain and others playing billiards were taken at both Stormfield and at 21 Fifth Avenue. Those with angelfish pictures on the walls were taken at Stormfield; those with inverted finials in the white painted woodwork around the doorways were taken at 21 Fifth Avenue. The billiard table used in New York was a gift of Henry Huttleston Rogers, but for some reason Clemens used his old billiard table at Stormfield, keeping the Rogers table in New York for a time. Clemens encouraged Paine to build a billiard room of his own so they could play billiards when he visited Paine, but Paine did not complete construction of his own billiard room until shortly before Clemens' death, pointing out the roof of the building to Clemens from the carriage on the way back to Stormfield just days before the end. The Rogers table passed to Paine, and today that impressive Brunswick-Balke-Collender "Warwick" table is on display in the billiard room at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford. The whereabouts of the older billiard table is unknown. Although the walls of the alcove in the billiard room appear to be covered in the same copper-colored "grass-cloth" that was used in the library, the walls of the billiard room at Stormfield were said to be red, the same color as his previous billiard rooms, and the only color Clemens thought appropriate for a billiard room. Photograph by Frederic Bulkeley Hyde, November, 1908.

33. One of Sam Clemens' favorite photos, this portrait was taken in the large western alcove of the billiard room. The fuzzy appearance was the result of the photographer adding methol (now called methyl hydroquinone) to the developer solution either too late or in too great a quantity, with the result that undissolved crystals settled onto the plate, creating what Mark Twain called a "tapestry-like" texture. He liked this image so much that he had postcards made from it. Racked billiard cues can be seen at the far left.  Photograph by Frederic Bulkeley Hyde, November, 1908.

34. Going upstairs to the room directly above the billiard room leads us to Jean's room, a spartan but functional work space, what a young visitor who saw her room called "severe." Her bookshelves can be seen at far left (she used her bookshelves as a background for portraits of her father, Joe Twichell, Kate Leary, and Bambino when at 21 Fifth Avenue). Jean handled her father's correspondence and her postal scale can be seen atop her desk. Jean proudly noted on the back of a print of this photograph that she carved the folding table seen in this photo while at Katonah, and that she made the bookcase at Lourdes. Jean's wood-carving tools are preserved at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford, the gift of Mr. and Mrs. Eugene V. Grumman. The Hartford museum also has a blanket chest carved by Jean, not shown here. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

35. Leaving Jean's room and walking north along the upstairs hall leads past a guest bedroom and Sam Clemens' room on the left, and past Clara's room, a guest bedroom, and Miss Lyon's bedroom on the right, to a doorway leading into Clara's music room over the loggia. Although the architect's floorplan indicated Clara's grand piano would be placed in the west end of the library, existing photos don't show it in that position, and it was probably placed at the southeast corner of the library, near the orchestrelle that sat against the east wall. It seems unlikely it was lugged up the stairs to the music room, only to be lugged back down to the library for a benefit concert. By the window at the far left a portion of Clara's Chippendale desk can be seen. It was sold at auction in June, 2003. The chair sitting in front of her desk is identical to the chair she used for her piano when at 21 Fifth Avenue. The fireplace of her music room was directly above the archway with the little alcove in the loggia below. Clara's cage is just out of view at the far right. Photograph by Jean Clemens, summer or fall, 1909.

36. This view out a window of Sam Clemens' bedroom shows the terrain to the north of Stormfield, in the direction of the wooded area leading to the driveway which is out of view at far left. This window is clearly visible in view #3 just to the right of the chimney at the juncture of Clara's music room and Clemens' bedroom. The photographer said it was taken by placing the camera on Clemens' pillow, but the architect's floorplan shows the proposed placement of Clemens' bed against an interior wall and extending out into the room, which would have made such a camera position impossible. However, Sam Clemens placed the bed's side against that same wall. On the morning that Jean died, Katy Leary rushed into his room without first knocking, and Clemens describes hearing her open the door, unseen, behind the bed's footboard as she blurted out the unspeakable news. Clemens did much of his last writing in his bedroom; one visitor describes a work table placed next to his bed, heaped with papers. The bed Clemens used at Stormfield was not the richly carved Venetian bed that he and Livy had shared during their Hartford years (the great Venetain bed can be seen today at the Mark Twain House & Museum, Hartford), but a much plainer style bed whose fate is unknown. Photograph by Arthur Radclyffe Dugmore, before April, 1909.

37. This photo was made the day after the fire of 1923 and shows the loggia from the same angle as view #30. The contrast is shocking. At the very top of the photo the bottom portion of the fireplace in Clara's music room is visible (see view #35). Other than the brick fireplaces, garden walls, and scorched balustrades, the archways of the loggia were the only parts of the structure left standing. Photograph by one of the sons of William Edgar Grumman, Mark Twain's last stenographer, July 26, 1923.

38. This view was taken from about the same place as view #21, but without the dining room walls and windows obscuring the view of the rear terrace balustrade. The fountain and part of the pergola are barely visible in the bushes. The fire caused the wooden balustrades to scorch but not ignite. The dining room fireplace is visible at far right (see view #22).  Photograph by one of the sons of William Edgar Grumman, Mark Twain's last stenographer, July 26, 1923.

39. This photo shows the backside of the dining room chimney at left and the corner chimneys that served the billiards room downstairs and Jean's room upstairs. The rear balustrade is just visible at left beyond the dining room chimney. The lack of smoke lines and scorching around the bricks are evidence of a free-burning fire, which was probably vertically ventilated through the partly collapsed roof. Photograph by one of the sons of William Edgar Grumman, Mark Twain's last stenographer, July 26, 1923.

40. This badly focused view shows the devastation from about the same angle as view #2. The loggia archways seen in view #37 are clearly visible, as are the chimney (at center) that served the library and Clemens' bedroom, the chimney that served the dining room and Clara's bedroom mostly obscured at the bottom by a cedar tree, and the chimney that served the billiard room and Jean's bedroom at far right, partly obscured at the top by tree branches. The false chimney (clearly visible in views of the rear of the house and in John Howells' floorplans) is gone altogether, of course. Because the fire started in a downstairs laundry room at the far southern end of the structure, there was ample time to salvage some things from the north end of the house. The conventional wood frame structure supporting a heavy tile roof, more than seven tons of water in the attic tanks, and large rooms with heavy joists and trusses, all would have contributed to some roof collapse fairly early on during the fire, allowing it to quickly ventilate itself vertically through the now open roof, slowing the spread through the house. The 2,000 gallons of water from the attic tanks would have further slowed the spread. It seems very likely this did indeed happen before fire-fighters and neighbors began opening doors and windows to salvage contents at the north end of the structure, since those actions would otherwise have created powerful drafts, feeding the flames and drawing the fire even faster toward the north end of the house. The library, Clara's music room, and the loggia would have been the last remnants of Stormfield to vanish in the flames. Photograph by one of the sons of William Edgar Grumman, Mark Twain's last stenographer, July 26, 1923.

41. Rather than end our virtual tour on a sad note, perhaps it's best to remember Mark Twain in all his glory puffing away on a cigar (Sam Clemens' "tobacco heart" be damned), showing off his Oxford robes (which can now be seen at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal) that he valued as a serious recognition of his literary achievements, sitting in a chair in the northwest corner of the loggia with the doors hung for the winter, gazing out toward the walkway where he and Howells would soon pose together during their penultimate visit. Howells once questioned his old friend, asking whether Sam Clemens hadn't retreated to Stormfield to get away from Mark Twain. Not a chance. Photograph by William Ireland Starr, December 14, 1908.



This is a list of the published and private sources consulted in the preparation of this article, and is not intended as a bibliography of all known sources of information on Stormfield.

Bispham, David. A Quaker Singer's Recollections. New York: MacMillan, 1920.

"Burglars Invade Mark Twain Villa." The New York Times, September 19, 1908.

"Buys Mark Twain House." The New York Times, April 18, 1924.

Casey, Andrew. "Mark Twain in Redding" Redding Remembered, Redding Oral History Project. [interview with Eugene V. Grumman (1912-1982), son of William Edgar Grumman, who was Mark Twain's stenographer after February, 1909, and first librarian of the Mark Twain Library at Redding] Redding: John Reed Middle School, April, 1979, p. 30.

Chapple Publishing Company. Chapple Publishing Company Mark Twain Archives. Original photographs. Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell.

Clemens, Clara. My Father Mark Twain. New York: Harper, 1931.

Clemens, Jean. Jean Clemens--Marguerite Schmitt Archive. Original correspondence and photographs. Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell.

Cooley, John. Mark Twain's Aquarium, the Samuel Clemens Angelfish Correspondence, 1905-1910. Athens: University of Georgia Press [1991]

Harnsberger, Caroline. Mark Twain's Clara, or What Became of the Clemens Family. [Evanston:] The Press of Ward Schori, 1982.

Henderson, Archibald. Archibald Henderson Correspondence Archive. Henderson's correspondence with Ralph Ashcroft, Isabel Lyon, and Albert Bigelow Paine, 1908-10. Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell.

Henderson, Archibald. Mark Twain. New York: Frederick A. Stokes [1910]

Hill, Hamlin. Mark Twain, God's Fool. New York: Harper & Row [1973]

Howden, Mary Louise. Mark Twain as His Secretary Remembers Him. [n.p., n.d., but New York, ca. 1925-6] Howden, known as "Miss Mollie," was Mark Twain's stenographer from August, 1908 (when Miss Lyon fired Miss Hobby) until February, 1909, when she was replaced by William

Edgar Grumman. This booklet is a reprint of her account published in The New York Herald Tribune, December 13, 1925.

Howells, William Dean. My Mark Twain, Reminiscences and Criticisms. New York: Harper, 1910.

Lawton, Mary. A Lifetime With Mark Twain, the Memories of Katy Leary, for Thirty Years His Faithful and Devoted Servant. New York: Harcourt, Brace [1925]

"The Lounger." Putnam's Magazine, 7 (December, 1909): 369-70.

Lystra, Karen. Dangerous Intimacy, the Untold Story of Mark Twain's Final Years. Berkeley: University of California Press [2004]

Mark Twain Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell, Austin, Texas. All of the forty-one images in the tour itself are from the originals in this collection. Archives of Stormfield related materials in this collection are cited separately.

Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford, Connecticut. The original floorplans of Stormfield have been provided courtesy of this excellent museum that preserves Mark

Twain's beautifully restored Hartford home open to the public.

Mark Twain Library, Redding, Connecticut. The original survey of Stormfield has been provided courtesy of this outstanding town library founded in 1908 by Mark Twain.

Mark Twain Project, Berkeley, California. The twelve photographs in the "test" section have been provided courtesy of this massive archive of Mark Twain's papers that has supported the research of countless scholars.

"Mark Twain's Home Sold." The New York Times, December 28, 1922.

"Mark Twain's House at Redding, Connecticut." The American Architect, February 10, 1909, p. 51.

"Mark Twain's New Home at Redding." Harper's Weekly, 52 (July 4, 1908): 24, 29.

Paine, Albert Bigelow. Mark Twain, a Biography. New York: Harper, 1912. 3 vols.

Scharnhorst, Gary, ed. Mark Twain: the Complete Interviews. Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press [2006]

"Stormfield for a Home." The New Times, November 7, 1918.

Stormfield Guestbook (first guestbook). Original leather-bound manuscript guestbook used at Stormfield, July, 1908 to May, 1909. Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell.

Stormfield Guestbook (second guestbook). Privately printed photostat facsimile of the second Stormfield guestbook, December, 1908  to  December,  1909,  made  by Mark

Twain's attorney, Charles T. Lark. New York: Charles T. Lark, [ca. 1935] Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell.

"Stormfield Loss Great" Unidentified Connecticut newspaper clipping, August 1, 1923.

"Stormfield, Mark Twain's New Country Home." Country Life in America, 15 (April, 1909): 607-11, 650-51.

Taylor, Coley B. Mark Twain's Margins on Thackeray's "Swift." New York: Gotham House, 1935.

Taylor, Coley B. "Our Neighbor, Mark Twain." American Heritage, 36 (February-March, 1985): 102-107.

"To Sell Mark Twain Home." The New York Times, July 2, 1917.

"Twain Burglars Sentenced." The New York Times, November 12, 1908.

"Twain's Burglars on Trial." The New York Times, November 11, 1908.

"Twain's Old Home Destroyed by Fire." The New York Times, July 26, 1923.

Warner, Jack. Jack Warner Personal Archives. Original photographs taken by Warner Brothers staff and photographs gathered from original sources (bound in three folio volumes, totaling 661 pages), compiled for the personal use of Jack Warner, comprising background research for The Adventures of Mark Twain (1944) starring Fredric March. Hollywood [ca. 1940-44] Collection of Kevin Mac Donnell.

Williams, Henry. In the Clutch of Circumstance, My Own Story, by a Burglar. New York: Appleton, 1922. Williams was one of the burglars who stole the Stormfield silverware in 1908.


Copyright 2006 by Kevin Mac Donnell. All rights reserved. First published in The Mark Twain Journal 44:1-2 (Spring-Fall) 2006.
Copies of this original article, including the floorplans and forty-one photographs, may be ordered from MacDonnell Rare Books for $10, postpaid. Click here to request a copy.

**This article has been reprinted here with the permission of the publication and the author. No portion of this article may be reproduced or redistributed without their express written permission.



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