The prince and the pau­per

Domino - - DECORATING -

Con­struc­tion on the Cle­mens home be­gan in Au­gust 1873, and in Septem­ber of the fol­low­ing year, the fam­ily fi­nally moved into the par­tially fin­ished house. Much of the 11,500-square-foot struc­ture’s dec­o­ra­tive work, in­clud­ing the en­try­way’s ex­tra­or­di­nary sten­cil­ing, was ex­e­cuted by Louis C. Tif­fany and Co., As­so­ci­ated Artists, a group of ar­ti­sans gath­ered to­gether by Tif­fany in the 1870s and early ’80s. Other pieces, such as the din­ing room’s East­lake side­board with me­dieval-style hinges, were cre­ated es­pe­cially for the home. Cle­mens and his wife fre­quently trav­eled to Scot­land and Paris with their three daugh­ters, re­turn­ing with or­nate loot. In 1881, the fam­ily pur­chased an ad­join­ing property, re­land­scaped its grounds, and ex­ten­sively ren­o­vated their home. Un­for­tu­nately, th­ese im­prove­ments proved a tip­ping point for their fi­nan­cial prob­lems. Al­though Cle­mens wrote his most no­table works— in­clud­ing The Ad­ven­tures of Tom Sawyer, Ad­ven­tures of Huck­le­berry Finn, The Prince and the Pau­per, and A Con­necti­cut Yan­kee in King Arthur’s Court—dur­ing the fam­ily’s time on Farm­ing­ton Av­enue, his earn­ings still couldn’t sup­port his ex­trav­a­gant tastes. In 1891, un­able to con­tinue their grand man­ner of liv­ing, they left Hart­ford and moved to Europe, where Cle­mens con­ducted a lec­ture tour, mov­ing from city to city and even­tu­ally set­tling in Guild­ford, south­west of Lon­don, in 1896. Forced to sell the property in 1903, Cle­mens later said that he and his fam­ily en­joyed their most pleas­ant life pas­sage in their Hart­ford home.

This glass-en­closed con­ser­va­tory, abun­dant with ex­otic and trop­i­cal plants, rep­re­sented a par­tic­u­lar lux­ury in snowy Hart­ford.

Cle­mens slept with his head at the foot of his Vene­tian bed so that he could more fully enjoy the view of its elab­o­rately carved head­board.

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