Will Mark Twain Lose the Same House Twice?
My favorite kind of museum is the one where the deeds being celebrated were actually committed on that site — the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, for instance, or the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.
I also love visiting the old homes of interesting people, like Washington Irving. There’s nothing like being able to literally walk in the footsteps of someone else from long ago — seeing where they worked, slept, ate, and maybe cheated at cards.
One of the best such places I’ve ever visited is the sprawling and eclectic house in Hartford, Conn., that was built by and lived in for many years by Mark Twain. He wrote many of his best books there, and carried on a vibrant and varied life. I first visited because a silver thief I was writing about, Blane Nordahl, had unsuccessfully tried to remove Twain’s silver from the house. The place was so interesting that I went back later just for fun; it was nice just to hang out in the third-floor study where Twain wrote.
Unfortunately, the house is now in danger of being shut down due to lack of funds. This is a particularly sad twist since Twain himself lost possession of the house because of a downturn in his finances — even though Twain fully understood that writing is a business like any other.
I do hope the Twain house can be saved. I went to its website this morning and made a small donation, although I almost changed my mind at the last minute, envisioning the acres and acres of junk mail that inevitably follow whenever you submit your name to a new mailing list. I guess that means I like Twain even more than I hate junk mail.