Hartford's Historical Houses Tour, Hartford

Hartford's Historical Houses Tour (Self Guided), Hartford

Visiting old houses is like treasure hunting, where you are bound to uncover secrets of the former owners. Hartford was once home to well-known historic figures, whose abodes today have been converted into museums for future generations to explore.

Among these is the Mark Twain House, a former residence of the iconic American author Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. This Victorian Gothic property showcases the author's life and works, offering visitors a unique insight into his literary genius.

Adjacent to the Mark Twain House is the Harriet Beecher Stowe House, where the influential author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" once resided. This historic landmark provides a window into Stowe's abolitionist beliefs and her impact on American literature and social justice.

The Perkins-Clark House, with its elegant Gothic Revival architecture, stands as a testament to Hartford's colonial heritage. Built in the mid-19th century, it is associated with Charles Perkins, lawyer to author Samuel Clemens, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The William L Linke House, located on Sigourney Street, is another architectural gem in Hartford. This Queen Anne-style mansion showcases the opulence of the Gilded Age and the affluent lifestyle of Hartford's elite at the turn of the 20th century.

The buildings at 142 Collins Street and 136-138 Collins Street are fine examples of Hartford's historic residential architecture, each with its unique charm and character.

Finally, the Isham-Terry House, a grand Italianate mansion, is a historical gem originally built in 1854, largely contributing to the development of Asylum Hill as a desirable neighborhood for Hartford's elites. Donated to Connecticut Landmarks in the 1970s, it now serves as a museum.

Exploring the tapestry of Hartford's historical houses, especially if you're keen to learn about the city's literary luminaries, is a culturally enriching journey in its own right. So, plan your visit today and discover the stories etched in the stones of these notable dwellings for an experience you will surely remember long after!
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Hartford's Historical Houses Tour Map

Guide Name: Hartford's Historical Houses Tour
Guide Location: USA » Hartford (See other walking tours in Hartford)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles
Author: Dee
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Mark Twain House
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe House
  • Perkins-Clark House
  • William L. Linke House
  • Building at 142 Collins Street
  • Building at 136-138 Collins Street
  • Isham-Terry House
Mark Twain House

1) Mark Twain House (must see)

The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, was the home of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain) and his family from 1874 to 1891. It was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter and built in the American High Gothic style. Clemens biographer Justin Kaplan called it "part steamboat, part medieval fortress and part cuckoo clock."

Clemens wrote many of his best-known works while living there, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Tramp Abroad, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

Mark Twain first came to Hartford in 1868 while writing The Innocents Abroad in order to work with publisher Elisha Bliss, Jr. of the American Publishing Company. Hartford was a publishing center at the time, with twelve publishers. He moved into a substantial home in Buffalo, New York after marrying Olivia Langdon; however, he considered moving to a more opulent house in Hartford within two years, partly to be closer to his publisher.

The family first rented a house at what was called Nook Farm in 1871 before buying land and building a new house. Twain said of Hartford, "Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief…. You do not know what beauty is if you have not been here." He was attracted to the town which had the highest per-capita income of any city in the United States at that time.

The house was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, an architect from New York City. When it was being built, the Hartford Daily Times noted, "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."

The home is in the style of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture, including the typical steeply-pitched roof and an asymmetrical bay window layout. Legend says the home was designed to look like a riverboat. According to A Field Guide to American Houses the house was built in the Stick style of Victorian architecture.

The Clemens family moved into the home in 1874 after its completion. The top floor was the billiards room and his private study where he would write late at night; the room was strictly off limits to all but the cleaning staff. It was also used for entertaining male guests with cigars and liquor. Twain had said, "There ought to be a room in this house to swear in. It's dangerous to have to repress an emotion like that."

Clemens worked on many of his most notable books in this home, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) and Life on the Mississippi (1883). The success of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer inspired him to renovate the house, and he had Louis Comfort Tiffany supervise the interior decoration in 1881. He also was fascinated with new technologies, leading to the installation of an early telephone.

However, a string of poor financial investments made by Clemens prompted the family to move to Europe in 1891 where the cost of living was more affordable. He began lecturing across the continent to recoup some money for their family. Unable to afford living in the house, Twain rented it out, returning only once in 1895. "As soon as I entered this front door I was seized with a furious desire to have us all in this house again & right away," he wrote, "& never go outside the grounds any more forever. . . It is the loveliest home that ever was."
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Harriet Beecher Stowe House

2) Harriet Beecher Stowe House (must see)

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is a historic house museum and National Historic Landmark located at 73 Forest Street in Hartford, Connecticut that was once the home of Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the 1852 novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Stowe lived in this house for the last 23 years of her life. The 5,000 sq ft (460 m2) cottage-style house is located adjacent to the Mark Twain House and is open to the public. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2013.

The Stowe House is a two-story brick building, painted gray, resting on a brick foundation. Although the house is basically rectangular, it has a complex roof, with a jerkin-headed gable running parallel to the street, a hip-roof extension to the rear, and small dormers flanking a central dormer flush to the front facade. The gables are decorated with bargeboard, and the eaves have Italianate brackets. The interior of the house follows a fairly conventional center hall plan, with two parlors, dining room, kitchen, and pantry on the first floor, and bedrooms on the second.

Prior to moving into this home, Harriet Beecher Stowe had been living in Massachusetts with her husband Calvin Ellis Stowe, who taught at the Andover Theological Seminary. When Calvin gave his resignation, effective in August 1863, Harriet set to work preparing their first home in Hartford. Fluctuating costs caused by the American Civil War made the project difficult but Harriet enjoyed supervising the work. She wrote to her publisher James Thomas Fields, "I go every day to see it—I am busy with drains sewers sinks digging trenching—& above all with manure!—You should see the joy with which I gaze on manure heaps to which the eye of faith sees Delaware grapes & D'Angouleme pears & all sorts of roses & posies".

The home was complete enough that, by May 1, 1864, she wrote, "I came here a month ago to hurry on the preparations for our house, in which I am now writing, in the high bow-window of Mr. Stowe's study, overlooking the wood and river. We are not moved in yet, only our things, and the house presents a scene of the wildest chaos, the furniture having been tumbled in and lying boxed and promiscuous."

Stowe remained in the home for the last 23 years of her life. Among the works she published while living here was Pogunuc People (published in 1878). She maintained an active career; in addition to her writing, she also embarked on two lecture tours while living in the house. She also pushed for support of the local Wadsworth Atheneum and assisted in establishing the Hartford Art School, now part of the University of Hartford.

Stowe died in her upstairs bedroom in the house in 1896 with several of her children, her sister Isabella Beecher Hooker, and other family members at her side.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Perkins-Clark House

3) Perkins-Clark House

The Perkins-Clark House is a historical house at 49 Woodland Street in Hartford. Built in 1861, it is a prominent example of high-style Gothic Revival residential architecture, and is notable for the association of its first owner, Charles Perkins, with author Samuel Clemens. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 14, 1978, and is a contributing property to the Nook Farm and Woodland Street District.

The Perkins-Clark House is located in a residential area of western Hartford, on the west side of Woodland Street near its junction with Niles Street. It is set on a large parcel overlooking the Park River to the west. It is a 2 1⁄2-story stuccoed structure, with a steeply pitched roof that has gables decorated with bargeboard, and multiple bands of chimneys with corbelled brick tops.

The house was designed by Octavius and Augustus Jordan, according to principles put forth by Calvert Vaux and Andrew Jackson Downing for the construction of Gothic villas. It was built in 1861 for Charles Perkins, a lawyer whose clients included Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), whose house stands on Farmington Avenue to the south. This stylish Gothic Revival house is the last residential building on Woodland Street, which was once lined with fashionable properties. In 1924 it was purchased by Judge Walter Clark, who undertook numerous alterations, although he was careful to match new buildings stylistically to the main house. The house now houses professional offices.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
William L. Linke House

4) William L. Linke House

The William L. Linke House is a historical house at 174 Sigourney Street in Hartford. Built about 1880, it is one of a small number of surviving Queen Anne Victorians on the street, which was once lined with similar houses. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.

The William L. Linke House stands in Hartford's Asylum Hill neighborhood, on the east side of Sigourney Street north of Asylum Avenue. The street is now lined primarily by multiunit apartment buildings. The house is a 2-1/2 story masonry structure, built out of brick with stone trim. It has asymmetrical massing, with numerous gables and dormers projecting from its hip roof. Its front porch features turned posts and carved valances, with a projecting gable above the stairs. To its left is a two-story projecting bay section with decorative brickwork and terra cotta paneling between the floors, and it is topped by a smaller wooden bay and carved wooden detail at the gable peak.

This house was built about 1880, and was typical of houses built on Sigourney Street in the late 19th century. A local map in 1896 shows the street lined with houses similar to this one. Urban redevelopment of the neighborhood, and the street's transformation into a significant north-south artery have led to the demolition of most of those houses, replaced by two-to-four story apartment blocks.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Building at 142 Collins Street

5) Building at 142 Collins Street

142 Collins Street is an architecturally distinguished Queen Anne Victorian house in Hartford. Built about 1890, it is typical of houses that were once much more common the city's Asylum Hill neighborhood. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 29, 1979.

142 Collins Street is located in Hartford's Asylum Hill area, on the north side of Collins Street east of its junction with Summer Street, opposite the main complex of The Hartford Insurance Group. It is a 2-1/2 story brick structure, with a truncated hip roof and numerous projecting gables and dormers. The front facade has porches on the first and second levels, the upper one occupying only the central bay; both have decorative spindled woodwork friezes and turned supports. A projecting gable section to the right is finished with scalloped shingles, and has a two-window angled bay.

The house was built in 1890, and is, with the neighboring house (built about 1870 in the Second Empire style), a study in architectural trends that took place during the development of Asylum Hill in the second half of the 19th century. This house is a particularly fine example of a Queen Anne Victorian executed in brick.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Building at 136-138 Collins Street

6) Building at 136-138 Collins Street

136-138 Collins Street is an architecturally distinguished Second Empire house in Hartford. Built about 1870, it is a rare and well-preserved example of this style in the city. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on April 29, 1982.

136-138 Collins Street is located in Hartford's Asylum Hill neighborhood, on the north side of Collins Street east of Summer Street. It is a 2-1/2 story brick structure, with a slate mansard roof. It is set on an elevated basement, giving it a taller than typical appearance. It is three bays wide, with its entrance in the center bay, and a two-story projecting pavilion to its right. The roof line is pierced by dormers in the mansard section that have elaborately carved surrounds and round-arch windows, that in the projecting section larger than the others. The latter dormer has a bellcast shape with a peaked hood. The roof the eaves have paired brackets. Windows are set in rectangular openings, with peaked lintels and bracketed sills.

The house was built about 1870. It probably had a more ornate front porch; the present one is a 20th-century replacement. The house was once owned by Isaac Frisbie, the superintendent of Hartford's poor house, which was located behind the house.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Isham-Terry House

7) Isham-Terry House

The Isham-Terry House is a historical house museum at 211 High Street in Hartford. Built about 1854, it was from 1896 home to members of the Isham family, who restored it in the early 20th century. The family donated the property to Connecticut Landmarks in the 1970s, which now operates it has a museum, offering guided tours and facility event rentals. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.

The Isham-Terry House occupies a prominent and highly visible location just north of Interstate 84 outside downtown Hartford. It is a roughly cubical painted brick structure, two stories in height, with a low-pitch roof. A three-story tower projecting from its southwest corner adds visual prominence. The roof eaves are deep, with decorative Italianate brackets for support. Windows are on the two main floors are set in rectangular openings, with narrow oblong windows in the attic level of the main block.

On the street-facing facades, the second-floor windows are topped by gabled or segmented-arch pediments with brackets on either side. The first floor of the facade facining Walnut Street is sheltered by a porch supported by slender clustered columns, with round-arch openings that have carved woodwork in the spandrels, and a low spindled balustrade. A similar porch shelters the main entrance facing High Street, and balconies on the tower share similar features. The building interior is well preserved, with lincrusta wall covering, ornate woodwork, and glass chandeliers.

The house was built sometime between the 1852 and 1856. Its original owner, Ebenezer Roberts, was a director of the Hartford National Bank, Travelers Insurance Company, and other local businesses. It was one of the first luxury homes in the neighborhood and the construction of this house contributed to the development of Asylum Hill as a desirable and fashionable neighborhood for the city's elites. High Street was once lined with similar houses, although urban renewal has resulted in demolition of nearly all of them. The house was purchased in 1896 by Dr. Oliver Isham, a descendant of the locally prominent Isham and Terry families. He lived here and operated a medical practice. In the 1970s his surviving descendants gave the property to Connecticut Landmarks for preservation.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.

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