WWHP Annual Bus Trip - 2013

by Janet Davis
Mark Twain House
Mark Twain House
The Harriet Beecher Stowe House
The Harriet Beecher Stow House
Wadsworht Atheneum Museum of Art
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

On June 21st, 29 members and friends of the Worcester Women’s History Project embarked on the annual bus trip. This year the destination was Hartford, CT. After an hour-long journey we arrived at our first destination, the Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mark Twain house museums. Both of these former homes of two great American authors are adjacent to each other, in an area of Hartford known as Nook Farm. At the time that Harriet Beecher Stowe and Samuel Clemens lived in these homes, Nook Farm was a celebrated center of New England literary life. Harriet, along with her husband and two adult twin daughters, moved into her home when she was in her sixties in 1873, while Samuel was in his thirties when he and his wife moved into their home to raise their children in 1874. Harriet and Samuel were known to be friendly neighbors. Both house museums can be seen only through a guided tour. Given the size of our group, we were split into smaller groups, with all groups applauding the extensive knowledge of their respective tour guides.

The Mark Twain House is a combination of the Gothic Revival and Stick style of architecture popular in the late Victorian era. A majority of the home has been painstakingly restored to the time that Samuel and his family lived in it, thanks to surviving pieces and the meticulous records that were kept by his wife Olivia. The interior is noticeably dark, with the lower lighting that would have existed with gas light fixtures. Additionally, the beautiful woodwork throughout the home is in the darker tones. Beginning in the main receiving hall and continuing throughout the house, the decoration includes beautiful stencil work, from the design firm of Louis Comfort Tiffany (before he was famous for stained glass), and richly embossed wallpapers. The lifestyle of the Clemens family is evident in this home, from the floor to ceiling mirror used for ballet practice by his three daughters in the drawing room, to the third floor billiard room where Samuel entertained his guests and did his writing.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House is also of the Gothic Revival style, but it is a cottage. It is noticeably lighter in both exterior color and interior light level. Harriet liked light, bright spaces and refrained from using heavy draperies, preferring lace curtains, or no curtains at all. The home contains the table at which Harriet did most of her writing, as well as memorabilia that resulted from the commercial success of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. There are also many works of art by Harriet herself, as she was a painter with both words and the brush. The subject of her art work is fruit and flowers. Also part of the Harriet Beecher Stowe house is the visitor center. This separate building provides more information about Harriet and the Beecher family. It also provides programming and events that use Harriet’s life and work to inspire others to change the inequities in the world. Both homes are full of rich visual details that help to paint a picture of the lives of these two great American authors. It is definitely worth the visit.

After the house museums we headed to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the oldest public art museum in the country. We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at the Museum Café, where we dined on the outside patio. We were then separated into groups where the fabulous docents took us on a special tour highlighting female artists and subject matter. From a portrait of a founding mother, Abigail Ellsworth of Connecticut, to the patronage of Elizabeth Colt, and to modern artists Kiki Smith and Lee Lozano, the museum had much to highlight on women and the arts. Much like the first stop of the day, there is a lot more to this museum than can be appreciated in a single visit.

More information about the places visited on this year’s WWHP Bus Trip can be found here:

 The Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House

The Mark Twain House

Published Date: 
June 22, 2013