Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hartford: Bushnell Park and Mark Twain's house

I was tired getting up on my second day and decided not to try gambling again, but to see something.  I had many destinations from my hotel in Westerfields (46 minutes from Mohegan Sun.)  However, it was really raining, and I was up and out by 7 AM, so I decided to have breakfast and head out to the Twain house because it opened at 9:30 while the Westerfield museums did not open open until 11 on Sunday, and the interesting graveyard seemed not so interesting in the rain.

I tried the Rooster Company

but they did not do breakfast.

So, I went about a mile away to Sophie's

and that proved a great choice.
Sophie's is a one woman operation with a few tables.  She is a fairly large woman probably in her 60's and she wears the old fashioned kitchen aprons our mothers wore.  She cooks as things are ordered, and she let me order the pierogi special even for breakfast.
I don't eat pierogi on the low card diet, but one choice was one filled with sauerkraut and mushroom.  The shell is very, very thin, so I thought it would not add too much to my carbs that day.  I had mine fried.  Yes, she does make them herself and they were fantastic.  7 pierogi cost $8.50.
Coffee came in a large cup and was delicious.  Perhaps a refill would be free;  I don't know because I did not need more.
I'll be back there again.

From there I tried to go to the ancient burial ground in Hartford.
However, it was chained up.  There was lots of construction and road closings.  Parking was all paid parking.  I did find a place where other cards were parked near the downtown park, but I was nervous about being towed.
I walked in the Bushnell park and took photographs of the Soldiers and Sailors arch and of the carousel.  I was too early for a ride.

Then I went off to the Mark Twain house.


The Mark Twain house is located on the same grounds as the Harriet Beecher Stowe house.  I know I have been there before, but I did not remember anything much.  It may be that we did not take the tour.  I hope so.  This loss of memory is very disturbing. 
Well, it makes me more appreciate the blogs.

There are some exhibits in the welcoming center.  They are interesting and worth seeing.  It is the one area where we can take photographs.  Here is Mark Twain in leggos.

To see the interior of the house itself we need to pay for a tour.  $16 for seniuors.  There is a good deal to then go to Harriet Beecher Stowe's house with $3 off that ticket.  However, I was tiring.  Another house may have been too much.
It was a fine tour.  We had a young woman who knew a good bit about Twain.  She took us to each room and talked her talk.  The next tour was right on our tail.  That was a bit disconcerting.  However, in no case was there going to be any lingering allowed, so it really did not make much difference.  I did hear enough of the other tour to see that they were not duplicates on one another and it would be worth going again and getting a different tour guide.

We opened in the foyer to an intricate inlayed wall and ceiling, more detailed than anything I've seen and quite delightful.  In the gas light Twain would have used, there would be a flickering that would even more enhance the affect of all the shapes and colors.
The stairs were constructed to make  it appear that the house was higher than it seems.  That was also delightful.  Utility was considered, but primarily ornate display was the theme of the place.  So it was not only a look into Twain and his wife Olivia, but also into 19th Century style.
The bifold doors were especially delightful.  They too were thick and full decorated.  The bifold construction allowed for a large door to open and not so restrict space in the adjoining room.
From there we went into a room with a fireplace that had a diverted chimney so that directly above the fireplace mantel was a huge picture window.  It was a fine design.  Here are on the walls was a painting of hollyhocks with a humming bird and assorted sea shells.
Of course, not everything was exactly what it would have been, but I did ask if Olivia would have had such a clutter of objects and was told that she would.
The dining room was next.  Twain would have used it for dinner parties 5 nights a week.  He would try out his material on the guests.  If they all bored him, he might leave them to Olivia and walk out to read a book in the next room.

There was a library room with an attached arbor.  He would sit in an adult chair and the children in little rockers.  He would read to them.  In this room was a huge mantle from Scotland.  It was so big that the top part of it would not fit the room, so they had it removed and mounted above a door.  It was some unknown coat of arms.  It had been thought to have been lost in a fire at another house, but a visitor to this house recognized it as something in his grandfather's garage and subsequently gave it to the Twain museum  That was fortuitous.  This ornate piece was one that Twain bought and had shipped back from Scotland.
There were shelves of books.  When I asked how authentic they were as representative of Twain's library, the guide explained that there was a library historian who had assembled lists of the books Twain read and liked and then built the library collection to reflect the results of her research.  The bookshelves were built to match the Scottish piece.
Olivia had her own library/sewing room.
In their bedroom was an ornately carved wooden bed with angels.  Twain actually slept backwards so he could see the headboard of angels.  Most photographs of him in bed are from this bed.  He had a gas line that went from the overhead gas lamp directly to a light for reading in bed.  He smoked in bed.  This was very unsafe.
The cherubs on the headboard were removable and the children named them and took they to play with during the day, like little wooden dolls.
The Langdon grandmother had her own room upstairs as did the girls.
Clara's room had a piano. She had seen a woman play in public once and asked if girls were allowed to play in public.  He bought her a piano to prepare.  In this room was a speaking tube.  There were a few scattered around the house.  Clara learned that if she stood on a stool, she could speak into it and get almost anything she wanted.
Sophie loved horses and the carriage house was depicted in her room along with some horses. 
The wallpaper reflected the "Frog Went a Courtin'" folksong, but the dark version, in which the frog and his loved mouse are eaten by wedding guests.
George Griffin has his own guest room not far from the billard room.  He did all sorts of supporting things for Twain. 
The billiards room was just as I have seen it in photographs, or perhaps I do remember that one.  In that room Twain would meet friends and tell tall tales of the wild West.  There was a depiction of cues crossed on the ceiling.
At one time in my life I wanted such a room.  We thought about making one here at the lake, upstairs, when the boys were younger and might have played.  I should get a folding table and put it up in the garage in the good weather.  Perhaps I will.  I loved pool as a boy.  My dad bought a table for $10 and balls for $25 and we played often in the basement.

I had not known that the manuscript of Huck Finn had spent 8 years in a cubby before it was printed and released.  Odd that there was so much doubt about such an important work of fiction, one that changed the American novel forever.

In the bookstore on the way out I saw scores of books I don't own on Twain, some that I have never seen.  The most interesting was peripheral to Twain, it was a memoir of Hal Holbrook, who does a grand impersonation of Twain in lecture mode and has now for many decades.

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