St. John’s Episcopal Church, at Rector and Main Streets in East Hartford, was built between 1867 and 1869. The High Victorian Gothic-style church was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, and displays that architect‘s interest in polychromatism, which he would use again in his Church of the Good Shepherd and Parish House in Hartford and Trinity Church in Wethersfield, as well as in the domestic architecture of the Mark Twain House in Hartford. Rev. John J. McCook, the volunteer rector of St. John’s Parish at the time, was instrumental in bringing about the building of the church.
Adjacent to the Mark Twain House in Hartford is the Clemens family’s Carriage House, also built in 1874. Like the High Victorian Gothic Twain House, designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, the Carriage House features architectural details in the Stick style. In the second floor rooms, above where the horses and carriages were kept, Mark Twain’s coachman, Patrick McAleer, lived with his wife and seven children. McAleer served Mark Twain in various homes he lived in, from 1870-1891 and 1905-1906.
Over 25 years after designing the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1869, Elizabeth Colt persuaded Edward Tuckerman Potter to come out of retirement and design a Parish House for the church in 1896. The new structure was built as memorial to her son, Caldwell Hart Colt, an ardent yachtsman, who had died at sea in mysterious circumstances. Many of the decorative features of the building therefore have a nautical inspiration. Its High Victorian Gothic style, already well out of fashion when it was built, matches well stylistically with the neighboring church building.
Built between 1871 and 1874, Trinity Episcopal Church, on Main Street in Wethersfield, was designed by Edward Tuckerman Potter, who also designed the Church of the Good Shepherd and the Mark Twain House, both in Hartford. Like the earlier Church of the Good Shepherd, Trinity Church is in the High Victorian Gothic style and has a similar polychromatic roof.
Built in 1874 on Farmington Avenue in Hartford’s Nook Farm neighborhood for Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain) and designed in the High Victorian Gothic style by Edward Tuckerman Potter (who was known for his churches, including the Church of the Good Shepherd). Mark Twain lived here from 1874-1891 with his wife, Olivia Langdon Clemens, and their three daughters: Suzy, Clara and Jean. His wife was the one primarily involved in planning with the architect–apparently all Sam Clemens asked for was a red brick house! He also had a servant’s wing and a carriage house and employed about seven or so servants, including his butler, George Griffin, maid Katy Leary and coachman Patrick McAleer. It was while living here that Mark Twain wrote such classic works as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Bad financial decisions, including his investment in the Paige Compositor typesetting machine, led to near bankruptcy, and forced the Clemens family to move to Europe in 1891. After a round-the-world lecture tour, Clemens was able to pay off his debt, but as his eldest daughter Suzy had died in the Hartford house during a return visit there in 1896, the family never returned there and he sold the house in 1904. Over the years, the house was used as a school, a library and an apartment building. It was restored in the 1960s and 1970s and is open as part of The Mark Twain House and Museum.
The history of Hartford is strongly connected to the activities of Sam Colt and the manufacturing of his famous firearms. Colt’s wife, Elizabeth Hart Jarvis Colt, was a philanthropist and patron of the arts. After the death of her husband in 1862, she commissioned the architect Frederick Clarke Withers, a partner of Calvert Vaux, to design an Episcopal church as a memorial to Sam Colt and four of their children, all of whom had died within a five-year period. The church would serve the Colt armory’s workers in the industrial district known as Coltsville. In 1866 she rejected Withers’s plans and instead turned to Edward Tuckerman Potter, the architect who would later design the Mark Twain House.
Completed in 1869, Potter’s polychromatic Church of the Good Shepherd is an excellent example of the High Victorian Gothic style. It has unique features, including crossed Colt pistols and revolver parts carved in sandstone around the south “Armorer’s Door.” It also has notable stained glass windows.