Connecticut: A Literary Pilgrimage

By Jamie Worcester

“There was no style of living to be compared with the simple, dignified order of a true New England home…”  –Harriet Beecher Stowe

Connecticut is home to roughly 3.5 million people and a summering spot for the many that flock here from the bustling city life of New York and other areas. It is the beautiful beaches and close proximity to the city that attracts so many to come here and occupy the rows of little beach cottages that line the coast. Notable literary figures have lived here, not only by the Long Island Sound, but further inland as well.  After all, the state is densely overgrown with woodlands and offers a secluded location conducive to writers.

If you find yourself adventuring through this beautiful state — perhaps driving up and down interstate 95 or 84, admiring our fall foliage — check out a few of these places that respectfully preserve some of the writers that have inhabited these parts over the years.

“The F. Scott Fitzgerald House”
244 Compo Road South
Westport, CT 06880

During the summer of 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda spent 6 months close to the shoreline of Westport, CT where they resided in the Wakeman Cottage, named for one of the home’s previous residents. At the time of their residence, Fitzgerald had just published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, and married the young and beautiful Zelda Sayre.

It was also around this time that Fitzgerald was inspired to capture the raw sophistication and illusive nature of the American people that unveiled itself so clearly in his writing. Scott and Zelda enjoyed this escape from the speculative eye of the average New Yorker, indulging in gin-fueled revelry through the more rural setting.

The house is not only walking distance from the beach, but its location lies next to the Inn at Longshore, one of the most desirable sites for those who have an appetite for elegance. The Inn sits on 52 acres of land, the majority of which makes up the elaborate golf course where Scott was said to have frequented.  The home is now privately owned.

The Mark Twain House & Museum
351 Farmington Avenue
Hartford, CT 06105

Mark Twain House

This next location is ranked one of the “Ten Best Historic Homes” in the world in National Geographic’s The 10 Best of Everything book.  Author Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known by his pen name Mark Twain, resided in Hartford from 1871 to 1891 with his family. After 3 years, Twain sought to construct and produce what would be known as his “dream home”. The house was designed with the help of his wife, Olivia, and was completed in 1874.  Their great residence had in it a lavish glass conservatory, a handsome billiard room, a nursery, a study and, of course, a grand library.  He would have this to say about it: “To us, our house… had a heart, and a soul, and eyes to see us with; and approvals and solicitudes and deep sympathies; it was of us, and we were in its confidence and lived in its grace and in the peace of its benediction.”

Twain wrote his most important works during the years he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Needless to say, the years that he spent in Hartford were some of his finest. His home has since been restored and preserved as a museum to perpetuate his literary legacy. Visitors may stop by during hours of operation to receive the grand tour of this beautiful home, inside and out. For more information, visit the center’s website.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
77 Forest Street
Hartford, CT 06105

Harriet Beecher Stowe HouseIf viewing the many great rooms where Mark Twain produced celebrated literature isn’t incentive enough to venture to Connecticut, perhaps knowing that Harriet Beecher Stowe was his neighbor might do the trick. Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, resided in a suburban retreat just outside the city of Hartford.

It was in 1874 that this house was built for her and her husband’s family. Her home might appear simpler than that of Twain, but nonetheless the surrounding gardens and the house’s interior express the nature of this famed author. Her fondness for gardening is still illustrated and preserved, as if every spring she invites each bud to blossom. Much of the greenery continues inside the home as vines wrap around and outline the windowsills of one of the inner rooms. The furnishings are a blend of 18th-century family heirlooms and Empire and Victorian pieces, as well as the numerous family portraits that radiate the historical significance of the house. Visitors are welcome to receive tours of the home and of the surrounding land. To view the center’s webpage and more information, click here.

Wallace Stevens Walk
690 Asylum Avenue – 118 Westerly Terrace
Hartford, CT 06105

The name Wallace Stevens may not ring a bell for many, but he sure holds a reputation in Hartford, CT. Born in the late 19th century, he built himself up as an American modernist poet with such pieces as “Disillusionment of Ten O’clock” and “Anecdote of the Jar.” In 1955, he won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for his Collected Poems. It may seem that writing was more of a hobby to him as he spent most of his life working as an executive for an insurance company, but his walk to and from work each day was spent conceiving new ideas that would shape themselves into his best and most notable pieces work.

Visitors and fans of his poetry can truck down the 2.4-mile long stretch, which is now marked by stones placed in his honor. Starting at 690 Asylum Avenue and ending at his former residence at 118 Westerly Terrace, the walk covers a total of 13 stone markers; each stone containing 1 verse from his famous piece titled, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” You too can retrace the steps of his imagination. To view the poet’s webpage and receive more information, click here.

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