From 1867, when he published “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County & Other Sketches” to lukewarm sales to 1889 when critics widely panned one of his last novels, “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” Twin had given American Literature three of its most enduring classics, “Tom Sawyer” (1876), “The Prince and the Pauper” (1881), and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1884).
By 1890, Mark Twain had earned his rest. That summer, Twain, his wife, Livy, and their three daughters, Susy, Clara, and Jean rented a cottage at Onteora Park in the northern Catskills. Interior design giant Candace Wheeler had founded Onteora Park in 1883 with her brother, Frank Thurber, quickly developing it into a summer getaway for artists, writers, and other notables. Wheeler’s firm, Associated Artists, which she had co-founded with designer Louis Comfort Tiffany, had designed the interior of Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, Connecticut. By 1890, the Onteora Club had become a veritable who’s who of American Art and Letters, including writers Mary Mapes Dodge (Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates), Elizabeth Bacon Custer (Tenting on the Plains); Laurence Hutton , American essayist; Brander Matthews (The Theaters of Paris) and Hamlin Garland I(A Son of the Middle Border); Carroll Beckwith, a fashionable portrait painter who gave lessons in his studio; John Alexander, president of the National Academy of Design; and America’s First Lady of the Stage, actress Maude Adams.
There were frequent visitors to Twain’s cottage, called “The Balsam,” that summer, especially at evening when the literati gathered on Twain’s porch to hear him spin one of his wildly popular firelight stories. “The Balsam” was strategically located across from “The Bear and Fox Inn,” Onteora’s Clubhouse at the time where cottagers’ guests took room and board and partook of the many entertainments of the season, including theatrical productions, pantomimes, charades, and lectures. “The Bear and Fox” is also alleged to have been the place to which Twain referred when he said that the walls of the hotel were paper thin so that “you can hear the young lady in the opposite room changing her mind.”
Many places have laid claim to Mark Twain as a revered resident or visitor to their region: Elmira, NY; Hannibal, MO; Hartford, CT; and, of course, The Town of Hunter, NY.
The Mark Twain Room: Just another reason to stay at the Washington Irving Inn in Tannersville, Town of Hunter, NY.