by Olivia Twine
The story of Isabella Beecher Hooker and her times has me fired up. See article I wrote about book by Susan Campbell. Now it’s time to hit the road and visit the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford Connecticut. https://www.harrietbeecherstowecenter.org and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame, http://www.cwhf.org/contact-us. The Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame office is located on the bottom floor of Schwartz Hall on the Southern Connecticut State University Campus. Call (203) 392-9007 to arrange for parking and building access.
The Stowe Center has a large collection of Isabella Beecher Hooker items, including letters, diaries and photographs. Most of these are not currently on exhibit, according to collections assistant Anastasia Thibeault, but special research appointments can be scheduled.
The Stowe Center features the Harriet Beecher Stowe House and is near the Mark Twain House and Museum https://wwwmarktwainhouse.org, located on the site of the former Nook Farm, a community of intellectuals where John and Isabella Beecher Hooker resided. Although the Hooker’s house no longer stands, their granddaughter Katharine Seymour Day helped save the Twain and Stowe houses and preserved part of Nook Farm, all of which have become national landmarks. The Day house serves as the Stowe Center library and administrative office.
Nook Farm was conceived in 1853, when Isabella’s husband John Hooker, a descendant of Hartford founder Thomas Hooker, and his brother-in-law Francis Gillette purchased 140 acres of pasture and woodland at the western edge of Hartford. Over the years Hooker and Gillette sold parcels to relatives and friends, including Mark Twain. Noted architects were engaged to design their homes in a wide range of styles.
The Connecticut History website http://connecticuthistory.org/?=nook+farm also provides information about Nook Farm and its famous residents. “..Just as its individual personalities were unique, so, too, was the Nook Farm neighborhood. Its grand Victorian homes were open and accessible to each other on pathways winding through the broad estate. The residents would often dine together and enjoy fireside discussions until early hours of the morning. An evening may have starred one of the Clemens girls giving a piano recital or an informal concert by Susan Lee Warner, a superb pianist who helped start the Hartford Philharmonic Orchestra. A ‘Friday Evening Club’ pulled neighborhood pool players to the Twain’s billiards room…”
Visitors included President Ulysses S. Grant, Sarah Orne Jewett, Bret Harte, Frances Hodgson Burnett, Matthew Arnold, and William Dean Howells. The community dwindled after 1891, when financial problems forced Twain to close his house and move to Europe. Stowe died five years later.
Now I’m ready to explore the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, the Mark Twain House and Museum, and the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame with new appreciation for the contributions of Isabella Beecher Hooker and the Hooker branch of the famous Beecher family.
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