The Mark Twain Library was founded in 1908 by the most popular American author of the time, Samuel Clemens best known as Mark Twain. No other library in the world can claim this unique distinction! As Twain reached his seventh decade he began to reflect more on his life and the need to document his remarkable journey. He chose the biographer and Redding resident, Albert Bigelow Paine to write his biography. Paine had a significant impact on Samuel Clemens’ final years. In 1906, on Paine’s recommendation, Twain purchased a total of 240 acres in Redding, and arranged to have an Italianate Villa built and named it Stormfield. In June 1908, Twain moved to his new home, where he lived until his death on April 21, 1910. The house was called Stormfield because the proceeds from the writer’s book Extract from Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven helped finance it. His youngest daughter Jean who dearly loved animals came to live with him and was delighted to find a farm house on the northeast corner of the estate. Within five months of moving to Redding, Twain joined with his new neighbors to form the Mark Twain Library Association, which still governs the library to this day. An unused chapel on Umpawaug Road was pressed into service as the first library and books donated by the writer and his many friends formed the first collection.
Twain enjoyed raising money for a new library building and predictably did so in his own unique style by employing his famous wit. He charged his houseguests to retrieve their luggage and held a benefit concert featuring his older daughter Clara, who was an opera singer. A local farmer Theodore Adams was persuaded to donate the land where the library now stands. (Twain announced that the farmer was donating land and so Mr. Adams of course agreed!) But it was a tragedy that provided the final funds needed to complete the building project. On Christmas Eve, 1909, Twain’s daughter Jean died from what was most likely an epileptic seizure. Twain sold the Jean’s Farm after her tragic death; the $6000 proceeds from this sale was directed to the erection of the Jean L. Clemens Memorial Building – the original Mark Twain Library.
The newly constructed library was opened in late 1910 after Twain’s death and served the Redding community well for almost 60 years. In 1972, the library quadrupled in size with the construction of a circular addition. The library was renovated in 2000 and a new children’s wing was added. The original building now serves as a meeting room which houses what remains of the books Twain donated to the library–200 in all. Since then, the Mark Twain Library has continued to grow as a vital community resource providing public library services to the town of Redding, CT. Although Twain only lived a short while in Redding, his gift to the community is a lasting legacy.