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Where Good Food Meets Great Literature: Tappan Hill Mansion and Mark Twain’s connection to Tarrytown
By: Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
Tappan Hill Mansion Today
At 81 Highland Ave, Tarrytown, NY 10591, stands a beautiful stone building where many Tarrytown residents have had their wedding receptions, graduation parties, and other memorable events worth celebrating. This building has gone by many names. In the past it was called “Hillcrest Estate”, and it was also once called “Halleston”. Today, it is called “Tappan Hill Mansion.” Regardless, whatever one wishes to call this beautiful building, it is still the place where good food meets great literature because it was once owned by the family of Mark Twain, and, he may have lived here.
The Building’s Connection to Mark Twain:
Mark Twain (1835-1910)
Mark Twain is the pseudonym of the American author and humorist, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He is best known for his works: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
Samuel Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri. His family moved to Hannibal, Missouri when he was four. He attended public schools there. His formal education was cut short by the death of his father in 1847. At that point, he needed to find work. Therefore, he apprenticed himself out to two local printers in Hannibal. A few years later, he began setting type for a journal owned by his brother, Orion. He later put his skills as a printer to good use as he lived and worked in all of the following cities: Keokuk, Iowa; New York City; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
He eventually grew bored with printing, so he became a steamboat captain. Being a steamboat captain wasn’t a very profitable career. So, in 1861, he decided to try to strike it rich in silver mining. Therefore, he and his brother traveled to the newly created Nevada Territory (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
However, this get rich quick scheme did not succeed and therefore he took a job as a reporter with the Territorial Enterprise in 1862. He worked there for a few years, before moving to San Francisco, California. While this period in his life may seem unremarkable, it was very significant for him because, it was then that he began writing under the pseudonym, Mark Twain. In 1870 he married Olivia Langdon and moved with her to Buffalo, New York. They lived there briefly before moving to Hartford, Connecticut. It is during this period in his life, 1870s and 1880s, that Twain is considered to have written his best work: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884), and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889) (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
The Village of Tarrytown’s website has documented that, it was in 1902, that Mark Twain bought the Hillcrest Estate. This estate had been built in 1882 by Captain William Casey. Twain only lived there for two years because he had a protracted dispute with the village regarding the value of the estate (https://www.tarrytowngov.com/about-tarrytown/pages/a-brief-history-of-tarrytown). This account is based on The New York Times article dated, April 9, 1902. The headline of which reads, “MARK TWAIN'S NEW HOME”.
However, an article in The Mark Twain Journal, “Mark Twain Did Not Sleep Here: Tarrytown, 1902-1904” Vol. 17, No. 2 (Summer, 1974) By: Lewis Leary from The University of North Carolina, disputes this claim. “The report seems not to have been in every detail correct” (Leary 1974 p. 13). By “the report,” Mr. Leary is referring to The New York Times article.
Leary says that Twain’s wife, Mrs. Olivia Clemens, actually bought the place while Twain was away sailing the Caribbean (Leary 1974 p. 13).
What both sources agree on is that, in 1904, he sold it to a lawyer named Charles Gardner (https://www.tarrytowngov.com/about-tarrytown/pages/a-brief-history-of-tarrytown & Leary 1974 p. 14). Both sources also agree that Twain and his wife had to make repairs to the house before they could move in.
But, while the Tarrytown website says that Twain himself lived in this house for two years (https://www.tarrytowngov.com/about-tarrytown/pages/a-brief-history-of-tarrytown), The Mark Twain Journal argues that he never lived there because he sold the house before the repairs were complete (Leary 1974 p. 14). Twain then moved back to Connecticut where he died in 1910 (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation).
Meanwhile, in Tarrytown, Gardner sold the estate again in 1915. The man who purchased it was a stockbroker on the New York Stock Exchange named Jacques Halle. Mr. Halle demolished Hilcrest and built a new mansion in its place. The name of this mansion was “Halleston”. In 1941, the home was sold again to a real-estate developer named David Swope. He renamed the home again. His name for it was “Tappan Hill Mansion.” This mansion was a restaurant for many years and is today a catering house for the Abigail Kirsch Catering Company (https://www.tarrytowngov.com/about-tarrytown/pages/a-brief-history-of-tarrytown).
In conclusion, Tappan Hill Mansion is located at 81 Highland Ave, Tarrytown, NY 10591. For years, many Tarrytown residents have had their wedding receptions, graduation parties, and other memorable events worth celebrating, here. This is the place where good food meets great literature because it was once owned by the family of Mark Twain. We encourage our readers to stop by Tappan Hill Mansion Today! Abigail Kirsch’s Covid-19 Guidelines for weddings are that guests are to upload their vaccine cards if vaccinated. If they have not been vaccinated yet, they have to get a negative test result no more than 72 hours prior to the events. While the event is running the guests are able to take off their masks as long as they are sitting. If they get up to dance the masks have to be put back on (https://abigailkirsch.com/catering-events/signature-properties/tappan-hill-mansion/).
Previous Slices of History include:
About the Authors:
We are both Assistant Town Historians at Greenburgh Town Hall and we are engaged to be married and are currently looking for permanent employment.
I was born and raised in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania. In high school, I took every honors course available including four years of Spanish. I received A’s in all of them. I graduated third in my class of 146 students. This brought me to Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Once there, I continued my trend of academic excellence. I graduated summa cum laude in Political Science with a minor in Spanish and a Master’s in Communication Studies, with a G.P.A of 3.94. It was also there that I met my lovely fiancée, Felicia Barber. My Master’s in Communication has promoted public speaking, teamwork, and customer service. My Political Science degree has developed my research skills using computer-based tools and provided me with experience using the Microsoft Office products. My minor in Spanish has facilitated my bilingual capabilities. During my internship at Greenburgh, I created the petition for the State Roads project using website tools. My diverse education and areas of interest have provided me with a wide range of skills. I look forward to finding a career opportunity in business or government. To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to help me find employment, you can contact me at email@example.com
I was born in New York City and raised in Hartsdale, New York. I graduated from Ardsley High School. I recently earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. It was here that I met my fiancé, Riley Wentzler. As a result of my academic excellence, I won a scholarship every year. I learned and applied many graphic design skills to projects during my summer internships and at school. I am proficient in using Adobe graphic design applications including Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. For my Identity/branding course at Edinboro, I created logos to appear on the tee-shirts of Physical Education majors. For a veteran’s upcoming event, I used a typeface to focus the reader to the soldier in the poster. For the State Roads Legislative Campaign project, I created the embedded graphic-photo that accompanied the petition I am looking for a job to utilize my skills as a Graphic Designer in an agency, print shop, company or government To suggest a topic for next week’s article, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about my artwork or to help me find employment you can contact me at email@example.com.
Two Interviews with the authors:
Leary, L. (1974). Mark Twain Did Not Sleep Here: Tarrytown, 1902-1904. Mark Twain Journal, 17(2), 13–16. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41640990
Microsoft Corporation. (1993-2003, (Not Given) (Not Given)). Encarta Encyclopedia. Redmond, Washington , United States of America.
Miller, R. (2005, (NOT GIVEN) (NOT GIVEN)). A Brief History of Tarrytown. Retrieved from Village of Tarrytown New York: https://www.tarrytowngov.com/about-tarrytown/pages/a-brief-history-of-tarrytown