A Generous 1930 Masterpiece (Scroll down to read the entire article by Steve Courtney)
House Captains: AM-John & kathy Bates, PM-Carolyn Vallieries | Florists: Devars-Phillips Florist & Antiques, Hartford | Musicians: 11:00 -12:30 Blackledge Flutes (Helene Rosenblatt, Dr. Mary Sand, Leonor Snow, Peter Standaart) : 1:30 – 3:00 The Better Half Notes
Tina and Michael Guyette, transplants from Florida, drove up to 4 Mohawk Drive last year while they were house-hunting. They “fell in love with it,” says Tina. Their two children sealed the deal: “They picked it because they each got their own room,” she says.
The house they drove up to is a beauty – a gracious 1930 home with a dusty brick façade, the front door shaded by a portico and topped by a vertical arched window. Two prominent bay windows on the front complete the Tudor cottage feel.
The house has a significant history. It was built in 1930, not far from the Hartford Golf Club’s 18th hole, the work of architect Lester Beach Scheide and builder Louis Slocum. Both were associated with elegant West Hartford homes of the era. The first owners, Gilbert and Louise Shephard, lived in the home for 45 years, and then other owners took over. Time took its toll. If the Guyettes had driven up just a few years before, they would have found a damaged slate roof; a portico crushed – albeit in the service of floral beauty – by wisteria; a crumbling brick wall; and “inappropriate vinyl siding” on the dormers. These were all taken care of by previous owners Amy and Stephen Sills, who restored the house to its glory and won a West Hartford Preservation Award in 2005 for what they did. The graceful result is apparent as a visitor parks on quiet Mohawk Drive and walks up the curving drive of a house that is admired in the neighborhood for its stately tradition. The Guyettes know this because they invited the neighbors in for a get-together early on, and heard the praise.
The entry hall is grand and wide, and a sprawling checkerboard of black and white marble squares spreads before your feet. The grand staircase starts to your left, rising to a landing illuminated by the great arched window before completing the circuit to the second floor. An elaborate chandelier of crystal and pewter draws the eye upward. Straight ahead from the front door, French doors lead out to a spacious backyard.
The Guyettes found Chinese red walls in this impressive entry – fine for the Asian art that had lined this space previously, but not their choice. They painted the walls twice, Tina says, until they found just the right shade of mottled brown to calm the space down to their taste. Down a couple of steps to the left is the living room, another generous space, pale green and yellow with comfortable chairs and sofas and a vast, black marble-framed fireplace -- ornate lanterns on either side, an impressionist landscape above. The carpet and drapes add red tones to the whole, and lavish ferns bring a softening natural touch. At the front of the house is one of the two bay windows we had seen from the street. To the far side of the room from the door is a glimpse of a screened-in porch with wicker furniture and a flagstone floor.
Back through the entry to a choice of three paths – to the left, into a comfortable, wood-paneled study with books and games on the shelves and an engraving of Beijing’s Forbidden City above the room’s fireplace; and straight ahead, a long passage through pantries lined with cupboards, to a broad kitchen area. To the right is the dining room, with a circular table prompting good dinner conversation. The eight chairs around it are upholstered in red-orange, adding to the overall warmth of the place. Another chandelier blossoms overhead, and the bay window facing out to the front garden is the companion piece to the living room’s, with a window seat in keeping with the Tudor style.
But part of the house’s charm is the intangible quality of living in a place that feels away from it all – a bear came onto the property not long ago – and yet is close to neighbors, and not far from town. “It’s in the middle of everything, but private,” Tina Guyette says. “I’d rather be here than in a suburb where you have to drive everywhere. This is a place where people walk around the neighborhood in the evening, where they stop and chat. I like that.”
Kathy Hayes & John Hanson | 47 Walbridge Rd., W. Hartford
Michael & Tina Guyette | 4 Mohawk Dr., W. Hartford
14 West Hill Drive | by Tristan Vetter, New Hope Design, W. Hartford
Lesa & Bob Laraia | 739 Prospect Ave., W. Hartford
Connie & David Weaver | 56 Old Stone Crossing, W. Hartford
The Mark Twain House & Museum | 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford
The Mark Twain Holiday House Tour is sponsored by The Friends of the Mark Twain House. Proceeds go to the support of The Mark Twain House & Museum.
House Tour Chairs | Stacey & Josh Young
Committee | Sally Carrier | Lois Anderson | Annette Bolt | Dee Peters
Brochure & Website Copy | Steve Courtney
Public Relations & Communications | Karen Paterno
Brochure & Web Design | GentryYoung
Photography | Faith Augustine
Brochure House Illustrations | Julian Norman Design
Printing & Mailing | Paladin Commercial Printers & Mailing, Newington, CT.
Mark Twain House Liaisons | Beth Miller |Steve Courtney | Jeff Mainville | Jacques Lamarre