February 2018 – Downes Construction was honored to receive the 2017 Associated General Contractors Build CT Award in the Small Renovation Category for the Mahogany Suite Restoration at the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford.

The house was the primary residence of author Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) and his family from 1874-1891, as well as the birthplace of Twain’s most important works, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

The project, known as the “Mahogany Suite” for its custom mahogany furnishings and woodwork, was the first-floor guest quarters for distinguished visitors of the day and an impressive display of the Clemens family wealth and hospitality. Period photos have never been located and original finishes had long ago been removed. In late 1881, the family commissioned acclaimed interior design firm Associated Artists, then led by co-founders Louis Comfort Tiffany and Candace Wheeler, to redecorate the bedroom and ensuite dressing and bath rooms. In addition to completing designs for many of America’s most distinguished families, Associated Artists went on to redesign the White House in 1882.

The project’s merits included:

  • Following extensive research and retention of expert craftsman and artisans, the Suite was painstakingly restored to reflect how it might have appeared immediately after the 1881 renovation/Associated Artists redecoration – the most historically accurate interpretation of the suite in over a century
  • Project execution utilizing design/build methodology maximized use of budgeted funds and streamlined administration for the Owner
  • Strong teamwork and communications between the Owner’s staff and Building Committee representatives, contractors, and design team facilitated decision-making • Ongoing Museum operations and visitation were maintained
  • The visitor experience and interpretation of late 19th century life and architecture and decorative arts of The Gilded Age were enhanced