Clemens met biographer Albert Bigelow Paine in 1906 while living in New York City. He decided to purchase 195 acres of land in Redding where Paine lived, purchasing his first parcel there March 24, 1906 and buying additional acreage in May and September that year.
Clemens hired architect John Mead Howells of Howells & Stokes, son of the author William Dean Howells who was a friend and collaborator for 45 years. Clemens stipulated the house should be built in the style of a Tuscan villa, after having lived at Villa Viviani (1891-92) in Settignano and Villa di Quarto (1903-04) in Sesto Fiorentino outside Florence, Italy. Construction began in 1907; the project was nearly abandoned later that year due to cost and Clemens' misgivings about Redding's relative isolation, but the younger Howells convinced him that he would suffer a financial loss on work already underway. The house was completed in June 1908, built on elevated land known at the time as Birch Spray Hill on the west bank of the Saugatuck River.
The exterior of the house featured a gray stucco finish and green-colored roof, with the foundation measuring 70 feet by 40 feet, flanked by wings measuring 20 feet by 18 feet. Howells designed the interior ground floor to include a central dining room, opening onto garden terraces and a fountain. In one wing was a drawing room opening onto an outdoor seating area; the other wing contained a billiards room decorated with caricatures of Clemens. The hand-carved mantel for the billiards room fireplace was a gift from the Sandwich Islanders. Twain had purchased a second, ornate mantel from Ayton Castle in Scotland that was installed in the living room; that mantel was damaged in the fire but restored, and is located today at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut where Clemens lived from 1874 to 1891.
Residents of Redding met Clemens and Paine and Paine's daughter Louise at the West Redding train station on June 18, 1908 and accompanied them to the new house. It was the first time that Clemens had seen the house in person. Dan Beard was a nearby Redding resident whose illustrations appeared in several Mark Twain books. He helped set off fireworks to commemorate Clemens' arrival, describing a scene in which "sticks from the rockets fell in the pastures and sent the cattle and horses tearing around the fields."
From Isabel Lyon's Journal for March 19th, 1906:
Mr. Paine spoke to me about a piece of land 75 acres with an old farm house on it in Redding,
Ct. where he recently bought a place—$2,000.00 is the price—and when I told Mr. Clemens
about it, he closed in with the idea as a good investment, and Mr. Paine has sent off the first
$100.00 to bind the bargain. I didn’t think he would want it because I couldn’t think he would
want anything that I want—with an aching heart. I reached out for that farm for I don’t ever
want to go back to Farmington again. I want & want & want to sell Choisy & so be able to
settle where there is more room—you can see for 20 miles. Life is such a tiny bubble that why
we reach out for material things I don’t know; but we do it and that old beamed farmhouse on
top of the hill held out its arms to me.
June 18, 1908: Moves into Stormfield
Dear John [M. Howells, July 3]: / You have set up a charming Italian villa here & made it look native & at home among these Yankee woods & hills. It is a fine feat. It is a shapely & stately & handsome house, & grows more & more impressive & satisfying and beautiful the more I enlarge my acquaintance with it. I am speaking of its outside. Inside it is sane,—a compliment which cannot be applied to any other Italian villa, I suppose. The distribution of the rooms is rational, no space is wasted, all space is profitably utilized. It has four times as much useful & usable room in it as was findable in that East Florentine villa of ours, although that one was 200 feet long, 60 feet wide, 3 stories high, and & had a cellar under the whole silly mess. You couldn’t even get to one bedroom without passing through somebody else’s; & it had only 3 good bedrooms in it.