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Benjamin Franklin's historic London home
Despite his crucial role in the development of the early United States, none of his American homes still exist. The house where he lived in London, however, is open to the public.
The Benjamin Franklin House makes for an interesting insight into American history, and tells about life in 18th century London as well. Franklin lived here from 1757 to 1775 and worked as a representative for various colonial interests. In the early years he tried to act as an intermediary, a calm voice of reason opposed to hotheads on both sides of the Atlantic. But as dissent grew louder in the colonies, and the British government became ever more intransigent, Franklin threw his lot in with the rebels. In fact, he had to leave London in haste to avoid being arrested by the British government.
The home is tucked away on Craven Street, a quiet little lane of well-preserved Georgian-era homes not far from Trafalgar Square. Here he lived with his landlady Margaret Stevenson and her family, including a relative who ran an anatomy school. This doctor buried discarded human remains in the garden and they now make a fascinating if rather gruesome addition to an exhibition that otherwise features artifacts from Franklin's life and times.
The tour is run by an attractive and talented actress playing Mrs. Stevenson, who takes you from room to room as audiovisual displays tell of Franklin's stay at the house. There is little in the way of period furnishings, but the combination of the actress and recordings bring you into the era much better than old furniture ever could. It seems his London period was one of the intellectual highlights of Franklin's life. A constant stream of visitors came to the home to discuss science, philosophy, and politics. Europe was in the midst of the Enlightenment and Franklin became a central figure in London's intellectual scene. So if you're interested in learning more about one of America's truly great figures, give the Benjamin Franklin House a try.
Image courtesy the Benjamin Franklin House.