Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
Though he was born in Boston in the colony of Massachusetts and lived much of his life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Franklin’s only remaining intact residence is found at 36 Craven Street, London. We were astonished to find it almost in the shadow of the huge Charing Cross Station in a street of Georgian terraced houses.
Although most of London looks very different in the 21st century, one comes upon these Georgian streets in several neighborhoods. We hope they are preserved forever.
Ben Franklin’s House
At the end of the block is a building which also housed a famous American.
And around the corner, beyond the Pubs, is the tunnel into Charing Cross station.
Door of #36 Craven Street
Entering Ben Franklin’s House…
From the text panel on The Enlightenment:
“The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement that saw scientific and rational thought triumph over traditional beliefs. Its impact was felt in many areas that together led to great change and progress. … Benjamin Franklin’s profession as a printer was central to the Enlightenment’s success spreading its message widely….for nearly sixteen years, between 1757 and 1775, Franklin at 36 Craven Street was an active part of the Enlightenment. It flourished in the coffee houses, salons, and private homes around London, where writers and thinkers met to discuss ideas. In this very house, which served as the first de facto American Embassy, Franklin debated social and political reform, invention and scientific progress with the best minds of the British Enlightenment.”
Many artifacts are shown, particularly Franklin’s glasses (he invented bifocals for reading), printer;’s tools, and medical equipment.
The tour through the house takes visitors from room to room, with explanations of the architecture, furnishings of the rooms, and visuals projected on the walls. Not only does one learn about Franklin and his life and times, but the bones of the house itself are revealed in all their elegant Georgian simplicity.
Upstairs, is n example of a musical instrument Franklin invented, the glass armonica (or harmonica), for which Mozart and Bach composed, among others. It plays beautifully with a ringing clarity and has been used over the centuries in various orchestral works.
The accounts of Ben Franklin’s life in London, his relationship with his landlady’s family, and his position in society are well covered, even for American visitors who are more familiar with his life than most British school children. Or at least one would hope so!
The program is creative and imaginative. How anyone cannot come away with many more questions about this fascinating man was beyond our ken! Well worth a visit when you are next in London.
More about Franklin to come.