What Is the Benjamin Franklin House?

Cynde Gregory

History buffs and science lovers alike who find themselves in London should be sure to visit the Benjamin Franklin House on Craven Street, where the father of electricity lived prior to the American Revolution as he tried to broker peace between the colonies and Britain. Located at 36 Craven Street, the museum is the last remaining Franklin home. In addition to offering itself as a historically interesting museum filled with Franklin artifacts, the Benjamin Franklin House also includes a Student Science Centre and a Scholarship Centre.

The house where Franklin lived during 1757 - 1775 is where he invented bifocals.
The house where Franklin lived during 1757 - 1775 is where he invented bifocals.

The Benjamin Franklin House was constructed in 1730 and is still largely original. The central staircase, brick work, and windows are untouched, as are the paneling and woodstoves located throughout the structure. It was originally constructed to function as a temporary home for lodgers and reverted to that use during the last century. At century’s end, it was given to the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, who restored it to its former glory.

The house where Franklin lived during the 16-year spread between 1757 and 1775 is also where he invented bifocals and contemplated the pluses of Daylight Savings Time. It is interesting to note that the house’s basement was used as an anatomy school where William Hewson, a groundbreaking anatomist, taught students to dissect the human body. Hewson was married to Polly, who was the daughter of Franklin’s landlady.

Drama is an integral part of a visit to the Benjamin Franklin House. The museum takes an innovative approach by offering visitors a movable play that stages itself in the actual rooms in which the depicted events occurred. Lighting and other technologies are state of the art and highlight the performance itself without distracting from it.

The interactive theatrical presentation features Polly Hewson, who treats museum visitors as though they’ve arrived to see Franklin off as he prepares to flee London to avoid arrest. The script incorporates many of Franklin’s own words as Polly escorts the audience through the kitchen located in the basement, where visitors learn about botany as well as daily life. The first-floor setting explores the political times in which Franklin lived as well as his personal and professional relationships. On the upper floor, visitors learn about Franklin’s scientific efforts as well as his diplomatic attempts as the drama unfolds.

In the Student Science Centre, visitors to the Medical History Room learn about Hewson’s medical studies and his anatomy school. The Discovery Room offers youngsters a number of historical and scientific artifacts and asks them to try to figure out their uses. Children who visit the Demonstration Room get to participate in hands-on experiments and watch audio-visual presentations that pose questions asking about hypothetical scientific situations.

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