Benjamin Franklin House Opens On 300th Anniversary Of His Birth

By Graham Spicer | 17 January 2006
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colour photo of a four story red brick terraced town house

Franklin lived at the house from 1757-62 and 1764-75. Photo courtesy Benjamin Franklin House.

Following an extensive renovation project, the London house where American founding father and scientist Benjamin Franklin lived has opened to the public in time for the 300th anniversary of his birth .

Located just off the Strand at 36 Craven Street, it is the only remaining Franklin home in existence and its opening was celebrated at a gala banquet at the nearby Banqueting Hall on January 17 2006.

“Today’s opening of Benjamin Franklin House is a momentous occasion, as it coincides with the tercentenary of Dr Franklin’s birth,” said Dr Márcia Balisicano, Director of the house.

“It is the culmination of a long-standing dream to open his last remaining residence to the public.”

colour photo of a house's staircase in need of repair

Restoration of the house took eight years - most of the original features were retained. Photo courtesy Benjamin Franklin House.

Franklin lived there from 1757-62 and 1764-75 where he came to represent American interests during the growing tensions with their British colonial rulers. He also made many of his important scientific discoveries there.

The Grade I listed house took eight years to restore and retains many of its original features, including the central staircase, panelling, stoves and windows. Built in 1730 as a lodging house, it was later used as a hotel but had fallen into disrepair by 1970s when the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House were granted its freehold.

A museum and educational facility has been created with rooms providing a backdrop to a projected historical drama recounting Franklin’s life and times. Research facilities have also been created and a Student Science Centre provides an opportunity for hands-on experimentation.

“The house promises visitors a truly unique insight into the life and times of Benjamin Franklin during his 16 years in London,” added Dr Balisicano.

colour photo of a Georgian room with wooden floor and three ceiling height windows looking out onto a street and houses opposite

The house opened to the public on January 17 - the 300th anniversary of Franklin's birth. Photo courtesy Benjamin Franklin House.

Franklin was born on January 17 1706 in Boston, Massachusetts. He became a successful newspaper editor, printer and merchant, later becoming involved in politics and moving to London.

After returning to America at the outbreak of the War of Independence he was to sign four of the key documents that shaped the American nation – The Declaration of Independence (1776), The Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), The Treaty of Paris, establishing peace with Britain, and The Constitution (1787).

Franklin conducted pioneering scientific work on electricity at Craven Street, he also measured the effects of the Gulf Stream, explored Daylight Saving Time and invented bifocal lenses whilst living there. He died on April 17 1790 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The restoration of the house was made possible by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £1.5 million and other sponsors helping to meet the £1.7 million project cost.

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