Benjamin Franklin House review
Benjamin Franklin's House is the kind of place you don't notice even when you're staring at it. For something that's called the "first American Embassy", you might be hoping for something a little bit grand, but it's basically just a townhouse in a side street off Charing Cross. Franklin was just a normal guy back then, negotiating between the government and the colonies, so he didn't have much cash to spend on rent.
The tour begins in the basement where they've got a couple of cabinets full of bones and medical equipment (the house used to have an anatomy school in it). There's not a lot else to show because the house has passed through plenty of hands since the 1770s, and all of Franklin's stuff has disappeared. They only stripped it back to its original fittings relatively recently, so you're looking at the bones of the building. There is no original furniture inside... just a couple of modern chairs for the oldies to sit on. The only objects that remain true to Benjamin's day are the wooden walls and floorboards and creaky old staircase. So you're walking on the same floor that he did, and climbing the same old stairs, but you can't sit on his chair or sleep in his bed. You can't see any pictures or paintings that hung on his walls. You can't see his desk or his kitchen or anything else — every single room is bare -- literally.
There are two different tours on offer -- an Architectural Tour and an Historical Experience. I did the historical one, so that's what the following review refers to. It starts off with a very American guy giving you a quick little intro into who he was, and what he did, and then you get taken upstairs by 'Polly'.
Polly was Franklin's landlady's daughter, and she gets played by an actress in period dress (a very pretty actress!). The rest of the tour consists of Polly leading you around all the rooms and talking to the ether. Other voices come out of the speakers and Polly has a chat with them, to dramatise the events in Franklin's life. They project a few movies onto the walls at the same time so you can see a few pictures and paintings.
It sounds a bit lousy but it was actually quite well done. The lady played the part of Polly quite well -- you could tell that she's a real actress (if she isn't an actress then she should be).
But unfortunately that's pretty much all there is. There are no objects to see, just a load of plain rooms with movies projected onto walls. If you like American history, and you want to learn about the build up to the War of Independence then you will learn a lot, but I'd only recommend it if you already have an interest in the subject matter — it will be very boring otherwise. And don't take any kids for chrissakes, because they will be bored out of their skin!
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