Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
221B Baker Street
We met next day as he had arranged, and inspected the rooms at No. 221B, Baker Street, of which he had spoken at our meeting. They consisted of a couple of comfortable bed-rooms and a single large airy sitting-room, cheerfully furnished, and illuminated by two broad windows.
(Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, "A Study in Scarlet", 1887)
221B Baker Street is the fictional London residence of the detective Sherlock Holmes, created by author Arthur Conan Doyle. The address could indicate an upstairs apartment (hence the B) of a residential house on what was originally a Georgian terrace. The B may, however, refer to the whole house. The street is considerably less narrow than is portrayed in some film versions of Holmes' adventures and is a substantial and busy north-south thoroughfare, which is at least as congested now as it would have been in Holmes' day. The site of the house - had it ever existed (see below) - would have been at the north end of Baker Street near Regents Park and Baker Street tube station.
The "real" 221B Baker Street
221B Baker Street did not in fact ever exist. The street was not numbered until 1930, which was presumably why Conan Doyle chose the entirely fictitious number. When numbers were allocated, a large portion of the 200 block was given to an Art Deco building known as Abbey House, constructed in 1932 for the Abbey Road Building Society (subsequently the Abbey National). This was given numbers 215-229 and was occupied by the company until 2002. Almost immediately, the company found itself receiving correspondence to Sherlock Holmes from people from all over the world, in such volumes that it appointed a permanent "Secretary to Sherlock Holmes" to deal with all the correspondence. In 1999, Abbey National sponsored the creation of a bronze statue of Sherlock Holmes which now stands at the entrance to Baker Street tube station.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum
A short distance further up Baker Street, at number 239, the Sherlock Holmes Museum is housed in an 1815 house very similar to the fictional 221B. Opened in 1991, it provides an exhibit of period rooms, wax figures and Holmesian memorabilia. Confusingly, both Abbey House and the Sherlock Holmes Museum bear signs declaring them to be the "real" 221B. This was the somewhat messy outcome of a dispute between the two in 1994, when the museum applied unsuccessfully for permission to renumber itself 221. Both have a claim: Abbey House is where 221B would be, had it ever existed; the museum is where mail addressed to Holmes is actually delivered. After the closure of Abbey House, the museum took on the duties of answering Holmes' mail and reports that it still receives letters – up to 50 a week – inquiring after Holmes or his services. The US News & World Report (19 Jan 1987) quoted one reply as saying: "Mr Holmes thanks you for your letter. At the moment he is in retirement in Sussex, keeping bees."
The Sherlock Holmes pub
Another version of Sherlock Holmes' apartment is located at the Sherlock Holmes, a pub on Northumberland Avenue near Charing Cross railway station. This was originally a small hotel, the Northumberland Arms, but was refurbished and reopened under its present name in December 1957. Its owners, Whitbread & Co., were fortunate to have in their possession the entire Sherlock Holmes exhibit originally put together by the Marylebone Borough Library and the Abbey National for the 1951 Festival of Britain. The entire pub was restored to a late Victorian form and the exhibit, a very detailed replica of Holmes' fictional apartment, was installed on the upstairs floor.
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