“I have my eye on a suite on Baker Street,” confided Sherlock Holmes to the new acquaintance who was to become his future roommate and unwitting partner in detection, Dr. Watson. Despite the renowned deductive powers of the masterful sleuth, there’s one thing even Holmes himself couldn’t have divined at the start of his adventures: that the unassuming upstairs flat he went on to rent would soon become one of the world’s most famous addresses.
Although it’s been over a 100 years since the fictional detective left these lodgings at 221B Baker Street—now the Sherlock Holmes Museum—visitors can be forgiven in thinking that he might reappear there at any moment. (No doubt with calabash pipe in hand, inquiring solicitously, “You don’t mind the smell of strong tobacco, I hope?”) The Victorian-era rooms he ‘rented’, initially with Watson, have been perfectly preserved just as they would have been when the groundbreaking detective left them for the second and final time in 1904.
Illuminated by two large windows overlooking bustling Baker Street in north London, his infamous book-lined study remains frozen in time in all of its comfortably cluttered glory. Awaiting Holmes’ return are his most prized possessions: the tweed deerstalker cap and magnifying glass haphazardly tossed down after a long day’s detecting, the Persian slipper where he eccentrically chose to store his tobacco, and the Stradivarius violin upon which he often scraped gratingly.
While Watson gamely tolerated Holmes’ eccentricities as a roommate, he rightfully considered him to be “the worst tenant in London.” The detective forever tried the patience of their kindly landlady Mrs. Hudson with his strange habits such as affixing his correspondence to the mantle place with a jackknife, carrying out bizarre chemical experiments in the study, and welcoming an endless barrage of strange visitors at all hours.
Today this flow of visitors hasn’t ceased, despite the detective’s permanent retirement. To enter the fictional duo’s vividly re-created quarters—the starting point of so many remarkable adventures—is to become, much like Watson himself, an accomplice in Holmes’ exhilarating world. Posing for a picture on the armchair where inspiration often struck in front of the crackling fireplace, you can’t help but pause in wait for the dramatic moment when “A ring comes at the bell; a step is heard upon the stair.” Then, without further ado, you are summoned: “Come, Watson come, the game is afoot!”–Joni Rendon
This article first appeared in Pages Magazine and is reprinted here in honor of the 150th anniversary of Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.