221B Baker Street has been popular ever since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle chose it as the fictional address of his most famous literary character, the extremely intelligent and cunning detective Sherlock Holmes.
Arthur Conan Doyle introduced Sherlock Holmes to the readers in 1887 in the famous story named A Study in Scarlet. The famous detective immediately became popular among readers, and Arthur Conan Doyle continued to write about his exciting adventures and exceptional deduction skills. Between 1887 and 1927 Holmes became the main protagonist of four novels and 56 stories.
At the time when Arthur Conan Doyle started publishing stories about Sherlock Holmes, street numbers in Baker Street didn’t go as high as 221, so Holmes’ address was initially entirely fictional. However, Baker Street numbers were allocated in the 1930’s, and the block of numbers from 215 to 229 was assigned to a large Art Deco house built in 1932.
The house was constructed for the Abbey Road Building Society, which later became known as the Abbey National plc. In the United Kingdom, street numbers that are accompanied by a letter indicate that the address is a part of a larger residential building, and Baker Street 221B was located within the building owned by the Abbey Road Building Society.
Immediately after the famous fictional detective acquired an actual address in the real world, readers across the world were excited, and many of them decided to send letters to Sherlock Holmes. Some contemporary Sherlockian experts claim that some people thought that Sherlock Holmes was a real detective who solved actual mystery cases: they sought his help to resolve their issues.
In the late 1930’s the building of the Abbey Road Building Society was flooded with letters from fans from all over the world who wished to correspond with the famous detective.
The company received so many letters addressed to Sherlock Holmes that they employed a person whose job was to deal with the letters. The official title of that person was literally “secretary to Sherlock Holmes.”
The building became so popular that a bronze plaque with a picture of Sherlock Holmes was added to its entrance. The plaque adorned the building for decades but was removed by unknown perpetrators in the late 1990’s.
The authorities suspected it was stolen by some die-hard fans, but nobody was ever persecuted for the theft.
Nowadays, a similar plaque stands at the entrance to the Baker Street tube station, and the official Sherlock Holmes Museum is located between the numbers 237 and 247.