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Sherlock - up in flames

The Baldwin Hotel is (or was) a significant part of Sherlockian history. As covered in my book, An Entirely New Country, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote a Sherlock Holmes play at the end of 1897. The aim of the play was to generate funds to offset some of the costs incurred building his new Surrey home Undershaw.

William Gillette

The script found its way to theatre impresario Charles Frohman who, in turn, showed it to his leading actor/playwright William Gillette.

Both men considered the play to be in need of work and permission was secured from Conan Doyle to redraft it. The redrafted play, along with Conan Doyle's original were then confided to the keeping of Gillette's secretary. On the night of November 23rd 1898 the secretary and the scripts were residing at the Baldwin Hotel in San Francisco.

The Baldwin Hotel

The hotel was typical of the grander hotels of the era and contained the facilities that were to be expected.

Dining area (left) and billiard room (right)
That night, the hotel caught fire and Gillette's secretary managed to escape. He was lucky, a number of people lost their lives and a significant amount of theatre props and costumes were destroyed.

The hotel ablaze

The fire being brought under control

Among the losses were Conan Doyle's play and Gillette's redraft. Gillette, who was at a different hotel, rewrote the latter from memory and the play went on to great success. It is, however, a sad fact that we will never know how Conan Doyle's original vision differed from Gillette's rewrite. We can be confident that the love interest that featured in the play was a Gillette addition but, as the two men did not really discuss the original play after it was rewritten, we can only speculate as to the other changes.

Sherlock Holmes had first died at the hand of his creator in a study in South Norwood. The ashes of another incarnation could be said to rest in San Francisco.


For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

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