R.L. Stevenson’s House, Edinburgh

As we were passing this house on the way to St. Giles on Saturday, I thought I would take a photograph of it.

Thomas Stevenson built this house in 1803 at Baxter’s Place, at the bottom of Calton Hill in Edinburgh and just a stone’s throw away from Princes Street. The Stevensons were famous as a family of engineers and lighthouse builders before the author Robert Louis was born into it.

The building was used as a place of work with a separate flat for the family, so this is where R.L. was brought up and as you can see, the windows are boarded up. It has been like that for years and nothing seems to be being done to it.

I can’t help thinking that Edinburgh Council has missed a great opportunity to turn this house into a Stevenson museum, as happens in other towns.

We have museums all over the place which are attracting thousands of visitors, even when they are in out of the way places such as Haworth (Bronte) and Kirriemuir (J.M. Barrie). Even Paul McCartney’s childhood home has been turned into a museum.

Unfortunately the top parts of the Georgian building have been sold off seperately and seem to be being lived in by people now, although there is a broken window, maybe squatters have moved in. So I think they’ve missed the chance to put it all back as it originally was. If the flats ever come up for sale they will be so expensive given the price of any property in Edinburgh but especially Georgian townhouses, the council would never pay out the money required.

I can’t understand why the basement and first floor have been left vacant and unloved for years though. It’s a mystery.

5 thoughts on “R.L. Stevenson’s House, Edinburgh

  1. Katrina,
    Isn’t it fascinating that Robert Louis Stevenson spent time in the town of Saranac Lake, in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York?

    In the late nineteenth-century, people from all over Europe and North America came to the Saranac Lake region for a cure for their consumption (tuberculosis). It was believed that the clear, cold mountain air was therapeutic. Winters here are harsh, yet people suffering from lung diseases were bundled up in blankets on cots on porches to spend the short winter days! I can’t imagine it.

    Here’s a link to the museum associated with the cottage where Stevenson lived while in Saranac Lake.
    Whatever you do, don’t follow the link at the bottom of the webpage. It goes nowhere.

    Beautiful Saranac Lake is in the northern Adirondacks, just a two hours’ drive over country roads from my home.

    • Judith,
      I had no idea that he went to America for a T.B. cure. Maybe that was where he met his wife, I believe she was American. Most people around here went to Switzerland for a cure. It sounds crazy doesn’t it, if it didn’t cure you it would kill you! Thanks for the link. The cottage looks really lovely. It makes it all the worse that R.L.S. isn’t cherished in his birthplace. He’s almost worshipped in Samoa.

      It makes me laugh when you say that places are just two hours away, your favourite bookshop too. My beloved ‘west’ is only one and a half hours drive away, but that seems a very long way away. I forget how massive your country (continent) is. East coast to west coast of Scotland is only 70 miles wide, but they are completely different in scenery and character.

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  3. Hi. This is the house that Thomas Smith, RLS’s great-grandfather built and where his (Thomas Smith’s) step-son, business partner and son-in-law Robert Stevenson of lighthouse building fame lived and died. Robert Stevenson’s grandson, the writer Robert Loius Stevenson was born at 8 Howard Place and did not live here. He met his wife, Fanny, in France.

    • Nancy,
      Thanks for the info. I have a feeling that I read somewhere that RLS had spent some time in the house, but I can’t remember where. I noticed that it was in the process of being gutted the last time I walked past it. It had been sadly neglected for ages.

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