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Not long after Buckingham Palace was built in the early 18th century, a much less imposing structure went up in the Spitalfields area of London.

It was a 10-room brick-terraced house, built in 1724, with nothing to make it stand out from others along Folgate Street.

Over the years, the house’s fortunes — and that of Spitalfields — declined. Then in 1979, American artist Dennis Severs bought it and turned it into — well, that is in the eye of the beholder. Partly a work of art, perhaps a bit of theater, a living-history exhibit maybe. But Dennis Severs’ House is not a conventional museum; it’s frozen moments in time from long ago.

Severs created a family of silk weavers, the Jervis family, and turned each room into a look at their lives over several generations. Visitors take a self-guided tour and see what each room would have looked like at a moment in time. Beds are unmade, plaster is falling from the ceiling, furniture is worn, nightclothes are strung on rope along the back stairs. Unfinished meals and half-empty wineglasses are on one table. It seems that members of the Jervis family have just stepped away.

“You can be a visitor in any museum and look at things,” said house manager Mick Pedroli, who was a friend of the late Severs.

“But this is life in London in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

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