The Edinburgh house where economist Adam Smith lived for the last twelve years of his life is on the market for £700,000, the Scotsman reported last week. Panmure House, originally built for the Earl of Panmure in 1691, is currently owned by the Edinburgh City Council and has been used in recent years as a "centre for troubled youngsters."
Professor Sir Alan Peacock told the paper "It's a disgrace that the council has agreed to dispose of a building as significant as this. It should be saved for the nation." He adds in a letter the following day "I was quoted correctly but readers may be left with the impression that I was opposed to sale to a private buyer. This is not true, though a case might be made for some restriction on its use as a building of historic interest . As your leader suggests, it would be an excellent opportunity for private initiative, perhaps with a view to promoting genuine interest in and concern for the Enlightenment tradition."
A group of economists from Edinburgh University added their voices to Peacock's, writing in a letter published yesterday that Panmure House "has important associations for anyone interested in the Scottish Enlightenment, in economics and philosophy, or in the history of Edinburgh ... The availability of Panmure House is an excellent opportunity for a new and exciting development of an historically important building near the Scottish Parliament. It would be ideal as the base for a research or policy institute for economics in Scotland. It could also serve as a study centre for Adam Smith and the Scottish Enlightenment. ... The possibility of the house being lost to the public is extremely worrying."
The director of the Adam Smith Institute told the press "We've thought about approaching the council about Panmure House in the past to see what we could do. I doubt we'd be able to bid for it." He added "Even if we thought we could manage to buy it, what can we do with it? Whether there are enough artefacts to make a museum that takes up a whole house is not known. But it would be nice if whoever buys it remembers him in some way and gives people something to look at."
I'll keep an eye on this one.