Edgar Allan Poe Museum may close next year

Baltimore’s most famous literary landmark may close next year due to budget cuts.

The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum hasn’t received money from the city for two years. Since that time it’s managed to limp along on private contributions, but they aren’t enough to keep it afloat. Now the curator says if something isn’t done, the museum will probably close in June 2012.

Although the museum gets around 5,000 visitors a year, the money they spend doesn’t cover its $85,000 annual operating budget.

Poe lived in the house from 1832 to 1835 and wrote several stories there, including Ms. Found in a Bottle and Berenice–A Tale.

The Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore gives a more detailed description of the problem and has started an online petition that already has more than 6,000 signatories, including mine. I’d be proud to have your name next to mine on the list.

The Poe house has been in danger before. Back in 1941 the Society saved the house from demolition, and now some local businesses and artists are raising money to keep the museum going. Perhaps readers will rally once again to save a piece of horror history.

[Photo courtesy Midnightdreary]

Traveling with Edgar Allan Poe

— “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.'”

Now those are words to conjure with! They are, of course, from Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, “The Raven.” Poe casts a uniquely powerful spell among American writers. Even people who have never read him have probably heard bits of his poetry or know the titles of some stories, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Although he is most famous for dark and gloomy tales and verses, Poe was also the inventor of the modern detective story and a pioneer of science fiction.

If you’re a true Poe aficionado, you owe it to yourself to make pilgrimages to some of the important places in his short, strange life. And when you do, get a sense of the author by reading works that he wrote in those places. Castle Books’ Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe is a handy volume to travel with. Or you can use your laptop to access all of Poe’s writings at The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore’s website.

What follows are some suggestions for visiting the important spots in his life, and some corresponding reading…Born in Boston in 1809, Poe was abandoned by his actor father in 1810. After his mother died in 1811, he became the foster son of John and Frances Allan in Richmond, Virginia. Richmond’s Edgar Allan Poe Museum is one of the finest shrines to his life and career. Although Poe never lived in the museum building, it is the oldest structure in Richmond, so it’ll give you a feeling of what life was like back then. There, you will find Poe’s actual furniture and a model of how Richmond looked in that time. While visiting, start dipping into Poe’s only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, which he wrote in Richmond. You’ll have trouble putting down this bizarre and seldom-read fantasy that influenced Herman Melville’s much more famous Moby-Dick.
Poe spent a short time studying at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The university’s Raven Society has preserved Poe’s student living quarters at 13 West Range (contact the society about visiting this room). While there, read “Song,” a short poem written in Poe’s youth.

Poe also lived in Baltimore, Maryland, where his home at 203 Amity street is now the Baltimore Poe House and Museum. It features videos, Poe memorabilia, a portrait of his wife Virginia, and a lock of his hair. During your visit, read Poe’s delightful science fiction story about a moon voyage, “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall,” which he wrote while living there.

Poe spent some of his happiest and most productive years in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At 532 North Seventh Street, you’ll find his only surviving Philadelphia home. Maintained as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, the house has been left eerily empty and unpreserved. But in neighboring houses, you can view a film about Poe and visit a reading room furnished in a style advocated by Poe himself. It was here in Philadelphia that Poe created the modern detective story. Indeed, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — the creator of Sherlock Holmes — called Poe’s mysteries “a model for all time.” So while roaming Poe’s empty home, read his detective story “The Purloined Letter.”

In 1844, Poe moved with his sickly young wife, Virginia, and her mother, Maria Clemm, to New York City’s Greenwich Village. His first Manhattan residence no longer exists; it is now the site of O’Hara’s Pub at the corner of Greenwich Street and Cedar Street. Stop in, buy a drink, and read “The Balloon-Hoax,” a playful work that Poe wrote while he was living at that very spot. First published in the New York newspaper The Sun in 1844, it describes the first-ever crossing of the Atlantic in a powered balloon. Thousands of readers believed the tale, even though Poe made the whole thing up!

While in Greenwich Village, Poe and his wife and mother-in-law also lived at 85 Amity Street. The facade of this house has been moved about a half a block to 85 West 3rd Street. While standing in front of it, be sure to read a stanza or two of “The Raven,” which he wrote while living there.

Poe’s last residence was a charming and cozy cottage in the Fordham section of the Bronx in New York. Although it has been moved to its current location at Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse, it is excellently preserved. Unfortunately, the house is closed for renovations during 2010-2011. Check its website for news about when it will reopen. When you are able to visit, you’ll be able to see Poe’s own rocking chair and the bed where his wife, Virginia, died of tuberculosis at 24 in January 1847. Have a handkerchief handy as you read Poe’s great poems of love, loss, and mourning, “Annabel Lee” and “Ulalume,” which were written after her death. Poe himself outlived Virginia by only two years. He died under mysterious circumstances in Baltimore in 1849 at the age of 40.

Wim Coleman is a poet, playwright, and novelist, who recently edited a unique collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s works, The Poe You Don’t Know: Humor and Speculation. Read his blog on Red Room.

[Photos: Flickr | chucka_nc; RTLibrary; RTLibrary; Gruenemann]

Edgar Allan Poe travel for Halloween weekend

Even though Edgar Allan Poe’s funeral do-over in Baltimore was a couple weeks ago, there are several locations where it’s not too late to pay tribute to this literary master of horror. Poe, a traveler himself, moved between Boston, Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia and Baltimore, plus a few towns in between. Because several of the Poe-related landmarks still exist, it’s possible to follow his trail from his birth to his death.

Given that this is the 200th year of his birth, why not pay Poe tribute by heading to one of these locations for a Halloween weekend remembrance?

Bring a copy of his short stories or poems with you to add to the ambiance. Make sure “The Raven” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” are among them: some of the stops are where they were written.

First stop, Boston:

  • Poe was born on Carver Street where an historical marker denotes the location of his birthplace. Poe was born to actor parents January 19, 1809
  • Fort Independence at Boston Harbor, now a state park, is where Poe enlisted as a private at age 18 in order to support himself. This was after he dropped out of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, the next stop on this Poe tour.

Virginia was an important state at various points in Poe’s life.

In Charlottesville:

  • At the University of Virginia, you can visit Poe’s dormitory room at 13 West Range. It holds artifacts like the quill pen Poe might have used. His top hat and green coat are part of the Poe legacy the university has maintained.

In Richmond:

  • St. John’s Church, 2401 East Broad St., Richmond. The church graveyard is where Poe’s mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe is buried, as well as Thomas Willis White, his boss when Poe worked at the Southern Literary Messenger.
  • Elmira Shelton House, 2407 East Grace Street, Richmond. Even though Poe courted Shelton for several years until and she agreed to marry him, they never did have the wedding. He died in Baltimore 10 days before the ceremony was to take place. This was where Shelton lived when Poe came back to Richmond.
  • Talavera, 2315 West Grace St., Richmond. Once the home of writer Susan Talley, a friend of Poe’s sister, this is where Poe gave a reading a few weeks before his death. He and his sister Rosalie visited this house often.
  • Poe Statue on the grounds of Virginia’s state capitol building in Richmond.

In Petersburg:

  • The Hiram Haines House at 12 Bank St. in Petersburg is where Poe spent his honeymoon. Back then the building was a coffee house

Other Virginia locations are covered in Poe Revealed where I found the above information. This site is an unusual glance into American history, as well as, an interesting round-up of Poe inspired places.

Next stop, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania:

  • Head to Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. This house is where Poe lived and wrote for part of the seven years he lived in Philadelphia. While he was in Philadelphia, Poe penned: “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Fall of the House of Usher” among others.

Last stop, Baltimore, Maryland.

  • To orient yourself to Poe’s life in Baltimore–and elsewhere, start off at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum. He lived in the house from 1883 to 1885 before he moved to Richmond. One of the more unusual displays at this museum are several of the bottles of cognac that have been left on Poe’s grave over the years. This mysterious “Poe Toaster” started paying respect in 1949. Three red roses are always included in the offering.
  • For a real creep-out part of the tour, stop by Church Hospital, formerly Washington College Hospital. This hospital is where Poe died after possibly being drugged and beaten. His death wasn’t easy. According to the description of physician’s notes, he wandered in and out of consciousness making morbid outbursts each time he was conscious.
  • At the Enoch Pratt Free Library, you’ll find several Poe artifacts, letters, poetry and photographs. The collection also includes a lock of Poe’s hair and a piece of his coffin.
  • As an end point of this Poe tour, linger at Poe’s grave in the graveyard at Westminster Hall. The hall is a converted Gothic style church. Of course Poe would be buried next to a Gothic church. The gravestone is not the original and its location is approximate to where it is thought he was buried. When Poe died, he didn’t get much of a send off. Only 10 people (or less) attended his funeral.

Baltimore has been making up to Poe by throwing Nevermore 2009, a year-long, city-wide festival of events for the 200th year of his birth.

Attend Edgar Allan Poe’s funeral. He’s finally getting a good one!

Two hundred years after his death at age 40, Edgar Allan Poe is being properly honored with the funeral he should have been given years ago. When the author died October 7, 1849, his cousin, Neilson Poe, neglected to tell anyone. As a result, just a handful of people showed up at Poe’s funeral in Baltimore, Maryland to pay tribute. That’s cold.

Tomorrow at two different times, amends are being made in Baltimore. It’s expected that 300 people will attend each of the TWO funerals being held Westminster Hall. The hall, which used to be church back in Poe’s day, is next to the cemetery where he is buried. From the description of the building’s Gothic architecture, it sounds like it would be a perfect setting for Poe’s funeral– even if Poe and his wife weren’t already buried next to it.

The two funerals, part of Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe Celebrating 200 Years offerings, are theatrical events where a mix of actors playing famous people who are dead– and people who are themselves–meaning they are still living, thus they can simply be themselves, will pay tribute to Poe’s life and work. Musical performances and readings are part of the mix.

To go to one of the funerals–either the one at 12:30 or at 4:30 p.m., you have to have a ticket. However, even without a ticket, there’s a way to be involved.

The public can attend the processional for the first service for free. For this part of the tribute to Poe, a police escort will help take Poe’s body (not the real one, it’s buried after all) from his house, now museum, at 23 Amity Street to Westminster Hall.

And in a style fitting to the occasion, the casket will be transported in an antique horse drawn hearse with the Loch Raven Pipes and Drums in accompaniment. According to the event’s description, this alone is certainly an interesting way to spend a bit of the morning.

The funeral, of course, is the plum. I’m sure that Poe will be able to rest in peace after tomorrow. Hopefully, he’ll get a chuckle or two as well. How could he not? Consider the following detail that is written on the Web site about the funeral’s speakers list.

” Please keep in mind that while these people have confirmed their attendance many of them are deceased and every effort will be made to ensure that they will attend the event.”

Sir Alfred Hitchcock, for example, is on the list, as is Sarah Helen Whitman, Poe’s former fiancée.

Of all the events I’ve read about lately, this is the one I’d love to be able to go the most. There’s something wonderfully weird about it which is right up Poe’s alley–and mine.

For information about getting tickets, click here. You can also buy a ticket at the door, but instead of $35, a sold at the door ticket costs $40.

As a note, children under 10 are not admitted.

The photo by jjandames is of Poe’s memorial at the graveyard at Westminster Hall. The memorial was placed in order to honor Poe’s grave before the original grave’s location was known.

To honor Poe after tomorrow, you can always visit his grave. After careful searching, the location where he was buried has been determined. Originally, the grave was unmarked due to a freight train mishap that damaged the original stone.