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The Houses of Edgar Allan Poe
Statue of the Raven at Philadelphia
The Life of Edgar Allan Poe
So you want to visit the house of Edgar Allen Poe, one of America's most mysterios and beloved writers.....Well, - actually, there are several Edgar Allen Poe houses located around the Northeastern United States that you can choose from. This is due largely to the fact that poor Edgar moved around a lot in his search for financial support and literary fame. Philadelphia, Baltimore and Richmond all support places, where 21st century visitors can go and trounce around the very places that once housed the famous writer.
I happened to have visited the City of Brotherly Love and so I was able to walk through Poe's Philadelphia, three story house, which is currently owned and operated by the National Park Service. All in all it is a great way to become acquainted with this extraordinary man of letters, especially on a sizzling hot day, when the air-conditioned brick edifice provided a chilling relief from the searing city heat.
Somehow, Poe's short stories and poems have proved to be some of the most resilient and timeless of American literature. Just mention tales like the “Raven”, “Lenore”, “The Tell-tale Heart”, "The Pit and the Pendulum" and “The Fall of the House of Usher” and you can still send little spine-tingling feelings of chill down the backs of most readers, even though these tales were penned over a 150 years ago.
Poe was actually born in Boston to theatrical parents (Boston has yet to capitalize on this fact except with a statue), but went to live with a wealthy tobacco merchant in Richmond, when his parents died. Next came a short stint at West Point and then Baltimore, where he first began to publish short stories, despite his living in deep poverty. His writing success first took him to Richmond and then Philadelphia, where he edited prominent literary magazines, while writing his own fiction and poetry in his spare time.
New York was next where Poe wrote the Raven and thus achieved much name recognition, along with some improvement of his financial situation. Unfortunately Poe's life abruptly ended in Baltimore in 1849 at age 40. Cause of death remains a mystery (how apropos), but today Poe still retains a major place among American writers.
Visiting the Philadelphia site reveals several things about the man and his times. First being the size of the house. While the brick building is fairly large, the size of some of the rooms is tiny. The second is that despite his money worries, Poe maintained a house with a spacious sitting room that could be used for writing, reading or talking to a small audience. Despite his financial plight, being a man of letters had certain advantages. Finally, visitors can leave the genteel setting of the parlor and head into the basement, a damp and dark place that inspired his short story, “The Black Cat”. Nevertheless, there is definitely a gap between the real place and the gruesomeness, which the actual story portrays.
Along with a walkthrough of the house, there is a good audio-visual presentation and a well-stocked bookstore featuring literary works either by or about Poe. And for those who live in Richmond, you might want to check out the privately-funded Poe Museum, while Baltimore residents can drive on over to the on the west side of the city. This old brick home is supported and run by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore.