After ninety-one years occupying the Old Stone House, the Poe Foundation finally owns the building. On Saturday, October 5, 2013, Anne Geddy Cross (pictured above), President of President of Preservation Virginia, signed the Deed of Gift transferring the house and garden from Preservation Virginia to the Poe Foundation. The Poe Foundation’s Past President Harry Lee Poe and its new President Annemarie Weathers Beebe gratefully accepted the gift. Preservation Virginia’s Director of Preservation Services Louis Malon and the Poe Museum’s Curator Chris Semtner, who have both been coordinating the transfer process over the past few years, were in attendance to witness the event. Before the transfer could take place, an easement was registered with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to protect the house from significant changes that would alter its historic character.
Representing the Ege family, who owned the property from at least 1748 until 1911, Tina Egge, fifth great niece of Jacob Ege (different branches of the family spelled the name differently), the builder of the house, attended the event. Rose Marie Mitchell, who has written a new book about the history of the Old Stone House, spoke and signed copies of her book in the Exhibits Building, which featured a temporary exhibit documenting the history of the house.
The Poe Foundation has owned the rest of the Poe Museum buildings and grounds since the 1920s, so it is fitting that the Old Stone House should finally come under its ownership. Although the enormous gift and the new easement are significant developments for the Poe Foundation, the museum’s visitors will not see a dramatic change in the way the museum operates. They will, however, see some dramatic changes next spring when the major Enchanted Garden restoration project sponsored by the Garden Club of Virginia is underway.
The Poe Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden opened in April 1922 as Virginia’s first memorial to Edgar Allan Poe. The garden remains the heart of the Poe Museum complex and continues to thrive as a living embodiment of Poe’s poetic ideals. The name of the garden was borrowed from a line from Poe’s 1848 version of “To Helen.” The layout was derived from his poem “To One in Paradise,” and most of the flowers, trees, and shrubs were mentioned in hiss poems and short stories. Among the many plants visitors will encounter in the Enchanted Garden are begonias, clematis, geraniums, hyacinths, hydrangeas, pansies, roses, violets, and tulips. The grassy lawns are lined with ivy (said to have been taken from Poe’s mother’s grave at St. John’s Church), and the exterior staircase is covered in jasmine. Shade is provided by lovely old boxwoods which have grown to the size of trees. Other trees and shrubs include dogwoods, camellias, a magnolia, and a huge photinia, each of which displays beautiful flowers at different times of the year.
In addition to planting a variety of colorful plants, the founders of the Poe Museum incorporated building materials from a number of demolished buildings associated with the poet. The pergola was constructed using bricks and granite salvaged from the office of the Southern Literary Messenger, the magazine at which Poe began his career in journalism. The garden also contains elements from Poe’s foster father’s office, a boarding house in which Poe lived in Richmond, and from one of Poe’s New York homes.
If a garden seems an unusual memorial to a writer best known for his tales of murder and madness, you might be surprised to learn Poe loved nature and wrote a number of pieces about nature and landscape gardens. Among these are “Morning on the Wissahiccon,” “The Landor’s Cottage,” and “The Domain of Arnheim.” In the following passage from “The Domain of Arnheim,” Poe explains how a garden is like a poem:
“Ellison became neither musician nor poet; although no man lived more profoundly enamored of music and poetry. Under other circumstances than those which invested him, it is not impossible that he would have become a painter. Sculpture, although in its nature rigorously poetical was too limited in its extent and consequences, to have occupied, at any time, much of his attention. And I have now mentioned all the provinces in which the common understanding of the poetic sentiment has declared it capable of expatiating. But Ellison maintained that the richest, the truest, and most natural, if not altogether the most extensive province, had been unaccountably neglected. No definition had spoken of the landscape-gardener as of the poet; yet it seemed to my friend that the creation of the landscape-garden offered to the proper Muse the most magnificent of opportunities. Here, indeed, was the fairest field for the display of imagination in the endless combining of forms of novel beauty; the elements to enter into combination being, by a vast superiority, the most glorious which the earth could afford. In the multiform and multicolor of the flowers and the trees, he recognized the most direct and energetic efforts of Nature at physical loveliness. And in the direction or concentration of this effort — or, more properly, in its adaptation to the eyes which were to behold it on earth — he perceived that he should be employing the best means — laboring to the greatest advantage — in the fulfillment, not only of his own destiny as poet, but of the august purposes for which the Deity had implanted the poetic sentiment in man.”
A visit to the Enchanted Garden is like walking through Poe’s poetry, and National Poetry Month is a great time to see the spring flowers in bloom.
It may still be February, but spring has already arrived in the Poe Museum’s Enchanted Garden. Several flowers are in bloom, and more are on their way. Here are some photos taken yesterday in the garden.
Beginning in 1921, the Poe Foundation created this garden as Richmond, Virginia’s memorial to Edgar Allan Poe. The museum’s founders planted trees, flowers, and shrubs mentioned in Poe’s works and incorporated bricks and granite from Poe’s Richmond homes and places of employment into the walls, paths, benches, and shrine. Even the layout is based on descriptions taken from Poe’s poetry.
The Poe Museum and its Enchanted Garden opened in April 1922. Nine decades later, the garden remains the heart of the Poe Museum complex. In addition to showcasing Poe’s favorite plants and hosting Poe Museum events, the garden has become a popular wedding venue–even earning the distinction of being named one of this year’s top wedding sites by Virginia Living Magazine.
The next time you stop by the Poe Museum, be sure to devote part of your visit to exploring this beautiful oasis in the middle of downtown Richmond.
Join us on Friday, November 30 from 6-10 P.M. when the Poe Museum’s historic Enchanted Garden comes alive with thousands of lights as the Museum rings in the holiday season with the free “Poe Illumination.” Guests will enjoy hot apple cider and traditional Christmas music while costumed interpreters show them what Christmas was like during Poe’s time. Additionally, the Poe Museum will be displaying some of the actual gifts Poe gave his friends and family in Richmond. Included in the display will be a small watercolor Poe himself might have painted and a book of children’s stories he autographed and gave to a young girl. Kids can enjoy making Victorian Christmas crafts while adults can visit our cash bar for mulled wine. Click here for photos of last year’s Poe Illumination.
The Poe Museum first opened its doors to the public on April 26th, 1922.
On April 26, 2012, the museum celebrated its 90th birthday with a 1920s themed Unhappy Hour.
Poe Museum volunteers (the esteemed Heather and Courtney) posing as “Cigarette Girls” to collect donations to keep the Poe Museum around for another 90 years
For such an auspicious occasion we wanted to do something extra special so we managed to arrange for some 1920s authors to travel through time (perhaps in an old Ford a la Midnight In Paris?) and regale guests with tales of their lives and work as well as their interest in Poe. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, H.P. Lovecraft and James Branch Cabell were all on hand to pay tribute to Poe and to mingle with Unhappy Hour guests. (Many thanks to our wonderful living history actors that helped us bring them to life!)
The Fitzgeralds and Gertrude Stein at Unhappy Hour
Author H. P. Lovecraft of Providence, Rhode Island, reading his poem “In a Sequester’d Providence Churchyard Where Once Poe Walk’d
Richmond author James Branch Cabell enjoying the company of our lovely “Cigarette” Girls
State Delegate Jennifer McClellan in the Enchanted Garden during the event
In addition to our 1920s authors State Delegate Jennifer McClellan was kind enough to pay us a visit and was gracious enough to help us out in acting as a judge for our 1920s costume contest (along with Scott and Sandi Bergman, owners of Haunts of Richmond).
1920s Costume Contest Participants
Many guests really got into the spirit of the event and there were many lovely 1920s style costumes in evidence throughout the evening.
Assorted guests getting into the spirit of the evening
A great jazz accompaniment to the festivities was provided by the John Winn Duo.
Guests were able to get a chance to see our new exhibit “From Poe’s Quill: The Letters and Manuscripts of Edgar Allan Poe” which provides a unique opportunity to examine dozens of Edgar Allan Poe’s original manuscripts, including several never before displayed in public, a heretofore unknown draft version of his poem “To Helen” and even an alleged manuscript written by Poe frombeyond the grave transcribed with the help of a medium!
It was a wonderful celebration and we at the Poe Museum are very grateful to everyone who came out to enjoy and make it a success. As usual, you can check out more photos (and even share some of your own if you have some you’d like to share!) on the Poe Museum’s flickr group.
And get ready because our 90th Anniversary celebrations will be continuing all year – our NEXT Unhappy Hour will take place on May 24th and will feature Poe’s short story “Berenice”. Music will be provided by Richmond’s celebrated world jazz ensemble Rattlemouth.
If you’re wondering what belly dancing has to do with Poe or his birthday … well, Poe wrote stories like “The Cask of Amontillado” that are set at carnival time and belly dance seemed to fit nicely there. Also, all of our dances had Victorian/gothic themes of which we are certain Poe would approve – one was even based on his poem “The Conqueror Worm.” Moreover, the birthday bash marked the opening of our special exhibition of James Carling’s illustrations for “The Raven” and as Carling himself was a sideshow/vaudeville performer, it seemed appropriate. Plus, it was just too fun to pass up and what’s a party without fun, right?
We were also fortunate to have six local poets come and do readings in honor of Edgar for his birthday festivities at the museum. Each poet read a poem by Poe and one of their own works.
Top row: Cynthia Grier Lotze and Joanna S. Lee Middle row: Melissa C. Johnson and Tarfia Faizullah Bottom row: Benjamin Dombrowski and Laura Davenport – Photos by Melanie Armstrong.
Poe fans young and old came out to enjoy the fun which lasted from 10am to midnight. Here we see some VERY young Poe fans in training with their moms enjoying entertainment by Sadira Silverhare and DragonSong. Photo by Bonnie Chanteuse.
More little Poe fans waiting for trolley rides and soaking up the atmosphere at the Birthday Bash. Photos by Melanie Armstrong.
So make sure you come out to our exciting 90th anniversary events this year and take lots of photos of the fun you have! Keep an eye on our Events Page and our Facebook page for information about our 2012 events.
Guests enjoyed music by Beggars of Life and enjoyed a living history appearance from Eliza Poe (as portrayed by the lovely Debbie Phillips), who favored us with some Christmas carols that would have been familiar in her time. Guests also were introduced to Miss Emmeline Edens, a lady from the mid-19th century who shared about Christmas traditions from that era. (Emmeline was portrayed by Poe Museum docent Amber Edens.)
While they enjoyed thousands of sparkling lights and ornaments which rendered our Enchanted Garden even more enchanted than usual, our guests got to sample tasty gingerbread and hot beverages courtesy of the Dirty Apron Catering Company.
We’ll also be visited by Poe’s mother, Eliza Poe (as portrayed by the lovely Debbie Phillips) and will be debuting a new exhibit in honor of the 200th anniversary of Mrs. Poe’s demise.
Miss Emmeline Edens, a lovely 19th century lady will also be on hand to assist with trimming our Christmas tree and to tell people a little about Christmas in her time.
So come on out to this event and pick up some presents for the Poe fan in your life in our shop while you’re at it – we have everything from ornaments and parasols to busts of Poe and a wonderful assortment of books.
Excellent jazz accompaniment for the evening’s festivities was provided by Jack Winn Duo and Poe fans young and old (plus a stray bat or two) really got into the spirit of the event.
Of course, this Unhappy Hour also served as the Poe Museum’s first event of our busy fall season. Make sure that you check our events calendar for information about all kinds of exciting things that will be happening in October.
First up on Sunday October 2nd from 2-4pm is the launch party for Richmond Macabre a horror anthology dedicated to Poe and featuring stories set right here in the River City. We hope to see folks at as many of our October events as possible. October is Poe’s month after all!