Museum News


Mary Allan’s 1920s Debut


The portrait of Mary Allan, which currently hangs in the Old Stone House, is a significant work of art purchased by the Poe Museum in 1928. The following recounts the history of this portrait, as well as its subject and the artist.

Mary Allan

Mary Allan was the older sister of Edgar Poe’s foster father, John Allan, and the eldest daughter of William and Elizabeth Galt Allan. Mary lived in the Allan Bridgegate home until her death in 1850 (Phillips 99).

Although Mary’s childhood and adulthood remain mysteries, we do have an interesting correspondence between a descendent of hers and the Poe Museum. On October 12, 1927, the museum was approached by a relative of the Allan family, who mentioned that her distant cousin was interested in selling a portrait of Mary Allan. This cousin was Sophie E. D. (whose name is not fully disclosed to protect her prvacy), of Fertshire, Scotland. Mary Allan, who Miss D. referred to as “Aunt Mary,” was Miss D’s great aunt. Upon contacting the museum, Sophie and the Poe Museum began what would be a year long process of organizing the painting’s shipment, payment, and display.

According to the April 26, 1928, “Board of Directors Minutes of the Annual Meeting”, there was a statement explaining that the same artist who painted John Allan’s portrait, also painted Mary’s, which hung on the wall of the Allan home in Ayrshire when the young Poe visited there.

This painter was James Tannock, a native of Kilmarnock. According to the Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Tannock was a distinguished artist who had success at Glasgow and Greenock as a painter of portraits and miniatures. He then moved to London and is notable for contributing forty-four portraits to the Royal Academy exhibitions between 1813 and 1841 (Armstrong). Tannock’s rich oil painting style can be seen in the Mary Allan painting.

On June 2, 1928, the portrait was purchased for seventy-five pounds, stirling [sic]. At that time, this would have been equal to $125.98. Today, the purchase price is estimated to be $1,755.93. On August 2, the portrait of Mary arrived. Martha R. Ford, the secretary of the Poe Museum at the time, stated in an August 10 letter,

I think she is lovely [Aunt Mary]. She must have been a very interesting person to know. She is very like her brother in feature; but oh so different in expression! I am no artist, and my opinion as to the merits of the portrait form an artistic point of view would be worthless. But from my plain human standpoint, I find the picture beautiful and interesting. Everybody who has seen it seems much pleased.

According to a September 14 letter, the Museum buildings were being renovated and “Aunt Mary” was waiting to be hung. Martha R. Ford relates, “’Aunt Mary’ is to come into the new building as soon as the workmen shall have provided for her adequate support.” The next day, everything was in place, and the sale was official. The Consular Invoice was produced, the official charge papers were found to be in order, the transaction was duly closed, and “Aunt Mary” was warmly welcomed into her new home.

Mary Allan

Now, thanks to the Poe Museum’s past employees and the gracious willingness of Sophie D. to sell her “Aunt Mary” to the museum, you can view the lovely painting, which gives insight into John Allan’s Scottish family, and, ultimately, into Poe’s world in Scotland.

To view the painting, please visit the following link: https://www.poemuseum.org/collection-details.php?id=105




Tie the Knot in the Enchanted Garden!


The Enchanted Garden at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum is covered in snow as we write this, but soon Spring flowers will bring this lovely space to life, and with it, love will blossom too in the form of 15 planned weddings so far this year.

“You have weddings, at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum?” you might ask with wonder.  Yes, definitely yes!  We do!

The engagement season has been in full swing since December, and we are getting more interest in the Enchanted Garden as a wedding site than ever before.  Why is this?  Brides tell us they are drawn to the garden because of its intimate setting, as well as its quirky and historic background.  The bounty of nature and lovely plantings makes it even more desirable as a venue for that most special and lovely event in a bride or groom’s life. In these tight budget times, it is one of the most affordable spaces to host a wedding in Richmond.

So what do you get when you chose the Poe Museum as your wedding site?  For starters, you get the satisfaction of knowing you are creating a memorable experience for you and your guests.  As history goes, it is hard to beat the site itself, in business as a cultural center of Richmond since 1922.  As the only literary museum in the state of Virginia, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum has a sense of sophistication and an ambiance that you look for in a wedding site.  It is ideal for ceremonies and receptions, and our Bookings Coordinator Amber Edens will be glad to assist you in making arrangements for all the details that will make your wedding day a big success.  Call or email Amber Edens today to begin the joyful process that ends with the two simple words, “I do!”

You can contact Amber at:
amber@poemuseum.org  or  (804) 648-5523

Tours of the garden available Friday-Sunday 12pm-5pm by appointment.