Museum News


A Visit to the Hiram Haines Coffee House


The members of the Poe Museum recently took a trip to the building in which Poe is said to have spent his honeymoon in May 1836. The owner of the house, Jeff Abugel, author the recent book Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg, provided our group a private tour of the house. He has spent the last few years restoring the house and researching its history. In Poe’s day, the house would have belonged to his friend, the Petersburg, Virginia poet and magazine editor Hiram Haines. Poe, who grew up thirty miles to the north in Richmond, was a close childhood friend of Mary Ann Philpotts, who would eventually marry Haines.

The relationship between Hiram Haines is documented by two letters in the collection of the Poe Museum. These are the only remaining correspondence between the two editors. In the first, from August 19, 1836, Poe asks Haines to consider reviewing the Southern Literary Messenger (the Richmond magazine Poe was editing at the time) in Haines’s magazine The Constellation. In the next letter, dated April 24, 1840, Poe politely turns down Haines’s offer to send Poe’s wife a pet fawn. Poe writes that he cannot find a way to transport the animal from Petersburg to Philadelphia, where Poe was living at the time. Shortly before writing the letter, Poe praised Haines’s magazine The Virginia Star in Alexander’s Weekly Messenger, and, in the note, Poe extends his “very best wishes” to the Star. Poe closes the letter by suggesting he might visit Petersburg in “a month of two hence.” There is no evidence this trip ever took place, and Haines died the following year.

There has long been a tradition that Poe spent his honeymoon at Haines’s house in Petersburg, but Abugel believes Poe would have stayed next door at Haines’s coffee house, which was also a hotel. A description of Poe’s wedding by one of those present, also describes Poe and his bride leaving Richmond by train to their honeymoon in Petersburg, but Abugel states on page 103 of Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg that, though the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad was chartered in 1836, it did not begin service until 1838, so Poe and his wife could not have taken the train from Richmond to Petersburg in 1836. Some accounts say Poe spent as long as two weeks in Petersburg, but there exists a letter written by Poe in Richmond on May 23, 1836 — just one week after his wedding on May 16.

We do not have much verifiable information about Poe’s honeymoon. James Whitty states in Mary Phillips’s Edgar Allan Poe: The Man (pp. 532-33) that there once existed several letters between Poe and Haines concerning the subject but that Haines’s grandson had only saved the two mentioned above. Whitty also relates that Poe was entertained in Petersburg by the Haines family as well as by the editor Edward V. Sparhawk and the writer Dr. W.M. Robinson.

Haines operated his coffee house and hotel out of this house, which was adjacent to his own home (on the right in the above photo).

The first stop on our tour was the coffee house on the first floor. The mantel in this photo was one of the original mantels taken from the second floor rooms in which Poe would have stayed.

Now indoors, this wall once overlooked the alley behind the house, and Poe and his bride would have entered through this second floor door, which was connected to the alley by an exterior staircase. Now there is a roof covering this area, which is part of the present day coffee and ale house.

The door from the alley opened onto this landing. The room in which Abugel believes Poe would have stayed is at the end of the hall.

This is the room in which Poe would have slept. Very few changes were made to these rooms since Poe’s time, so Abugel believes this would have been the paint on the walls when the poet was there. The view out the window would have been different, because there would have been an empty lot across the street.

Here is the next room, which is connected to the last one. That is not a ghost by the window.

Our tour ended back downstairs in the coffee house where some of us purchased Hiram Haines Coffee and Ale House T-shirts with Poe’s face on them. Abugel informed us that the first floor is open not only for coffee but also the occasional concert or special event. You can find out more about the place on Facebook. Many thanks to Jeffrey Abugel for the great tour.

After the tour of the house, Poe Museum docent Alyson Taylor-White took the group on a walking tour of historic Petersburg.

The next program for Poe Museum members will be a tour of Monumental Church on Saturday, November 23 at noon.




Poe Museum Thanks Its Members


The Poe Museum greatly appreciates the support of its many members, so, as a way of saying thanks, the museum will host a weekend of activities for its members only. On November 16 and 17, Poe Museum members can take special tours of Poe sites that are not regularly open to the public, and they will have a chance to search for evidence of paranormal activity in the Poe Museum.

The weekend kicks off Saturday, November 16 at noon with a tour of Monumental Church (pictured above), the church Poe attended as a boy with his foster parents John and Frances Allan. Members will have the opportunity to sit in the Allan family pew where Poe would have sat, and they will learn about the dark origins of this memorial built on the site of the 1811 Richmond Theater Fire.

Then, on November 16 from 8 P.M. until midnight, Poe Museum members can participate in a special members-only paranormal investigation of the Poe Museum, where the apparition of a young boy is said to appear in the garden. Investigators Spirited History will lead the investigation and provide the equipment. They have investigated the site before and claim to have collected a great deal of evidence that something paranormal occupies the garden.

Finally, on Sunday, November 17 at 1 P.M., members are invited to attend a special tour of the Hiram Haines Coffee House (pictured above) in Petersburg, where Poe is said to have spent his honeymoon. The owner, Jeff Abugel (author of Edgar Allan Poe’s Petersburg), will take the group on a special tour of the rooms Poe and his wife would have occupied during their stay. Afterwards, Poe Museum docent Alyson Taylor-White will provide a walking tour of Petersburg historic sites Poe would have seen during his visit.

**UPDATE**
The tour of Monumental Church has been rescheduled for Saturday, November 23 at noon.

If you are interested in attending any of these events, please RSVP to Amber Edens by emailing amber@poemuseum.org or by calling 888-21-EAPOE. Space is limited, so please reserve your spot today.

If you are not a member or have not renewed your membership, you join today on our website.




Poe: Science Fiction Pioneer


Most people know Edgar Allan Poe for his chilling tales of terror and his melancholy poetry. A few even know his for his groundbreaking detective stories, but most people have no idea he pioneered the science fiction story. That is why the Poe Museum’s new temporary exhibit Poe: Science Fiction Pioneer (running from October 17 until December 31, 2013) will highlight the author’s contributions to one of today’s most popular genres.

Poe wrote early accounts of cyborgs, space travel, and the distant future. Some of his tales about the marvels of modern science were so realistic some of his readers thought they were true. Explore the exhibit to discover such little known works as “The Man That Was Used Up,” “Some Words with a Mummy,” and “The Balloon Hoax.”




Poe Museum’s October 2013 UNhappy Hour


Join Poe and the gang for the only Halloween party in Richmond with actual ghosts. On Thursday, October 24 from six until nine, the Poe Museum will host its final Unhappy Hour of 2013 featuring live music by Fool’s Errand, paranormal investigation technique demonstrations by Spirited History, psychic readings by David Allen Brown, a new exhibit about Poe in Science Fiction, a costume contest, and more. The theme of the evening will be Poe’s early poem “Spirits of the Dead.” Parking will be available in our lot and on the street. Admission is by donation.




Poe Museum Finally Acquires Old Stone House


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.




Poe Museum’s Newletter is Now Available


Here is the latest installment of the Poe Museum’s newsletter Evermore. Inside you will find updates on the museum’s fall events and exhibits as well as some members-only programs.

POEMuseum-Fall2013newsletter




Poe Museum Observes Anniversary of Poe’s Death


Anyone can celebrate a birthday, but the Poe Museum also celebrates a death day. On October 3, 2013, the Poe Museum in Richmond will observe the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death (October 7, 1849), with a tribute from Elmira Shelton, the woman to whom Poe was engaged when he died. Debbie Phillips, who has also performed for the museum as Poe’s mother Eliza Poe, returns for a historical interpretation based on years of research into Poe’s last love. After the performance, “Elmira” will stay to mingle with guests. Tours of the museum will explore the themes of death and mourning in Poe’s time. The event will last from 6P.M. until 9 P.M. Refreshments will be available.




The Unhappy Hour Returns to the Poe Museum


After a break for the summer, the Poe Museum’s popular monthly event series, the Unhappy Hour, returns Thursday, September 26 from six to nine for an evening of live music, fine food and drink, and the closing of the museum’s special exhibit Poe in Paris. The theme for the night is “The Fall of the House of Usher,” so we will be screening a short film inspired by the story. The music will be provided by Margot MacDonald, and, in honor of the Poe in Paris exhibit, food will be provided courtesy of La Parisienne Bistro and Café. The event will take place in the Poe Museum’s legendary Enchanted Garden. Admission is by five dollar optional donation, and a cash bar will be available. For more information, contact the Poe Museum at 888-21-EAPOE or email us at info@poemuseum.org.

Fine French Food Courtesy of:




Help the Poe Museum Win the Amazing Raise


Do you love a good book? Do you want to help a new generation of readers share your love of literature? Here’s something you can do about it:

For the next day and a half the Poe Museum will be competing in the Amazing Raise, a 36-hour challenge in which Central Virginia non-profits try to see how many donations they can collect between 6 A.M. on September 18 and 6 P.M. on September 19. And you can help. Your donation of $50 or more helps the Poe Museum compete for thousands of dollars in bonus prizes, so even a small gift can make a big difference.

Why support the Poe Museum? First, you will be entered in a drawing for a chance to win a print of one of Abigail Larson’s fantastic Poe illustrations from our gift shop. Second, your donation will help the Poe Museum foster a love or reading and writing in future generations. For over ninety years the Poe Museum has been an invaluable resource to teachers and students around the globe. Through our educational programs, website, and educator information packet, we support teachers in their efforts to both educate and inspire their students.

What will we do with your gift? Fifty dollars pays for enough tour guides to give a guided tour for one hundred students. One hundred dollars buys the latest books for our ever expanding reference library. Two hundred dollars pays for us to have more Educator Information Packets printed. Five hundred dollars pays for plaster repair for one of our exhibit galleries. One thousand dollars helps conserve a small painting. Five thousand dollars buys a new heat pump for one of our buildings. Eight thousand dollars pays the expenses associated with our annual Edgar Allan Poe Young Writers’ Conference.

If you believe in the work the Poe Museum is doing, please consider making a donation today using this form. If you are reaching this page after the competition has ended, you can still contribute to the Poe Museum here.




Poe Museum Receives Major Gift


On October 5 at 1 P.M., the Poe Museum will receive the largest gift in its history, a house. The house just happens to be the oldest in Richmond, the Old Stone House. Though we are not exactly certain when it was built, dendrochronology (testing of the tree rings in wood) dates the floorboards to 1754. For over ninety years, the Poe Museum has occupied the house, which remains the property of Preservation Virginia, formerly known as the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, while the other three buildings in the Poe Museum complex belong to the Poe Foundation.

The history of the Old Stone House is a colorful one. From the 1740s until 1911, the property was owned by the Ege family, who were among the first residents of the city. In 1781, one of the residents, Elizabeth Ege Welsh, supposedly saw Benedict Arnold invade and set fire to Richmond from the house. By the 1840s, the house appears in guide books for visitors to the city. Around 1881, the house was rented to R. L. Potter, “The Wheelbarrow Man,” who used it to exhibit an assortment of unusual objects he had collected while pushing a wheelbarrow from New York to California and back. One account says he even displayed a live bear in one of the rooms. In 1894, the house was known as Washington’s Headquarters Antiquarium and Relic Museum, which published a guide book to perpetuate some tall tales about how the house had been built by Powhatan, used as a courthouse by Patrick Henry, and used as George Washington’s headquarters during the American Revolution (though Washington never actually set foot in the city during that war). Some old postcards show the house with a large “Washington’s Headquarters” sign hanging next to the front door.

In 1913, the Ege family lost the property, and Granville Valentine purchased the building to save it from destruction. Valentine, in turn, donated it to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, who tried to find someone to rent it. A renter who had intended to use it as an antique store left because the property was being vandalized. Then Archer Jones, owner of the Duplex Envelope Company, approached the APVA with the idea of using the house as a museum of Colonial history. Jones and his wife soon met the Poe collector James Whitty, who wanted to reconstruct the recently demolished office of the Southern Literary Messenger in the junk yard behind the house. In 1921, that idea evolved into using the Messenger bricks and granite to make a Poe Memorial garden in the yard and using the locks, lumber, and hinges from the Messenger building to restore the Old Stone House. The House was then furnished with furniture from Richmond buildings in which Poe lived or worked. In the early years, the APVA charged the Poe Foundation rent for the property, but it eventually allowed the museum to use the house rent-free.

Ninety-one years after the Poe Museum opened, the Old Stone House is still visited by guests from around the world, and the exterior of the house remains virtually unchanged from its appearance recorded in nineteenth century photos. Thanks to Preservation Virginia, this beautiful remnant of Richmond’s Colonial past will finally become a true part of the Poe Museum. The museum has no plans for changes to the structure, which will be protected from significant alterations by an easement with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.

To learn more about the Old Stone House, please visit the Poe Museum or read the forthcoming book about the house by Rosemarie Mitchell.