Museum News


In the footsteps of Poe – Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, MD


The Richmond Poe Museum’s staff took a field trip to Baltimore Maryland on March 26th to check out the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum.

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Richmond Poe Museum staff on the recently rebuilt steps of the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore

Edgar Allan Poe lived in this small row house from 1832 to 1835. The household also included Poe’s aunt Maria Clemm, as well as Maria’s two children Virginia and Henry, and Poe’s paternal grandmother, Elizabeth Cairnes Poe. Poe would later marry his cousin Virginia. The family was just about able to afford the rent for this house thanks to Grandmother Poe’s pension, which was granted to her because of her late husband’s service to the country during the American Revolution.

David Poe, Sr. (Edgar’s paternal grandfather – b. 1743 d. 1816) strongly sympathized with the American Revolutionary cause and donated a lot of the Poe family fortune to support the Continental Army. He served as Quartermaster General for the city of Baltimore and although his official rank was that of major, he was affectionately known in the city of Baltimore as “General Poe.”

So, Edgar’s connection to the city of Baltimore was very strong. It makes sense that Poe would choose to live with family after his disagreements with his foster father, John Allan and dishonorable discharge from West Point. Life in Baltimore was not easy, the Poe family had little money. They lost Poe’s elder brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, in 1831 before they came to the little house at 203 Amity Street. Grandmother Poe was ailing and bedridden during their time in the house. When Grandmother Poe died in about September 1835, the pension died with her, meaning the family could no longer afford to keep the house. Around the same time, Poe began work at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond and soon thereafter married his beloved cousin, Virginia.

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The lovely Amber, Jessy and Jen with Baltimore Poe House Curator Jeff Jerome and some bottles of cognac left by the fabled “Poe Toaster”

During our visit Jeff Jerome,the curator of the Baltimore Poe House, treated the Poe Museum staff to a wonderful tour of Poe’s Baltimore home as well as Westminster Hall and Westminster Burying Ground where Poe and his family are laid to rest. We were treated to a fabulous surprise performance of “The Tell-Tale Heart” by renowned Baltimore actor and Poe impersonator, Tony Tsendeas and got to see some of the bottles of cognac left by the mysterious Poe Toaster over the years. Many of these bottles are now part of the Baltimore Poe House collection, which also includes a telescope and lap desk used by Poe and an assortment of crystal and china from the Allan home among other things. We checked out the tiny garret bedroom at the top of the house used by Poe (presumably the site where he wrote some of his early tales like “Berenice”).

After our visit to the Poe House, Jeff then took us to Westminster Hall as well as the Westminster Burying Ground and Catacombs.

The Westminster Burying Grounds were established around 1792 and Westminster Presbyterian Church (now de-consecrated and known as Westminster Hall) was built on top of the burying grounds in 1852. The Catacombs were created to allow people access to the resting places of loved ones whose tombs wound up underneath the church. The burying grounds are the final resting place for many famous Baltimoreans including General James McHenry (for whom Fort McHenry was named) and, of course, our beloved Poe and many of his family members.

Spooky Catacombs at the Westminster Burying Ground

Spooky Catacombs beneath Westminster Hall

Jeff Jerome showing us a mausoleum in the Westminster Burying GroundsIn Westminster Hall

A couple more photos from Westminster Hall and Burying Ground

We paid our respects at BOTH of Poe’s graves on the property. Poe was originally buried in the Poe family burial plot but was moved to his current resting place in 1875. Virginia and Maria are now buried in the same place.

Here we are at the gravesite:

Poe Museum Staff (plus one) at Poe's Grave

As always, the photos in this blog post (and more) can be found via the Poe Museum’s flickr group here: http://www.flickr.com/groups/poemuseum/pool/.

We at the Poe Museum would like to thank Mr. Jerome for allowing us to come visit and for giving us such a wonderful tour of Poe’s Baltimore. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and we encourage others to pay the Baltimore Poe House and Museum a visit too!

The Poe House in Baltimore is fighting to stay alive after recent cuts in city funding – please help to keep it around for others to enjoy for many years to come! Check this page for more information on how you can help: http://www.eapoe.org/threat.htm. You can also follow the Poe House’s status on their Facebook page which you can visit here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Edgar-Allan-Poe-House-Museum/10150113128020459.




In the footsteps of Poe – The University of Virginia


In 1826, Poe left Richmond to attend the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He enrolled at the university on February 14th, 1826. He was part of the second class to matriculate at Mr. Jefferson’s University. While in Charlottesville, Poe studied Ancient and Modern Languages and distinguished himself in both subjects. He appears to have been well-liked by other students and teachers and his room (number 13!) on the West Range at the University was a popular gathering place where Poe would entertain friends with tales of his own devising.

Unfortunately, Poe’s time at the University of Virginia was short-lived. His foster father, John Allan sent him to Charlottesville with insufficient funds to cover Poe’s school expenses. Mr. Allan did not respond to Poe’s requests for financial help, so Edgar resorted to gambling in an attempt to pay his bills. Edgar had no luck at this and wound up about $2000 in debt (bearing in mind that by his estimation, his bills at UVA would have totaled about $350 for the entire year). He left the University of Virginia on the 15th of December 1826 in disgrace.

Poe’s time at UVA has come to be appreciated in the ensuing years and his legacy there is maintained by The Raven Society, a prestigious honor society founded in 1904. The Raven Society lovingly maintains room # 13 on the West Range much as it must have appeared in Poe’s time and sponsors scholarships and fellowships to honor academic excellence.

Here is a picture of Poe’s West Range room from the Raven Society’s website:

Poe's room at the University of Virginia - Raven Society photo

On December 5, 2011, I got to attend a Virginia Association of Museums workshop at the University of Virginia Art Museum with fellow staff member Jennifer. We were inspired by the workshop and decided to do a little touring of UVA after we’d finished for the day.

We tracked down Poe’s dorm room on West Range and took pictures (of course!). We are geeks about such things here at the Poe Museum! (Endearing geeks. We hope.)

Jennifer visiting Poe's dorm room at UVA Melanie visiting Poe's dorm room at UVA

Jennifer and Melanie in 2 different photos by the door to room #13 West Range

We also checked out the nearby historic marker devoted to Poe and visited the Rotunda, the centerpiece of Jefferson’s plan for the University. (It would still have been under construction when Poe was there.)

Jennifer with Poe's Historic Marker at UVA

Jennifer with Eddy’s historical marker

UVA Rotunda on a cloudy December Day

The UVA Rotunda on the day of our visit – it was a bit cloudy, but rather appropriately atmospheric under the circumstances

For more information on Poe at the University of Virginia, check out the Raven Society’s website – it’s worth the visit!