Sunday, June 28, 2009

The purchase of the house of Allan

At an auction held on June 28, 1825, merchant John Allan purchased a Richmond estate. Actually, he purchased parts of three lots from the late Joseph Gallego and the late John Richard.

One of those lots included the mansion nicknamed "Moldavia." The name was granted by earlier owners, Molly and David Randolph. The brick house included a large porch, a mirrored ballroom, an octagon-shaped dining room, and a wide mahogany stairway. It stood on the southeast corner of Main and Fifth Streets in Richmond (it is no longer standing). Allan's purchase totaled $14,950 — equal to about $270,000 today. He paid for it using much of the inheritance from his uncle William Galt.

Allan's young ward Edgar Poe was 16 years old at the time. It would not be long before he moved out and tried to make it on his own, at the University of Virginia, in the United States Army, and elsewhere, occasionally coming back to Moldavia to await his next opportunity. Poe would live an ironic adulthood, perpetually struggling financially, despite having spent a few of his teenage years living in a mansion owned by a millionaire. When Allan died, not a penny was left for his foster-son.

Perhaps not coincidentally, many of Poe's fictional works reference oversized mansions, including his earliest story "Metzengerstein." Other works that seem to reference Moldavia in their setting include "Ligeia" and, of course, "The Fall of the House of Usher."


Brian said...

It's sad that so much of Poe's Richmond is no longer standing, either burned or razed or generally fallen from neglect. The diorama at the Poe museum is helpful, but there's nothing like walking through the actual homes where people lived and worked. Too bad.

Rob Velella said...

I agree. The good news is that Richmond has definitely grabbed hold of Poe; even if his homes are no longer standing, he is still remembered. I also think the lack of standing buildings is slightly alleviated by the recent book Edgar Allan Poe in Richmond, published for the bicentennial. At least someone found pictures!