Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Poe preserved by the National Park Service

Though Poe lived in many parts of the United States (born in Boston; raised in Richmond, schooled in England and Charlottesville, VA; stationed in South Carolina; lived and worked in Baltimore, New York City, Philadelphia, The Bronx, etc.) there is only one federally-recognized, federally-funded site dedicated to his memory, and it is in Philadelphia.

The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site was dedicated as part of the National Park Service on November 10, 1978. It remains one of only five literary landmarks funded by the federal government and overseen by the National Park Service.*

Poe's most productive (and, likely, most sober) years were spent in Philadelphia. He lived at this house near the corner of 7th and Spring Garden Streets for less than a year; none of his other Philadelphia homes (and there were many) are still standing. Nevertheless, in this city, Poe published iconic works like "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Black Cat," "The Balloon-Hoax," and the world-changing "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." It was also during his time in Philadelphia that Poe met Charles Dickens and reviewed his work.

The home's extant status is thanks to Richard Gimbel, who became a collector of Poe. He purchased Poe's former home in 1933, making it the centerpiece of his collection. He claimed that Poe began writing "The Raven" here, though it's not likely. Upon Gimbel's death, the home was donated and became the "official" shrine to Poe. However, none of Poe's furniture survived and, lacking clear information on how the interior of the home looked in Poe's time, the house remains empty under the NPS. They refused to "fake it" and install representative period furniture. The result is a creepy, unfurnished, empty house — complete with decaying walls and decrepit fireplaces.

The home remains open to the public after a renovation to its visitor center (completed just in time for the bicentennial) and is open year-round — and admission is always free.

Other sites related to Poe include the Baltimore Poe House and Museum, the Poe Cottage in the Bronx, Poe's preserved dorm-room at the University of Virginia, and the Richmond Poe Museum.

Happy anniversary to the Poe National Historic Site.

*The other four are: The Wayside in Concord, MA; Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA; Carl Sandburg National Historic Site in North Carolina; Eugene O'Neill National Historic Site in California.


Amateur Reader said...

It's a great site, really set up in the right spirit. The rangers / docents could not have been more friendly.

Rob Velella said...

I was impressed that the new additions to the house itself were tasteful and did not detract from the natural beauty of arrested decay. The visitor center seems much larger with the re-done exhibits, though (of course) I would have done things differently.