Road Trips

In Search of Edgar Allan Poe

On our recent road trip, we spent a couple of days with Edgar Allan Poe in Richmond and Baltimore.  Poe, remembered mainly for his poems (“The Raven,” “Annabelle Lee”) and his tales of the macabre (“Fall of the House of Usher,” “Masque of the Red Death”) lived in a number of eastern cities. He was born in Boston,  where a plaque commemorates his birth. His home, where his wife, Virginia Clemm died is a museum in the Bronx. He spent his most productive years in Philadelphia. The only surviving of his homes there is now a National Historic Site.

Poe spent most of his early years in Richmond. His father deserted the family when Edgar was a baby, and his mother died when he was two years old. He was raised by John and Frances Allan, from whom he appended his middle name.

Richmond’ s Poe Museum is in the city’s oldest surviving residential structure, The Old Stone House. The author never lived there, but apparently knew of it. The museum displays numerous Poe artifacts, many from the collection of one of its founders, James Howard Whitty.

The museum is not a structure, but a small complex. You go from building to building to see a room in each. In doing so, you circle a memorial garden and the Poe shrine.

A few blocks down the street from the museum is Poe’s Pub, where we had a drink. After that, we stopped at the Poe statue on the grounds of the state capitol.

The Poe family had deep roots in Baltimore, going back to his great grandfather. But his closest association with the city is probably his mysterious death there in 1849 at age 40. Theories abound, but the known facts are that Poe left Richmond bound for Philadelphia, and was found near-dead a week later in a gutter in clothes not his. Among his last words were “Reynolds,” which he kept repeating. Reynolds has never identified.

Poe was originally buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of Westminster Church in Baltimore. In 1875 his remains, and those of Virginia Clemm, were moved to another site in the churchyard now known as the Poe Memorial Grave. A fine marble monument stands over this grave, and a simpler marker on the original plot.

A short distance from Westminster Church is  The Poe House, where Poe lived for two years in the 1830s. Reservations are needed to enter–something we didn’t know until we arrived, and so never entered.