Poe Places: An historical East Coast journey in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Baltimore

It’s taken me over three years thus far to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the places entwined with the history of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been such an inspiration to my own pen muse and he birthed my love of poetry. And since I’m OCD about everything, it makes perfect sense to divulge in every place Mr. Poe once lived, visited or has some historical tie to. Right? Right.

Edgar was born in Boston, Massachusetts to David and Elizabeth Poe. He had two siblings, older brother Henry and sister Rosalie. The children at a young age found themselves parentless as their father abandoned them and at the age of three, Edgar’s mother, a then actress in Richmond, Virginia, died of tuberculosis. The children were then separated. Henry was sent to live with his paternal grandparents in Boston, Rosalie to the McKenzie’s of Richmond and Edgar was adopted by John and Frances Allan, also of Richmond, Virginia.

While the places I have visited thus far are all of importance and have their own individual connection to Poe, they are not in historical order and notably the states of New York and Massachusetts I have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.

This stop brings me to the home of the Ravens…Baltimore, Maryland. Poe left quite a legacy to this bustling city so much so they honor his memory by naming their NFL team after one of his most popular poems. Poe spent a lot of his life here and fate it seemed was deemed the place for him to die.

My first stop had to be the most notable place that Baltimore offers. His grave.

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What more fitting a place for Poe’s final resting place than that of Westminster Hall, a converted gothic style church built above Westminster Burying Ground, creating catacombs. Upon discovering them I was disappointed that time wasn’t allowing me the opportunity to take one of the tours that the church offers.

Not only is Poe buried here but his wife Virginia and her mother Maria Clemm as well. Historically however Poe originally was buried in the back of the church grounds in an unmarked grave that today has a stone memorializing his original resting place. However just like all things Poe, rumors grew of the accuracy of the move. To read more about it, check out http://www.eapoe.org.

Because I’m a geek when it comes to Poe, I already knew this upon entering the church yard and knew exactly where to go hunting for the original memorial. Some other fans that happened to be there at the same time as myself, clearly weren’t as obsessed….errrr prepared as I was and didn’t have this little tid bit of information so naturally I offered to show them. My daughter took a picture of me guiding the tourists so as to memorialize my Poe geek status reaching its all time high. And no, I will not share it. Grrrrr. But I will show you where I took them.

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Because I have a natural love for cemeteries, not only was I snapping multiple pictures of the grounds but I found words brewing and wrote this as I came upon this corner with the broken stones.

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The church and the grounds were quite lovely and offered a moment of solitude amidst the extremely busy streets of downtown Baltimore that pretty much nearly swallow it.

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Located on the same street as the church just a short drive up the road is what is left of the home that Edgar lived in along with his Aunt and wife while in Baltimore.

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Operating now as a museum by the Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore, the home was built around 1830 and was originally rented by Edgar’s aunt, Maria Clemm along with her mother, her daughter Virginia and Edgar. Poe left his family here however around August of 1835 moving to Richmond, Virginia where he’d been taken on as editor for the Southern Literary Messenger. Around this same time Ms. Clemm’s mother died resulting in a shortage of money and the family was faced with being unable to cover rent. Another family member having heard of their circumstances offered to take her and Virginia in but Edgar hearing the news and perhaps fearing he would lose his family, wrote a heartfelt letter proposing to Virginia at which she accepted and the family was rejoined in Richmond. Check out the emotional letters here. Good stuff. You won’t be disappointed.

http://www.eapoe.org/works/letters/p3508290.htm

The tour of the house includes poems and short stories that Poe wrote while in Baltimore, facts about his life and death and features Poe’s chair, lap desk and telescope. The room in which the items are set up is thought to be the room that he would have slept in so yeah of course, I was needing my salts. To think I was in the same room as the macabre master had once laid his head and no doubt dreamt up who knows how many of his short stories humbled me. It was surreal. Well, for me. And yeah, I stood there for a bit soaking the moment in.

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Upon leaving his home I went next to the Edgar Allan Poe Room at The Enoch Pratt Free Library and to say I was blown away by the appearance of the library itself is an understatement. The architecture geek in me was bleeding a smile. But I’ll refrain from getting sidetracked and sharing the gazillion pictures I took once inside.

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Dedicated to Poe on the 125th anniversary of his birth, The Edgar Allan Poe Room is in essence an exhibit of letters, memorabilia, and a copy of a daguerreotype of Poe by Thomas Corner. It is used as a meeting room and this is where my OCD kicked in when upon arriving I discovered it remained locked unless it was being used and was not typically open to the public. Obviously that wasn’t acceptable. I mean hello. So the determined five foot three inches Poe fiend went searching until I found the biggest security guard I’d ever seen. I smiled and told him without using said words such as geek or stalking or obsessed that I would like to see inside the Poe Room. He gave me a look over, grinned and said “for a just few minutes, follow me.” Ahhhhh and the rebel wins again!

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After snapping pictures like a bat out of hell and speed rushing through my oooooh’s and ahhhhh’s I thanked the very kind giant and continued my journey. I couldn’t help but think he was probably saying “another crazy white girl.” under his breath. I giggled. Yep. No doubt I fit that bill.

Although Poe lived quite some time in Baltimore, many of the places that had a connection with him have over the years been demolished, so those places I skipped this trip as their quite a few. But I got them written down in my trusty notebook aka Poe app. Yes. Poe app. Nevermind that. So lots of pictures of what now might be Taco Bell’s and laundry mats is in my future next trip.

I saved the saddest for last. The site where he died. Such a shame I didn’t have any of my paranormal investigation tools back then. Just saying. At his time this was the location of Washington College Hospital where he was brought after being found near dead on a street nearby. Four days later he was dead. Many stories surround the hospital including kidnapping and body snatching. Of course. You can read an in-depth article about it here. http://www.eapoe.org/balt/poechh.htm

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Thanks so much for reading and please make sure to check out my other write ups as I journey up and down the East Coast to feed my need. The struggle is real…

J

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