Poe Places: An East Coast Journey in the Footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Petersburg

After marrying his cousin, Virginia Clemm, then age 13, in the spring of 1836 in Richmond, Virginia the two departed for their honeymoon coming to Petersburg, Virginia. They stayed on the second floor of the Hiram Haines Coffee House, owned by poet and writer Hiram Haines and his wife Mary Ann, who was a childhood friend of Poe’s.

It’s unsure whether they stayed as little as a few days or two weeks. The coffee house is no longer open and at the time I visited a sign was on the door with a real estate agency seemingly the building being for lease.

Poe Places: A Historical East Coast Journey in the Footsteps Of Edgar Allan Poe: Charlottesville

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.

This stop brings me to the city of Charlottesville in Virginia. It is here that Edgar attended the newly opened University of Virginia. In its second session, Poe was 136th of the 177 students that enrolled on February 14, 1826. He only attended two classes, The Schools of Ancient and Modern Languages. He excelled, having taken top honors in his final exams even without being known to spend much time studying.

University of Virginia in 1826

University of Virginia today

With his classes being only from seven until nine-thirty each morning, Poe had plenty of free time to meander around and participate in University activities. It was his membership with the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society that led to a Dead Poet’s Society kinda feels having several students regularly gathering around his small dorm room listening to private readings. His spirit, paired with his voice, and stories of hauntings and curses would send shivers to his peers.

Poe’s dorm room as it’s preserved

at University of Virginia

Unfortunately Poe left the University on December 15, 1826, and never returned. His stepfather, John Allan when enrolling him, did not fund him enough for his studies even after continued pleas from Poe. As a result, Edgar turned to gambling which did not come as natural for him as writing, leaving him with debt.

Today, within the University’s library in the WWW Exhibit, a letter is on display that was written by Poe and addressed to his stepfather dated September 21, 1826 talking about campus life, the continued construction of the campus including the famous Rotunda.

Within the Rotunda is a pane of glass taken from the window of Poe’s dorm room. Legend has it that he etched the following stanza before leaving the University.

O Thou timid one, do not let thy

Form slumber within these

Unhallowed walls,

For herein lies

The ghost of an awful crime.

Although his time was brief at the University of Virginia, it is known he began his writing for Tamerlane while a student and seems Charlottesville was a muse for another poem, A Tale of the Ragged Mountains. It is also thought that perhaps two lines from To Helen were inspired from the historic lawn of the University.

Poe Places: A Historical East Coast Journey in the Footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: South Carolina

  1. 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 small barrier island near Charleston, South Carolina called Sullivan’s Island. It is here on November 18, 1827 that an 18 year old Poe, having enlisted with the United States army under the alias Edgar A Perry, arrived to take post at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island.

Fort Moultrie on the tip of Sullivan’s Island

His position was of clerk and evidence seems to show that he was well liked by his officers and received two promotions while here, the second being Sgt. Major, the army’s highest enlisted rank. He still however didn’t seem to fit in with military life. His position fortunately afforded him down time where he was able to meander along the island.

Poe notably became friends with two prominent South Carolinians during his meandering, undoubtedly.

One was Dr. Edmond Ravenel, a conchologist and professor at the Medical College, who maintained a house on Sullivan”s Island and practiced on the island. He was known to have wandered the beaches searching for shells and over time acquired quite a collection which is now housed in the Charleston Museum. It is thought that he and Poe shared ideas and wandered the beaches together searching for treasures of the sea.

office of Dr. Ravenel on Sullivan’s Island

The other, Colonel William Drayton of Charleston whom he would later dedicate his Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque to. It’s unsure the exact nature of their friendship but they would remain friends even after Drayton was transferred to Philadelphia.

His down time from his military duties reminded him too of his desire and need to write and write he did.

The island provided the inspiration and setting for The Gold Bug, published in 1843. During the time Poe arrived and spent on the island it was a place of swamps, ghostly legends, buried pirate treasure and African voodoo cults. Perfect indeed for the mind of Poe. It is thought too that the narrator of Gold Bug is modeled after his friend, Dr. Ravenel. The story itself offers all the elements of legend and folklore, much of which is still present to this day on Sullivan’s Island.  Further, Poe would also use Charleston as inspiration in a newspaper article titled The Balloob Hoax in 1844 and the Oblong Box in 1850.

The locals have claimed Poe and are quite proud of their bragging rights. Many of the streets are named after his works as well as the local library and a tavern that I undoubtedly nerded out at.

Now back to Dr. Ravenel. Of course Edgar is no stranger to legends and lore and this little island holds quite an interesting one. It is thought that Poe took a liking to a family member of Dr. Ravenel. Her name….Annabel Lee Ravenel. Yeah, you know where this is going. The two, with a disapproving father, would meet in secrecy at a local church. The Unitarian Church in Charleston. Of course I went.

Unitarian Church in Charleston

Of course the photographer and nature lover in me would go picture crazy. It’s a cemetery. It’s me. Lore of Poe. It’s expected. From a photography perspective the church grounds where the cemetery sits is fairly well manicured but sets the tone for just enough intrigue in the shadows that many of the overgrown areas offer. It’s a lovely church within the low country with its spanish moss. That for me is always breathtaking. Ok, ok, back to Poe and the reason I’m here.

So it is thought that Edgar and Annabel Lee would meet in the cemetery of the church because her father was very disapproving of Poe. Eventually Poe was transferred back up North, and Annabel fell ill and died. Allegedly, paranormal sightings of Annabel Lee sitting on a bench in the graveyard or walking along its paths seeking Poe reportedly still happen. I have to add here based on my own research over the years that it is well accepted that the infamous poem is in fact inspired from his wife and cousin, Virginia Clemm. But this lore makes for one heck of a dark romantic tale!

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Edgar only spent thirteen months on this small island that spands only a little over three miles. It’s quite clear however that it made quite the impact on his writing and the people of Sullivan’s Island are proud to honor that.

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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Poe Places: a historial East Coast journey in the footsteps of Edgar Allan Poe: Philadelphia

It’s taken me over two year’s thus far  to travel up and down the East Coast in search of the notable places of poet and writer, Edgar Allan Poe. His works have been a notable muse to my own writing and the birth of 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 have yet to be visited which I hope to do in the future.

My first stop took me to the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where Poe resided for six years from 1838 until 1844. Here he lived with his wife/cousin Virginia and her mother, Maria Clemm. His time spent here is described as the happiest of his life. While most of the homes he lived in while in Philadelphia have been demolished, one still stands. It is the last home he lived in before he decided to leave with his young ailing wife with tuberculosis to the then tranquil outskirts of New York. Today the home located in the Spring Garden section of the city is owned and maintained by the state park service and listed on the registry of historical places.

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The home itself has been left to age with murals upon the walls depicting how the home would have looked when Poe lived within its walls.

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A room set up like a parlor lends a feel to the macabre feel that was Poe’s legacy. Within it contains many writings and advertisements over the years of Poe’s work. Also on display is a prized possession, a copy of the famous Annabelle Lee poem as written in Poe’s handwriting.

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Entering the basement the macabre feel continues with its spooky feel and truly one of my favorites among the whole house. Talk about getting some paranormal ju ju down here. Heck yeah.

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The Raven
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore—
    While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door—
            Only this and nothing more.”
    Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December;
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
    Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow
    From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore—
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
            Namelessherefor evermore.
    And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
    So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
    “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
            This it is and nothing more.”
    Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
    But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
    And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;—
            Darkness there and nothing more.
    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
    But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
    And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”—
            Merely this and nothing more.
    Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
    “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice;
      Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
            ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”
    Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore;
    Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
    But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
            Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
“Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven,
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore—
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore;
    For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
    Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door—
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
            With such name as “Nevermore.”
    But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
    Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
    Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before—
On the morrowhewill leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.”
            Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
    Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
“Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store
    Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
    Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore—
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
            Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”
    But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door;
    Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
    Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore—
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
            Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
    This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core;
    This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
    On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er,
But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er,
Sheshall press, ah, nevermore!
    Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
    “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
    Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!—
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
    Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted—
    On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore—
Is there—isthere balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore—
    Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
    It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore—
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    “Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting—
“Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore!
    Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
    Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!”
            Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting,stillis sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
    And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming,
    And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
            Shall be lifted—nevermore!
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Next up the lively city of Baltimore, Maryland that holds beneath its branches quite a story of Poe’s footsteps…..

J

 

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