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.

screenshot_2016-04-24-19-30-05-1.png

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.

wp-1471822365241.jpg

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.

screenshot_2016-04-24-19-38-43.png

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.

wp-1471829707272.jpg

screenshot_2016-04-24-19-30-41.png

wp-1471829649185.jpgwp-1471829632925.jpgwp-1471829612954.jpg

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.

wp-1471829757808.jpg

screenshot_2016-04-24-19-33-06-1.png

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.

wp-1471822583322.jpgwp-1471822594940.jpg

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.

screenshot_2016-04-24-19-19-48-1.png

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!

wp-1471822927789.jpgwp-1471822915922.jpgwp-1471822904369.jpgwp-1471822889933.jpg

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

screenshot_2016-04-24-19-33-20.pngscreenshot_2016-04-24-20-42-05-1.png

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

wp-1471837629535.png