The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is a preserved home once rented by American author Edgar Allan Poe, located in the Spring Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Though Poe lived in many houses over several years in Philadelphia (1837 to 1844), it is the only which still survives.
Poe's time in Philadelphia
Poe lived in several homes in Philadelphia, including homes on Arch Street, on Sixteenth Street near Locust, and on Coates Street near Twenty-Fifth Street. While living in Philadelphia, Poe published some of his most well-known works, including "The Tell-Tale Heart
," "The Murders in the Rue Morgue
," and "The Gold-Bug
". It has been called his most prolific period. In all, Poe published 31 stories during his time in Philadelphia as well as several literary criticism pieces, including his February 1841 review of Charles Dickens's
novel Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty
. In reviewing the novel, which later inspired Poe's poem "The Raven
", he correctly predicted the novel's resolution before its final serialized installment was published. Dickens is said to have remarked, "The man must be the devil".Poe's five years in the city have been described as the happiest of his life.
History of the home
The Historic Site is the only of Poe's Philadelphia homes which still stands and is located in the now defunct Spring Garden district
on the northern edge of Philadelphia. Poe rented the house early in 1843 and is believed to have lived there for about a year or less along with his wife Virginia
and his aunt/mother-in-law Maria Clemm. It is uncertain when the family moved into the home, which was then at the corner of Seventh Street and Brandywine Alley (no longer extant) though believed to be some time before June. In a letter to James Russell Lowell
dated June 20
, Poe invites Lowell to visit him: "My address is 234 North Seventh St., above Spring Garden, West Side. Speculation as to which stories and poems were written in this home are unprovable, but suggestions include "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains
", "The Balloon-Hoax
", and "Eulalie
The neighborhood was then predominantly made up of Quakers. The family's decision to move may have been prompted by Virginia's health, who was struggling with tuberculosis. Her mother, Maria Clemm, maintained the home for the small family. A neighbor later recalled: "Mrs. Clemm was always busy. I have seen her mornings clearing the front yard, washing the windows and the stoop, and even white-washing the palings. You would notice how clean and orderly everything looks." A visitor referred to the home as little more than a lean-to. Poe occasionally had difficulty paying rent, though the landlord, a plumber, was tolerant of this. The family moved out the first week in April 1844 and made their way to New York.
Several families lived in the home after Poe until it was purchased by Richard Gimbel, son of the founder of Gimbels department store, in 1933. An avid fan of Poe, he refurbished the home and opened it as a museum. In his will, he left the property to the city of Philadelphia. The National Park Service began overseeing the property in 1978, reopening the home in 1980.
The site combines both Poe's former residence and two adjoining houses which were not built until after Poe left Philadelphia. The rooms of the house are left in arrested decay
and are not furnished to look like they did during Poe's time. The neighboring residences include a welcome area, gift shop, a film screening room, and some minor exhibits. The site also includes a reading room decorated based on Poe's theories in "The Philosophy of Furniture
". This, the only room on the site furnished to look like the 19th century, is not part of Poe's original home and is not meant to suggest Poe had a similarly decorated room. The room includes a complete collection of Poe's works, including criticism, and audio interpretations of his work. A statue outside of the home depicts a large raven, representative of one of Poe's most famous poems, "The Raven
" (1845). The cellar in the house resembles one described in "The Black Cat
" (1843), also written while Poe lived in Philadelphia. Though the house does not include any items originally owned by the Poe family, many items are collected nearby at the Free Library of Philadelphia
The site is affiliated with the Independence National Historical Park. The home is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with guided tours on the hour or self-guided tours at any time. Admission is free. Paid membership in the Friends of Poe Society, which also sponsors events throughout the year, aids in the upkeep of the home.