Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849) was an author of gothic, macabre tales and poems. Some of his best known works are "The Raven", which is commemorated with a statute in the garden of his former home, and "The Fall of the House of Usher". His short story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", is considered to be the first modern detective story. So when I recently attended the Death Salon in Philadelphia I was thrilled to visit his former home.
Poe lived in the house, from 1843 – 1844, with Virginia Clem Poe, his wife and Maria Poe Clem, his mother in law who was known affectionately as Muddy. This is the only surviving house, out of the five, they lived in during their six years in Philadelphia.
During their time in Philadelphia Poe was a successful author and "The Black Cat" and "The Gold Bug" were published while he was living in this house. The house today is managed by the National Park Service and is open Fridays to Sundays and admission is free. The house and garden can be visited on a self-guided tour or on request a ranger lead tour.
Just before the family moved here Virginia had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and they moved to this bright, airy house to improve her health. The house with its white picket fence, shutters and side porch overlooks a spacious lawn. It epitomises charming domesticity but is my imagination getting the better of me, as it also reminds me of those suburban horror films when everything is not quite as it first appears!
When I arrived there was a note on the door asking you to knock once to gain admission and I was given a warm welcome by the knowledgeable rangers who shown into a room to be show a short 10 minute video about Poe's life and work. After that I was given a laminated hand out with a self-guided tour of the home which started with the Parlor, where the Poes would have received their guests, The house is unfurnished and the walls are bare but for me this just added to the atmosphere.
Muddy carried out most of the family's domestic chores of cooking, cleaning and caring for her sick daughter.
In Poe's time this area was an open hallway and may have been used as a sitting area. The wall was added later by another tenant possibly to create a bathroom.
Poe kept irregular hours, writing whenever he was inspired. He might have also slept here because Virginia was ill with tuberculosis, a contagious disease.
On the top floor was Virginia's bedroom and there was a stove in her room to keep her warm.
Muddy's room was opposite her daughter's room.
The grand finale of the tour is a visit to the very eerie cellar. It takes a few minutes for my eyes to get accustomed to the darkness.
The cellar very closely resembles the basement described in Poe's story of "The Black Cat" and there is also a black cat hiding in the cellar today.
The Reading Room, located in the house adjacent to Poe's home, comes as light relief after the gloom of the cellar. In here you can listen to CD recordings of his stories and poems.
There is also a small but fascinating exhibition as well as several images of Poe.
Bust of Poe
Philadelphia is known for its murals and this one of Poe is very close to his house, if you visit his home you can't miss it.
The house and museum are utterly fascinating and there is also a small gift shop, just saying!
Address: Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site, 532 N 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123, United States
Open: 532 N 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123, United States
Admission: Free (Managed by the National Parks Service)
The author of this blog is a qualified City of London and City of Westminster Tour Guide who leads guided walks combining world famous landmarks with hidden treasures often missed by the crowds.