View the most complete collection of artifacts from this famous author’s life at the oldest house in Richmond.
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Though nineteenth-century author Edgar Allan Poe never lived here, this small museum complex in downtown Richmond, Virginia has become more than a record of his life and writing—it is a tribute to both the man and his fans. There is even a garden shrine to the Dark Romantic poet.
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) is best known for poems like “The Raven” and “Annabel Lee” and short stories like “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”. His birth parents were actors who died when he was a child. He was raised by foster parents in Richmond before moving to Baltimore as a young man, where he met his future wife, the young Virginia Eliza Clemm. She died of tuberculosis at the age of 24.
The newlyweds returned to Richmond, where Poe got a job at the Southern Literary Messenger. His tragic life has been recounted elsewhere, but to make a long story short, he died nearly penniless in a delirium at the age of 40. In 1906, Poe fans formed the Poe Memorial Association. They salvaged bricks from the demolished Southern Literary Messenger building to erect a shrine to Poe behind Richmond’s oldest house, which was then a museum dedicated to colonial history. The shrine opened in 1922.
Today, the oldest house in Richmond, as well as several adjacent buildings, house a collection of artifacts from Poe’s life, including his worldly possessions at death, his cane, vest, and even a lock of his hair. One building devoted to his childhood even contains his childhood bed. It’s an impressive assortment! There is even a reading library.
A gift shop takes up much of the old house, where visitors can express their love of Poe by buying Poe coffee mugs, books, postcards, and even votive candles. Visitors advance from one small building to another, each devoted to a period in the author’s life. There is a diverse variety of artifacts, sculptures, and art on display. I didn’t have time to take the guided tour on my visit, but from what I overheard, the tour guide seemed knowledgeable and even recited one of Poe’s poems from memory.
Two black cats wander the museum grounds and sun themselves on the pavement in the garden. They are friendly, accustomed to attention from visitors. Thankfully they’ll escape the same fate as poor Pluto from Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Black Cat” (1843). The roaming cats are part of the museum’s charm, as are events like the periodic “Unhappy Hour”. Regular public readings and book talks help foster a real sense of community among Poe admirers in the Richmond area.
The Edgar Allan Poe Museum, 1914 E. Main Street in Richmond, Virginia, is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm, and Sunday, 11:00am. to 5:00pm. It’s closed on Mondays and Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. Guided tours are offered daily at 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and children aged 7 to 17. Tour tickets are purchased in the gift shop. For more info, call (804) 648-5523.