Monday, October 31, 2016

The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

Some time ago I received an email about an Edgar Allan Poe festival here in New York City but wasn't able to make it but it led me to finding out that Poe actually spent his last years living in New York City, more specifically, the Bronx, AND that the cottage he lived in still exists and is open for tours (there's also a small gift shop). 

While living in Philadelphia his wife, Virginia, she started showing signs of consumption (also known as tuberculosis), so he decided to relocate to New York with her and his mother-in-law, as he believed the fresh air and nature would be better for her health (keep in mind this was the mid-1800s when most of "the city" was still considered rural). They first moved to Turtle Bay before settling in the Bronx. The small cottage was originally located on Kingsbridge Road to the east of its intersection with Valentine Avenue before it was moved for preservation to its current spot in 1913. 

Virginia eventually succumbed to tuberculosis in the cottage's first floor bedroom (she originally stayed in the second floor bedroom with Poe but heat was not available up there so they moved her to the first floor) in 1847. Simply put, Poe was a mess after his wife's death; his drinking increased and he began to act erratic. Just a couple of years after his wife, Poe was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore, "in great distress, and... in need of immediate assistance", according to Joseph W. Walker who had found him. A few days later he passed away on October 7th, 1849. 

The cause of his death is still a mystery, particularly because they didn't keep medical records for more than just a few years during that time, but also because he never really became fully coherent again in those last few days to explain why his healthy was in such poor condition. Some speculated that he may have also contracted tuberculosis or another illness such a cholera or syphilis. He also had a few enemies so some think he may have been poisoned by a fellow writer or someone he owed a debt to. Another theory is that he may have even had a brain tumor (this theory comes for the odd shape of his head). There have been many essays and books looking into his death, but sadly we will never know the truth. 

Though the cottage isn't located in the original location, it was still a weird thing to be standing in the same house as Poe, seeing the original bed his wife died in. I also learned after Virginia's death he had a habit of walking back and forth on the (then) newly constructed High Bridge that goes over the Harlem River. Built in 1848, it was closed to traffic from the 1970s until just last year. I have yet to go to the bridge, but I hope to soon before the snow gets here. It's another weird, almost eerie thing, to know that you're walking along the same path as Poe did just a couple of centuries ago. 

Now onto some pictures:

[Glenn, the very enthusiastic and informational tour guide, in the front entrance of Poe Cottage]

The main living area. There are three original pieces of the cottage and the first is the gold framed mirror in the right corner. I know I took a closer picture but it seems to have

The second of three original cottage items: the rocking chair

The kitchen

A photograph of the Brooklyn Museum's 1959 exhibit of a room furnished according to Poe's "The Philosophy of Furniture"

Though not part of the original cottage, the Bronx Historical Society put up a hanging bookcase, one of the items listed in Poe's The Philosophy of Furniture

This was Virginia's death bed, located on the first floor and also the third of three original cottage pieces 

Glenn (tour guide) commented that this painting of Poe looks like if Bill Murray portrayed him. I have to agree

At the end of the tour you are welcome to sit and watch a short film about Poe and the cottage and luckily it is up on YouTube. (the painting mentioned at 10:33 is rather interesting)

One last thing: I decided to carve my pumpkin this year as Edgar. I printed out this stencil to help me out. Unlit, it doesn't look like much, but once you put in a candle and turn off the lights, it does eerily look like him...

Tour Information
2640 Grand Concourse at East Kingsbridge Road
The Bronx, NY 10458

Thursday and Friday: 10am-3pm
Saturday: 10am-4pm
Sunday: 1pm-5pm

Adults: $5
Students, Children, and Seniors: $3

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