Edgar Allen Poe was born in Boston Massachusetts and died in Baltimore Maryland, but it is in Richmond Virginia where he spent most of his adolescence. It is here where you will find The Poe Museum, a dedication to the life and work of one of the world’s most influential authors.
On our most recent trip to Richmond, we had the opportunity to visit the museum for an insider’s look into the life and influence of Edgar Allen Poe.
Who is Edgar Allen Poe?
I first learned about Poe in middle school when we were required to read a selection of his literary classics including “The Pit and the Pendulum”, “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and “The Raven”. Based on these works, I was led to believe that Poe’s work was limited to a genre of dark macabre. This, however, is far from the truth in that Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. His work extends beyond dark romanticism to include satires, science fiction, and detective fiction. In fact, Sir Author Conan Doyle, (another author from my childhood), credited Poe as a significant influence in his creation of the now iconic character, Sherlock Holmes. Furthermore, his works have influenced other specialized fields including cosmology and cryptography. These are just some of the little-known facts which we discovered at the Poe Museum.
The Poe Museum
The Poe Museum is located in the Shockoe Bottom neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia. Although the author never lived in any of the buildings which compose the museum, it is home to a large number of artifacts which once belonged to Poe or those close to him. The collection includes original manuscripts, letters and first editions of his work. There are also personal effects such as his childhood bed, mantle, and pictures.
The Old Stone House
The Old Stone House, built in 1730, is cited as the oldest original building in the city of Richmond. Because it has been occupied by the Poe Memorial Association since 1922, it is now more commonly known as the “Poe House”. As the first stop along the tour, this exhibit features pieces from Poe’s childhood. Glancing around the first floor of the Old Stone House, you will find haunting family portraits, handwritten letters, and original furnishings from his childhood home. On the right-hand side, lies his childhood bed along with a sign indicating his greatest fear as a child: the terror that he would wake up in the middle of the night to find a stranger standing over him in the darkness, lurking, and watching in silence. Again, this was new information to me, but it certainly shed light on the gothic nature of his writing for which he became famous.
The Memorial Building
The Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building was named in honor of Poe’s mother. This section of the museum commemorates Poe’s work and his growing influence around the world as an author and literary critic. The Memorial Building houses original manuscripts, first edition novels and a bust of the morose author. For those inclined to take a selfie on your trip, there is a life-size coffin which you are encouraged to step into and experience the claustrophobic terror which Poe describes in “The Premature Burial”. Also within the Memorial Building, is the original staircase from his childhood home. Follow these wooden steps to the second floor and you will find the library with a collection of Poe’s most famous works.
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The North Building
The North Building centers in around his last days and mysterious death. In 1849, Poe was found intoxicated on the streets of Baltimore wearing clothes that were not his own. He was taken to the Washington Medical College where he died shortly after. With his disreputable reputation, it was unsurprising that newspapers reported Poe’s death as “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation”. These were defamatory euphemisms implying that his death was attributable to alcoholism.
The museum’s manager later revealed to us that the most common theory for Poe’s mysterious death was cooping. This was a form of electoral fraud in which political parties would round up citizens into a bar, load them up with drinks and force them to vote several times for their desired candidate. Each time, the citizen would return to the bar and change their clothing to appear as a different person when they cast their vote.
The Enchanted Garden
Located in the interior of the museum grounds is the Enchanted Garden which was inspired by Poe’s poem “To One in Paradise”. The garden incorporates stone benches from the Yarrington Boarding House, the site where Poe married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia. Ivy was taken from Eliza Poe’s gravesite and transplanted to the enchanted garden where it now serves as a border around the garden. Bricks were salvaged from the office of the Southern Literary Messenger, Poe’s employer, and now compose parts of the Memorial Building, North Building, and the walkways along the garden. The most poignant highlight of the garden is the Shrine which houses a bust of Edgar Allen Poe.
Visiting Richmond’s Poe Museum
If you enjoy good storytelling with a dark and eerie twist, the Poe Museum is a must. Listen to the wooden floorboards creak beneath your feet while you read excerpts from “The Raven”. Climb the century-old staircase to get lost in the gothic literature of Edgar Allen Poe. Gaze into the eyes of a haunting portrait while one of the resident black cats brushes against your leg. You are almost guaranteed to feel a shiver down your spine during your visit.
The Poe Museum is a museum located in the Shockoe Bottom Neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia, dedicated to the American writer Edgar Allen Poe. It houses and displays the largest collection of Poe memorabilia in the world.
Tele: (804) 648-5523
Location: 1914-16 East Main Street, Richmond, VA 23223
This Post Has 21 Comments
What a quiant and awesome small museum. I haven’t read any of his works although I really should considering he is such a prominent writer. I know of his works, just not actually read them. The museum looks gorgeous and love the little enchanted garden.
I actually want to go back and read some of them. It has been so long since I read those poems in elementary school that I am sure to have a different understanding of them now.
I love places like this one. Have visited several museums and locations like this one through the years, unfortunately the rest of my family finds it quite boring. I usually send them shopping or something, then I can go on my own and take my time. 🙂
I can understand that. I used to hate museums when I was younger because I found them so boring, but then I started to look at it from a different angle. It is like discovering something for the first time. Scott and I both consider museums as adventures because they expose us to something new and they take us on a journey as we wander through the exhibits of new and unfamiliar artifacts. With that being said, I can still understand how some family especially kiddoes would find museums boring haha.
Wow this Edgar Allen Poe Museum looks spectacular. I’m a big fan of his work but I didn’t know about this museum until now. Thank you for the recommendation I would love to visit someday
This museum is great. They also have another Poe museum up in Baltimore which we have yet to check out.
I haven’t read Poe’s works but it sounds like it is a genre I’d like! The museum looks pretty cool, the North Building sounds intriguing as it focuses on a mysterious period of his life. It’s strange how many artists and literary geniuses have died under mysterious circumstances! The enchanted garden looks quite interesting as well.
I think it is so interesting how they incorporated other influences in Poes life into the design and construction of the garden ie the ivy from his mother’s gravesite and bricks from his first place of employment. The museum put alot of creative thought into putting the museum together.
Edgar Allan Poe is one of my favorite poets. I got interested with his works while studying “The Pit and Pendulum” in my literature class. Thus, it would be awesome to be able to visit his museum. We will make sure to drop by is we’ll be in Richmond.
That was my first glimpse into his work as well. It was an interesting piece then, but I would love to go back and re-read some of his work!
Most famous creatives have such interesting backstories, and it sounds like Poe is no exception. I’d love to go and learn more about his life (and death). Speaking of which, I’ve never heard “congestion of the brain” or “cerebral inflammation” used as euphemisms for death by alcoholism, but I suppose it was probably also less common and more taboo back in the day for people to drink themselves to death, so it makes sense.
The Tell-Tale Heart is one of my favorites by Poe! So creepy! I had no idea that he spent most of his life in Richmond though. I think this museum is really great because it aims to help visitors truly understand Poe. Little details like his greatest fear as a child, which shaped his gothic writing, are so important and make this museum incredible.
Ah! Richmond Virginia it is! Looking at the title I was wondering if it’s England’s or USA’s Richmond!!! I’ve been to the other one and this one looks as fascinating and beautiful! The Old Stone House is my favorite, may be coz I’m inclined towards historical stuff!
Wow, I have read his works but possible would never think of visiting a museum in his name. Although we usually shy away from museums, this looks small and quaint enough for us to consider it. Especially since I’ve read some of his works and can relate a bit!
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Must be so lovely, I wish I knew about it when I was in Richmond.
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Very good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog.
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