“We are in a snug little cottage keeping house,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote of the five-room bungalow he lived in for three years in the Bronx in what was then a rural township north of New York City. The humble cottage, home to the writer from 1846-1849 and where his 25-year-old wife died of tuberculosis, has been moved across the street from its original location to what is now Poe Park. It’s a surreal site to see the 200-year-old dwelling — the writer’s last residence — situated in the midst of urban sprawl.
Poe is well-remembered with four literary landmarks, and in recent months I’ve been on the writer’s trail. In addition to the cottage in the Bronx, I paid a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore, where the items on display include his traveling writing desk, and the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia, which contains the eerie basement and fireplace featured in the short story “The Black Cat” (candlelight tours of the house are given in October).
Next on my Poe itinerary is the Poe Museum in Richmond, which has an exhibit speculating on possible causes of the 40-year-old writer’s unsolved demise. Poe died several days after being found disoriented and roaming the streets of Baltimore, uttering the final words, “Lord, help my poor soul.” In his novel The Poe Shadow, Matthew Pearl — who wrote the Foreword to Novel Destinations — delves into the mysterious circumstances surrounding Poe’s death. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt