07 October 2012

Poe Cottage

This weekend the Historic House Trust of New York City held their annual Historical House Festival. I have long wanted to visit one of their properties, the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, so I headed up to the Bronx to finally take a look.

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849). Photo: William S. Hartshorn.

Edgar Allan Poe was a well-known author living in New York City in 1846 when he decided to move his sickly wife, Virginia, and mother-in-law out of New York City to the countryside in hopes of improving Virginia’s health (she was dying from tuberculosis). The countryside turned out to be Fordham Village in Westchester County, which is now part of the Bronx. For $100 a year, Poe rented a small, sparsely furnished white cottage whose layout consisted of a sitting room, small bedroom, and kitchen on the first floor and another bedroom and study on the second floor.  A large fireplace in the sitting room helped to heat the first floor. There Poe wrote “Annabel Lee” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” among other works. He also spent his time gardening and visiting the faculty at the nearby St. John’s College (now Fordham University). Unfortunately, Virginia died on January 30, 1847. Poe stayed on at the cottage but two years later died under mysterious circumstances while in Baltimore on October 7, 1849.

Today, the Poe Cottage is the only remaining building from the original Fordham Village. Owned by the City of New York and managed by the Bronx County Historical Society, it was moved across the street in 1913 to a small park named “Poe Park.” At first glance, the cottage appears out of place, set in the middle of a busy section of the Bronx with city buses buzzing by and a subway station across the street. But once inside, you get a glimpse of a simpler time.

Recently restored, the cottage is filled with period-appropriate furnishings, including the actual bed that Virginia died in and Poe’s rocking chair. A gold-framed mirror in the sitting room belonged to the couple as well. On display is an interesting desk (not Poe's) whose top detaches from the base to become a travelling desk. There is a bust of Poe in the corner and prints of the cottage from various times on the walls. Even with the noise outside, you could imagine the tortured writer bent over his papers while his beloved Virginia coughed in the other room.

Back outside, I took some photos of the exterior of the cottage and was about to leave when I spotted a black squirrel behind the cottage (above)—what an appropriate sighting at the home of a writer of the macabre.

For more information about the cottage, visit here.

Photos except where noted by Michele.

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