Monday, October 17, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage (Bronx): E Knightsbridge and Grand Concourse

This 5-room cottage, built in 1812, was Edgar Allan Poe's last home.  He moved here with his wife Virginia and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm in 1844 in the hopes that the move would help cure his wife's tuberculosis (called consumption at the time because it was believed to have been caused by the consumption of polluted industrial air).  Back then, this area was rolling farmland and this was a typical working-class house in the village of Fordham.

Unfortunately, just two years after they moved in, Virginia passed away in the first floor bedroom (her rope bed is one of the few original Poe family furnishings still maintained at the home by the Bronx County Historical Society that operates the cottage for the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation that owns it).  Also original are the desk and the rocking chair in the parlor (see right); other furniture in the cottage are period, but not original to the Poes.

Although Poe's literary genius was recognized during his lifetime, he was not well compensated during his life and he lived in poverty after he was disowned by his adoptive parents after years of familial discord.  He was able to live in this small cottage through the kindness of a major landowner in the area, Isaac Valentine (you may also want to visit the Valentine-Varian House Museum nearby).

Thank goodness for us all that Mr. Valentine made it possible for Poe to continue his writing.  In the cottage, Poe wrote, among other things, "The Bells," "Eureka," "Annabel Lee," and "The Cask of Amontillado."  A poet, a detective fiction writer, and science fiction writer, Poe's talents were amazing.  What a pity that at the young age of 40, he passed away while on a lecture tour in Baltimore (mystery still surrounds the cause of death).

The house will finally be open to the public in a couple of weeks after about a year of renovation and restoration (I took advantage of a preview during the 2011 Historic House Festival this past weekend).  Although it is a tiny cottage, I would highly recommend a visit if you are a literary fan.  One can almost imagine how it must have been for Poe to write at his desk and have his mother-in-law read drafts (as she was known to do) in the rocking chair by the fireplace.  This is a great little gem in the City that is at long last going to be accessible again. Yay.

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