Edgar Allan Poe Cottage

The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, sometimes called simply Poe Cottage, is the former home of American writer Edgar Allan Poe. It is located on Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse in the The Bronx, New York, a short distance from its original location, and is now in the northern part of Poe Park.

The cottage is a part of the Historic House Trust, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has been administered by the Bronx County Historical Society since 1975, and is believed to have been built in 1797.

History
Poe family years

The Poe family—which included Edgar, his wife Virginia Clemm, and her mother Maria—moved in around May 1846 after living for a short time in Turtle Bay, Manhattan. At the time, Fordham was rural and was only recently connected to the city by rail. The cottage, which then on Kingsbridge Road to the east of its intersection with Valentine Avenue, was small and simple: it had on its first floor a sitting room and kitchen and its unheated second floor had a bedroom and Poe's study. On the front porch the family kept caged songbirds. The home sat on 2 acres (8,100 m2) of land and Poe paid either $5 rent per month or $100 per year. Its owner, John Valentine, had bought it from a man named Richard Corsa on March 28, 1846, for $1000.

The family seemed to enjoy the home, despite its small size and minimal furnishings. "The cottage is very humble", a visitor said, "you wouldn't have thought decent people could have lived in it; but there was an air of refinement about everything." A friend of Poe's years later wrote: "The cottage had an air of taste and gentility... So neat, so poor, so unfurnished, and yet so charming a dwelling I never saw." In a letter to a friend, Poe himself wrote: "The place is a beautiful one." Maria wrote years later: "It was the sweetest little cottage imaginable. Oh, how supremely happy we were in our dear cottage home!" Poe's final short story, "Landor's Cottage", was likely inspired by the home.

In this home, Poe wrote his poems "Annabel Lee" and "Ulalume" while the family cat sat on his shoulder. During his time here, he also published his series on "The Literati of New York City", controversial gossip-like discussions of literary figures and their work, including Nathaniel Parker Willis, Charles Frederick Briggs, Thomas Dunn English, Margaret Fuller, and Lewis Gaylord Clark. As their publisher Louis Antoine Godey announced in his Lady's Book, they would soon "raise some commotion in the literary emporium."

The Poe family befriended their neighbors, including the family of John Valentine, and Poe even served as a sponsor for baptism for one of the local boys who was named "Edgar Albert". Poe also became friendly with the faculty at what was then St. John's College, now Fordham University. He found the faculty to be "highly cultivated gentleman and scholars smoked, drank, and played cards like gentleman, and never said a word about religion."

During the Poe family's time in the cottage, Virginia struggled with tuberculosis. Family friend Mary Gove Nicholls wrote: "One felt that she was almost a disrobed spirit, and when she coughed it was made certain that she was rapidly passing away." Virginia died in the cottage's first floor bedroom on January 30, 1847. She was buried in the vault of the Valentine family on February 2.Poe died a couple of years later on October 7, 1849, while in Baltimore. At Fordham, Maria did not hear of his death until October 9, after he was already buried. Shortly thereafter, she moved out of the cottage to live with a family in Brooklyn for a time.

The cottage is moved

The cottage's immediate use following the Poe family is uncertain; however, it was reported to be occupied by an 'old southern lady'. In 1874, an article by M. J. Lamb published in Appleton's Journal described a pilgrimage to the site and noted the cottage was "dreadfully out of repair". The cottage was sold at auction in 1889 for $775 to William Fearing Gill in the first step of preservation after the Parks Department found it to be too expensive of a proposition with rent approximately four times what Poe paid. Gill would later become Poe's first American biographer.

In 1895, the New York Shakespeare Society purchased the Cottage for use as a headquarters with the promise that it would be maintained in the condition in which Poe used it, however concerns about any move of the cottage sprung up almost immediately. An article titled "Shall We Save the Poe Cottage at Fordham" was published in The Review of Reviews in 1896, urging the New York State Legislature to act on preserving the home with endorsements from Theodore Roosevelt, Hamlin Garland, William Dean Howells, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Henry Cabot Lodge, Horace Scudder and others.

In 1905, it was announced that $100,000 had been authorized by the state legislature for the restoration of the cottage and creation of a park in which to house the cottage after the owners were reported to be denying visitors access to the cottage. The restoration and park creation were not without complaint, and many felt the money would be better spent on other ventures and further that the cottage's authenticity would be lost if it were to be moved. The decision to move was finally made in 1910 and on November 13, 1913, Poe Cottage in Poe Park was dedicated at the corner of Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse. In 1922, further reconstruction was undertaken by the New York Historical Society to restore the cottage to its original condition.

Recent history

In 1962, Poe's Cottage was designated a landmark in The Bronx, and in 1966 it was recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission In 1974, vandals struck again, leading to further criticism of the Cottage's management and preservation efforts.

Vandalism continued to occur over the next few years, though it tapered off by the end of the following decade, becoming less of a risk due in part to the increased use of live-in caretakers. In the late 1990s, the cottage was under the care of a graduate student in philology who lived in the basement.

In 2007, the proposed Visitors Center for the Cottage and Bronx Historical Society in Poe Park was honored by the New York City Art Commission's 2007 Design Awards.

Building Activity

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    about 5 years ago via OpenBuildings.com