Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Fall of the House of Poe

A highlight of my day trip to Philadelphia was visiting Edgar Allan Poe's "Spring Garden" house on North Seventh Street. "Spring Garden," the name of the cross street of Poe's home, is ironic. Although the title, "Spring Garden" connotes a neighborhood with white picket fences and manicured lawns, the brick home where Poe lived from 1843-1844 is now situated in a slum. The author's modest house is surrounded by decrepit apartments and trash. Besides his unfurnished home "maintained" by the National Park Service, all that remains of Poe is a mural on a run-down building and a misleading statue of a raven (Poe did not publish the famous poem until January of 1845, about a year after he moved from his Pennsylvania abode).

Why is a rented apartment where Poe lived for a year recognized as a national historic site? Poe was at the peak of his writing career while he lived in the small, two story building. During his stay at the Philadelphia house, Poe published some of his most famous stories such as "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue."

Edgar Allan Poe invented the modern murder mystery. He was found dead in a gutter wearing strange clothes. Every year on the anniversary of his death, a cloaked man places a flower and alcohol on his grave. Like the author, Poe's house is shrouded in mystery. Always tight for money, Poe most likely sold all of his furnishings when he moved in 1844. The Park Service decided not to try and replicate what Poe's apartment might have looked like in the 1800s. Without furniture, visitors are forced to use their imagination to picture the setting where Poe lived with his young wife (and cousin) Virginia, his mother-in-law Maria, and his calico cat.

The most eerie room in the house, the basement, is said to be the inspiration for "The Black Cat,"a short story that also appeared in print during Poe's stay on Seventh Street. In the story, the narrator murders his wife and then places her corpse in a partially sealed chimney. Today, visitors can see the original chimney that may have triggered Poe's morbid imagination.

Surprising and uninviting, glossed over by most tourists, I am sure that Poe's mysterious apartment is "preserved" exactly as he would want.

The Rest of the Week at a Glance:
  • Listened to a lecture by the former chief auditor of the U.S. Government Accountability Office
  • Saw Betsy Ross' house, Constitution Hall, and the Liberty Bell
  • Ate my very first Philly cheesesteak sandwich ("wit" onions, of course)
  • Watched Obama win the 2008 presidential elections!
  • Salsa danced at CafĂ© Citron


Kristin said...

Oh, the life you lead.

I can just feel the depressing thoughts of a tortured artist echoing through the halls of seventh street. And "Fall of the House of Usher" brings me right back to humanities.

Berry-Eddings...*fist shake*

Missing you!

Genevieve said...

My God. I'm laughing my head off trying to picture you asking for a cheesesteak 'wit' onions.