Around the World: Baltimore is The Place for Poe
For the past two centuries--give or take a decade or two--Edgar Allan Poe has provided armchair travelers with thrilling trips through the realms of their imaginations. Those who’ve enjoyed reading Poe’s work will find it equally thrilling to visit places known to and frequented by the legendary author. Baltimore, the town he called home during the early 1830s, will more than please Poe seekers.
Poe lived in Baltimore during a period of rapid growth for the city. Factories were being established, the B&O Railroad was built and the town’s population more than doubled.
Of course, the Baltimore Poe knew has significantly changed with time, but there are many traces of the author throughout the city. During Poe’s day, the Camden Yards area, for example, was a residential area where the writer’s grandparents, David and Elizabeth
Cairnes, lived on Camden Street. The neighborhood was transformed during the mid-19th century into a terminus and warehouse for B&O Railroad, and it’s where you’ll now find the home arenas for the Baltimore Ravens (named, by the way, for Poe’s famous work, “The Raven”) and Orioles.
Then there’s Harborplace, which is now an inner city sanctuary of chic shops and entertainment attractions, such as the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium at Baltimore. During Poe‘s day, this was the city’s Inner Harbor, a thriving sea port where a new form of transportation, the steamboat, was just becoming a common sight. It’s believed that in 1849, shortly before his mysterious death, Poe arrived at the Inner Harbor aboard a "steamer" that returned him to Baltimore from Richmond, Virginia, where he’d given a lecture.
There’s a more obvious overlap between Baltimore’s Poe past and its present at Fells Point, the oldest part of the city. After the American Revolution, Fells Point was one of our new nation‘s most important ports and home to the shipyards where the famously fast “Baltimore clippers” were built. During Poe’s Baltimore era, Fells Point shipyards built steamers and the neighborhood was home to many seafaring men and the merchants with whom they did business. Today, the area still has cobblestone streets that date from colonial days and were surely walked upon by Poe and his contemporaries. They’re still lined with antebellum brick buildings that are now highly valued as home addresses or house charmingly trendy shops and restaurants, and some traditional taverns like those that were frequented by Poe.
It’s said that Poe’s ghost now haunts The Horse You Came In On Saloon. That tavern is one of the last places the writer was seen alive, and it‘s a featured stop on the popular Original Fells Point Ghost Walk (http://www.fellspointghost.com/order.html), a guided tour that pays special tribute to the Poe legacy. On tour or on your own, Fells Point taverns are great places to soak up some Poe atmosphere.
Poe’s residence at 203 Amity Street, now known as Poe House and Museum (http://www.eapoe .org/balt/poehse.htm), is filled with the writer’s personal effects, portraits of his family and memorabilia that relates to his life and work. It‘s only open to the public from April through November.
But, you’ll find another rich cache of Poe memorabilia on display in the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s substantial Edgar Allan Poe Collection, which includes important letters regarding the writer’s mysterious death and a lock of his hair. The library has Poe exhibits and events throughout the year. (http://www.prattlibrary.org)
Poe died on October 7, 1849 at Church Hospital, an institution shrouded in creepy rumors about bodysnatching and the kidnapping of patients. Poe was thought to be drunk when he was admitted, but it was later discovered that he’d been brutally beaten, and the assumption was that he'd been violently attacked during an attempt to rob or Shanghai him.
Poe was buried--along with his wife and his mother--at Westminster Hall and Burying Ground (515 West Fayette Street), which is a unique Baltimore landmark. The architecture features a converted Gothic church that’s built directly over Westminster Burying Ground, creating catacombs. Tours are given of the catacombs, where special events are staged to enhance the Poe experience, including Poe birthday celebrations during the months of January and February. This is also a great source for stylish Poe-themed tee shirts and other souvenirs.
Baltimore fully recognizes Poe's popularity, and pleases local folk and fans from around the world with readings, theatrical productions and exhibits staged from time to time throughout the city. “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a perennial favorite. You can check for scheduled performances and other Poe-related events by browsing the Baltimore Tourism Website at http://baltimore.org, which is also a good source for information about accommodations and other Baltimore attractions.