November 28, 2012
The fall of the House of Poe
by Nick Davies
While the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum has not actually fallen, it is certainly facing some hard times.
Poe’s historic home in Baltimore has been vandalized in the past month, leading to complaints that city officials didn’t account for who should look after the building during its temporary closure.
Poe lived at the house on Amity Street between 1833-1835, and in 1972 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. It’s been open to the public since 1949, displaying some of the author’s personal effects and hosting numerous Poe-themed events throughout the year. But Baltimore officials have cut off its funding, and with the museum closed and its longtime curator Jeff Jerome gone, the Baltimore Sun reports, there hasn’t been anybody to keep a consistent eye on the place. As a result, it’s been hit by some vandalism, including graffiti on the door and the theft of a set of wooden steps outside.
Mark Redfield, a board member of the new nonprofit group Poe Baltimore, which plans to take over running the museum when it reopens, complained, “There is this thing that nobody in the city really thought about when they closed the thing down, which is who minds the store? Who’s taking care of this thing during the transition? … The more damage and the more atrophy that happens to the house, the more it’s going to cost for Poe Baltimore or the city to repair.” Acting director of the city’s Department of General Services Steve Sharkey responded to the criticism, saying that crews do regularly check in on the house, despite there not being somebody there around the clock: “It’s not like we’re absent from the property. We don’t have a full-time person there, but whenever we hear complaints, we go out.”
As it stands now, the plan for getting the Poe House up and running again is for the city to pay the B&O Railroad Museum $180,000 to renovate the space within the next year, after which Poe Baltimore is expected to handle running the museum and raising its annual operating budget of $200,000-$300,000. The illegible graffiti on the door has been painted over, but the museum is waiting until they reopen to replace the stolen steps.
Nick Davies was a publicist at Melville House.