Bronx History: When Edgar Allan Poe Needed to Get Away, He Went to the Bronx | Smithsonian

The Smithsonian Magazine has published a wonderful article on Edgar Allan Poe and the history of Poe Cottage in the Bronx. It’s wonderful when a globally recognized cultural institution and national treasure like the Smithsonian writes about our borough’s rich and diverse history.

Read the excerpt below and follow the link to the full story!

When Edgar Allan Poe Needed to Get Away, He Went to the Bronx

The author of ‘The Raven’ immortalized his small New York cottage in a lesser-known short story

By Jimmy Stamp

JANUARY 28, 2014

Once upon a morning dreary, I left Brooklyn with eyes bleary, Wearily I took the subway to a poet’s old forgotten home.

In 1844, Edgar Allan Poe and his young wife Virginia moved to New York City. It was Poe’s second time living in the city and just one of many homes for the peripatetic author. Unfortunately, after two years and several Manhattan addresses, Virginia fell ill with tuberculosis. With the hope that country air might improve her condition, or at least make her final days more peaceful, Poe moved the family out to a small, shingled cottage in the picturesque woods and green pastures of Fordham Village – better known today as the Bronx.

An engraving of Edgar Allan Poe's cottage in Fordham, New York (image: James Horsey Finken via Library of Congress)

The six-room cottage was built in 1812 as worker’s housing for farm hands. Poe rented it from landowner John Valentine for $100 per year – no small sum for the constantly struggling writer who sold The Raven, his most famous work, for a flat fee of $8. During his time at the cottage, Poe cared for his ailing wife, who died three years after they moved in, and wrote some of his most celebrated poems, including the darkly romantic “Annabel Lee”.

The cottage circa 1910, before it was moved to Poe Park (image: The Library of Congress)

After Poe’s death in 1849, the cottage changed hands a few times and gradually fell in disrepair as the pastoral countryside became more and more urban. The area’s upper class residents came to see it as an eyesore and an obstruction to progress, and by the 1890s Poe’s house seemed destined for demolition. The growing controversy surrounding the cottage’s future was well-reported by The New York Times, which published a passionate article arguing in favor of preservation:

“The home of an author or a poet, whose memory has been marked for the honors that posterity alone confers, becomes a magnet for men and women the world over….The personal facts, the actual environment, the things he has touched and that have touched him are part of the great poet’s wonder-work and to distort them or to neglect them is to destroy them entirely.”

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.