The litany of famous Americans who spent time in Philadelphia is well known. However, few know that one of America’s most famous authors spent a significant portion of his adult life in the city.
Edgar Allan Poe came to Philadelphia in 1838 from New York City to pursue opportunities in the city’s publishing industry. Poe lived in three different homes with his wife and her mother during his six years in the city. However, only the last home, where Poe lived from 1843-1844, has survived. Today, that home is owned by the National Park Service and is known as the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site.
The home is one of many historic houses in Philly and is located in the Sprint Garden neighborhood of Philadelphia, near the intersection of Spring Garden and 7th Streets. The home looks much different than it did in the mid-1840s when Poe lived in the home.
There was no adjoining home and the front porch has since been enclosed and extended towards 7th street. Because of this, the homes that you walk into bear little resemblance to what Poe would have seen. Fortunately, however, the original home is still in almost original condition at the rear of the site.
The visitor’s center for the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site is located in the adjoining home. Here, there is a great museum about the life and legacy of Edgar Allan Poe. Several of the displays are interactive, but provide a lot of in-depth information for those interested in learning more about the life of Edgar Allan Poe.
Before entering the original home, take a few minutes to watch the short film at the home. The video focuses on Poe’s time in Philly but does give a brief overview of his entire life.
Once you’ve spent some time learning about Poe, take a few minutes to follow the self-guided tour through the home. To be honest, the home itself is a tad underwhelming. While it remains in a mid-19th-century style, the rooms are empty and the walls stark white.
The tour pamphlet does a good job explaining the home and what likely happened in each room, but you have to use your imagination to recreate what the home would have looked like.
The highlight of the home was seeing the room where Poe would have worked on some of his most famous pieces. While it’s impossible to know for sure, it is thought that Poe worked on two of his most well-known works, “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven,” during his brief time in the home. To stand in the rooms where these pieces were written was quite exciting.
Before leaving the area, make sure to check out the raven statue inside the site’s courtyard. There is also a very large mural of Edgar Allan Poe on the wall of a building across Green Street from the home. In fact, if I’m being honest, the mural might have been my favorite thing about my visit to the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site.
I have mixed feelings about the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. As someone who’s always enjoyed his work, I found it fascinating to walk through his home and learn more about his life.
The museum and video are both very well done and appeal to a variety of interests and age groups. However, the home itself is lacking any authentic, or even reproduction, furniture. This would have made it much more interesting and easier to imagine life in the home.
Overall, if you’re interested in the life of Edgar Allan Poe, this is a great place to visit. For those less interested, it is worth noting that the historical house in Pennsylvania is free to visit, so other than being a little out of the way, there’s no reason to not visit.
Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site
Hours: Friday-Sunday: 9am-12pm, 1pm-5pm
Address: 532 N. 7th Street