Jan. 19 was a cold and dreary day with non-stop rain, gray skies and sullen streets — perfect for celebrating the master of the macabre.
On Thursday, the Bronx County Historical Society celebrated Edgar Allan Poe’s 214th birthday with readings of his poems by the Thursday Morning Poets and tours of his landmark cottage, located in Poe Park at Kingsbridge Road and the Grand Concourse.
“I’ve always been a fan of Poe’s work and I’m a Bronx native and I’ve never been to Poe’s cottage,” said Liana Rodriguez, who lives near Pelham Parkway. Rodriguez’s favorite work by Poe titled “The Fall of the House of Usher,” is a story about illness, a woman who is buried alive and a house that seems to have a life of its own.
“That’s the one I read on a yearly basis,” said Rodriguez.
Born in Boston on Jan. 19, 1809, Poe was a prolific writer of short stories and poems that all have a running thread of loss and despair. “The Raven” is about insanity, “The Tell-Tale Heart” is about murder and guilt, and “To Helen” and “Lenore” are odes to women he loved and lost to death. In fact, all the women Poe loved died, including his wife Virginia, who passed from tuberculosis in 1847 at the age of 24 in the Bronx cottage — her bedroom is preserved as part of the tour.
Poe Park was established in 1902, and in 1913 the cottage was moved to the park from its original location, which was a few dozen feet south from where it sits today. In 1966, the cottage was recognized by New York City’s Landmark and Preservation Commission and administration was taken over by the Bronx County Historical Society in 1975. There is even a caretaker that lives on the premises in the basement apartment, according to Roger McCormack, director of education for the Bronx County Historical Society and tour guide of Poe Cottage.
The home was built in 1812 and smells slightly musty. Shuttered windows adorn the house and inside are hardwood floors with Poe’s old writing desk and lighting made to look like vintage gas lamps. There is a narrow, steep and slightly spiral staircase that leads upstairs where there is a life-sized cutout of Poe. He rented the home from 1846 until his death in 1849, where he lived with his wife, Virginia, and her mother, Maria Clemm. Poe died while visiting Baltimore and his mother-in-law moved out following his death. There is still speculation as to how Poe died and many theories revolve around his alcoholism, but to this day no one knows for sure.
The Thursday Morning Poets is a group of 14 poets lead by Queen’s poet laureate, Maria Lisella. Five members of the group were on site reading original poems and ones by Poe. Lisella read “Annabel Lee,” which is said to have been written while Poe lived in the cottage.
There is also a small shop where books, pins, pens and other items are available for sale. The cottage is open for tours by appointment only and entry is $5 for adults and $3 for children, students and seniors.
This story was updated on Jan. 21 at 3:46 p.m.
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