Could the Poe movie save Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore house?
Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore house is running on fumes. The historic house is a museum open to the public that lost the $85,000 in support it gets from the city of Baltimore for the second year running, and may be forced to close.
Poe lived in the house at 203 Amity St. with his aunt, her mother and his cousin Virginia from 1833, when he was 23, until 1835. That year, Poe moved to Richmond, Va., and reduced circumstances forced the family to leave the house; now, financial issues have put Poe's museum in jeopardy. A Baltimore city official told the New York Times that budget cuts left everyone "under the gun," although the city's $55,500 support of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum continues. Babe Ruth's museum gets many more visitors than Poe's. Some say that's because Poe's house is in a poor neighborhood -- that's a housing project behind it in the photo above -- but maybe it's partly because of timing.
A Poe resurgence seems to be in the works, and maybe it could do something for Baltimore's Poe house. John Cusack stars as Poe in "The Raven" due out in 2012. The film is set during the last days of Poe's life, and is a fictionalized account that adds a serial killer into the mix of his mysterious (possibly alcohol-induced) end. Although Poe died somewhat mysteriously in Baltimore in 1849, the film was shot in Serbia and Hungary. Could "The Raven" swoop in and provide the angel funding needed by the Baltimore Poe museum?
"The Raven" isn't the only film that should bring renewed attention to Poe. The long-dead author is a key figure in "Twixt," Francis Ford Coppola's first 3-D film: instead of 3-D glasses, audience members at a preview at Comic-Con donned Edgar Allan Poe masks with treated lenses. And maybe we'll see a TV crime serial featuring Poe as a 19th-century detective -- ABC picked up the pilot of "Poe" earlier this year.
When Poe's family was forced to leave the Baltimore house, he did what anyone would do -- he married his cousin. OK, that's not what anyone would do, but it is what Poe did. He was 27; she was 13.
Poe and his new wife lived together in Richmond, which has its own Poe Museum that "boasts the world's finest collection of Edgar Allan Poe's manuscripts, letters, first editions, memorabilia and personal belongings." Yet while it's era-appropriate, Poe never resided in the building that houses the museum; he lived and worked nearby.
He did live in the Baltimore house, and is presumed to have written several poems and stories there. Often considered the father of the short story, Poe had written a collection of pieces that he could only publish individually, including "MS. Found in a Bottle" and "Berenice -- A Tale." Poe is an early practitioner of detective fiction and of the macabre. It would just be creepy if his Baltimore house were nevermore.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore house (center, with black shutters). Credit: Mitch Le Clair via Flickr