The white frame farmhouse now known as Poe Cottage was built as a laborer's dwelling around 1812. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), the esteemed poet and creator of the American Gothic tale and the detective story, rented the cottage for $100 a year in 1846. He moved there with his young wife, Virginia, with the hope that the Bronx country air might cure her tuberculosis. Despite his literary success with "The Raven," which he had written while living at his former residence on West 84th Street in Manhattan, Poe's stay in the country was marked by poverty.
In addition to writing such cherished poems as "The Bells," "Eureka," and "Annabel Lee," Poe spent his time gardening and discussing scholarly matters with the Jesuits at nearby St. John's College (now Fordham University). After Virginia died in 1847, Poe remained at the cottage until his death in Baltimore in 1849.
The cottage originally stood on Kingsbridge Road to the east of its intersection with Valentine Avenue. Across the road an apple orchard covered the land that is now Poe Park. When the widening of Kingsbridge Road threatened the cottage in 1895, members of the New York Shakespeare Society lobbied the New York State Legislature to relocate the house across the street and to establish a public park surrounding it. The park opened in 1902, and it was improved with curving paths, lawn areas, trees, shrubs, and flowerbeds. In 1909 the Bronx Society of Arts and Sciences presented a bronze bust of Poe by sculptor Edmond T. Quinn to the City to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poet's birth. The sculpture was vandalized soon after its installation and subsequently moved inside the cottage.
It was not until 1913 that the cottage was finally moved to its present site, about 450 feet north of its original location. On November 15, 1913 the cottage was opened to the public at a dedication ceremony featuring addresses by dignitaries from City College, Fordham University, New York University, Columbia College, the Brooklyn Institute, the Board of Education, and the North Side Board of Trade. The event concluded with a reading of "The Raven" by Morris High School student Miss Lisbeth Hacker. By this time, "Fordham Village" was no longer a rural escape; the construction of trolley lines and elevated railways brought the area within commuting distance of Manhattan.
By the late 1910s Poe Park was a popular locale for outdoor music concerts. When the circular bandstand was erected in 1925, the park became a hub of the community's social life, with regular classical music concerts drawing large crowds. From the 1940s to the 1960s, Con Edison sponsored name band concerts and dance contests at Poe Park. Artists included Jimmy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, and Glenn Miller. Cultural happenings in the 1970s included music concerts and folk dancing events.
Poe Cottage fell into disrepair in the early 1970s, and The Bronx County Historical Society became its permanent custodian in 1975. In 1980 the building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The main floor is sparsely furnished with, among other items, a rocking chair, bed, and mirror that may have been used by Poe. A narrow staircase winds up to the attic bedroom, which has a ceiling barely six feet high. Visitors to Poe Cottage are treated to a fascinating glimpse of The Bronx's rural past and an intimate portrait of the life of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America's most brilliant and tormented literary figures.
Edgar Allan Poe Details
- Location: Inside Poe Cottage, Grand Concourse, 193rd -194th Streets
- Sculptor: Edmond T. Quinn
- Description: Portrait bust, pedestal
- Materials: Bronze, polished walnut
- Dimensions: Bust H: 21"; Pedestal H: 6'6" W: 1'10" D:1'3"
- Dedicated: 1909
- Foundry: Aubry Bros. Founders, NY
- Donor: Bronx Society of Arts and Sciences
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