Take a Trip Through Edgar Allan Poe’s America

From his birth in Boston to his death in Baltimore, check out places that were important to America’s favorite macabre author

From New York to South Carolina, take a trip through the haunts of one of America's favorite authors. (Wikimedia Commons)
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When Edgar Allan Poe died in October 1849—from mysterious causes in a Baltimore hospital—he left behind more than a canon of grim poems and the invention of the mystery novel: he left a legacy that would live on in popular culture for centuries. "Literature, TV, movies, theater, Poe is always around all that, either influencing that or a part of it," says J.W. Ocker, author of Poe-Land: The Hallowed Haunts of Edgar Allan Poe. "Poe has always fascinated me for his omnipresence in our culture."

Though Poe called himself a Virginian, his life took him up and down the East Coast, from New York to South Carolina. "He is one of the few authors you can really do a huge travel trip around, because he lived in so many places and is held in such high regard," Ocker says. "There's just so many Poe places to go see." Partly, Poe's poor luck with gambling and drinking might have influenced his constant wanderings (he often moved to find work or avoid debt), but writer A.N. Devers, who is working on a book about Poe and place, thinks Poe's constant wanderings had to do with more than money. "He had a real wanderlust and a sense of needing to go to new places. He just couldn't sit still, he had some sort of urgent need to keep going places," Devers says. "It's almost as if he needed to keep discovering things."

Edgar Allan Poe Square: Boston, Massachusetts

(Wikimedia Commons)

Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, and published some of his most famous works while living in the city. But Poe never felt at home in Boston—and the city, famous for authors like Emerson and Thoreau, never welcomed Poe as one of their own, either.

The feud was partly sparked by comments Poe made about the city. He noted that its residents "[had] no soul," asserting that "Bostonians are well bred — as very dull persons very generally are." His opinion of its authors—the famous Transcendentalists of the era—was hardly kinder; he called their work flowery and overly moralistic. "Poe died happy to not like Boston. I don't think it was something that he was losing sleep over, that he and the city of Boston didn't get along," Devers says.

In recent years, however, Poe's relationship with his birthplace has started to soften, thanks in part to Boston's willingness to reclaim Poe as one of its own. In early October of 2014, the city erected a statue—depicting the author with a raven—near the Boston Common, two blocks from the house where Poe was born on January 19, 1809. "The Poe statue that went up was a huge part of claiming his legacy in Boston. It's a bold statue right in the middle of a tourist spot, which not a lot of Poe statues are around the world, " Ocker says.

Though Poe's birth house no longer exists (the entire street was torn down and replaced with a parking lot in the late 1950s), the area is marked by a plaque—on the side of a building at the intersection of Boylston and Charles Street—which was unveiled by the city in 1989. In 2009, to mark the centennial of Poe's birth, the city of Boston dubbed the intersection "Edgar Allan Poe Square." 

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