The Edgar Allan Poe Roadtrip: A Rogue Asparagus Guide

The Edgar Allan Poe Roadtrip: A Rogue Asparagus Guide

We all know someone who loves books so much that, wherever they go, they’re always looking for a way to get closer to literature.

Just kidding.

I don’t know that person. I am that person.

I regularly geek out over the literary adventures, even if I only have a casual relationship with the literature itself. More often than not, I end up with a deeper appreciation for the author and what they were trying to do with their writings after visiting a place, and therefore appreciate the literature more. (For those of you keeping score, I do not hold with the New Criticism.)

Such was the case with Edgar Allan Poe. We all read Poe in high school, and many of us even had to memorize his poem “Annabelle Lee”. That’s where most people stop with Poe. Others go way off the deep end and are completely obsessed with Poe. I fall somewhere in the middle. But I will say that visiting these places associated with him and his life has given me a better understanding of what was going on in that head of his while he was writing such dark and – quite frankly – disturbing stories.

So, without further ado, here is my recommended Edgar Allan Poe Roadtrip, for anyone else who would like to build their relationship with the master of Gothic horror:

Poe roadtrip map

If you follow this roadtrip chronologically, it is, admittedly, not very efficient, but nothing’s stopping you from choosing your own order!

The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia

Start out in Philly! Grab yourself a cheesesteak from Reading Terminal (I prefer mine with cheese whiz, but you do you) and then head north to the Edgar Allan Poe National Historical Site.

Poe and his family – which included his wife, Virginia, and his mother-in-law, Maria Clemm – spent some very happy years in Philadelphia. Although they lived in several houses in Philly, only one remains standing, and it’s now a National Historic Site, meaning that it’s maintained and operated by the fine people at the National Park Service. It was in this house that Poe wrote “The Black Cat,” and the rangers are pretty geeky about it – they’ll talk your ear off about the cellar and other inspiration for the story. They also have quite the sense of humor – see if you can find the tell-tale heart they’ve hidden in the floorboards!

Edgar Allan Poe mural
A mural of Edgar Allan Poe on the house across the street from the National Historic Site

To read before this stop:

  • “The Black Cat
  • “The Fall of the House of Usher”
  • “The Mask of the Red Death”

The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx

New York is a hop, skip, and a jump away from Philly, so you might as well move up the coast a bit and make your next stop. Fuel up with a slice of 99¢ pizza and brave the subway to make your way to the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.

When Poe’s wife, Virginia, was diagnosed with consumption, the family moved out to the countryside where she could get plenty of fresh air. You read that right – countryside and fresh air could be found in the Bronx. At that time, the metropolis of New York City hadn’t sprawled past Lower Manhattan, so the Bronx was actually rather idyllic. Poe rented a small cottage from a landowner up there, and nursed his dying wife in the small bedroom. He also wrote some of his most famous poems here, including “The Bells,” which was inspired by the bells at nearby Fordham University. The site is maintained by the Bronx Historical Society, and you’re guaranteed to get detailed information about the place from the knowledgeable and well-read staff!

Poe Cottage front
The Poe Cottage in the Bronx – please excuse the construction fencing!

To read before this stop:

  • “The Bells”
  • “Annabelle Lee”
  • “Ulalume”

The Horse Your Came In On Saloon in Baltimore

At this point in our Edgar Allan Poe Roadtrip, we double back on ourselves a bit. Back down the coast we go, and we stop in Baltimore. Wander aimlessly around Fell’s Point until you can find some parking, and then make your way to Thames Street, where you can have a brew in the oldest saloon in the US.

After his beloved wife died, Poe went a bit off the rails. He chased some other women for a bit, and then ended up in Baltimore. One night, he went out drinking with some friends, and they went to this very saloon. By all accounts, he was steady on his feet and in good spirits at the end of the night, but he was found the next morning in a gutter wearing someone else’s clothes, and he died shortly thereafter. Thus, this is the place where Poe had his last party. Today, the bar is home to a ghost named Edgar. Coincidence?

The Horse You Came In On Saloon signpost
You have to admit, that’s a great name for a bar.

To read before this stop:

  • “Lines on Ale”
  • “An Enigma”

The Edgar Allan Poe Tomb in Baltimore

This last one is just a short drive. After you’ve had your drink, have your designated driver chauffeur you across town. Stop at Charles Street for something to fill your stomach (I recommend Lumbini, a Nepalese restaurant), and then, once you’re sobered, make your way over toward the University of Maryland.

After he was found in the gutter and died in the hospital a few days later, Poe was buried in the family plot at Westminster Hall in an unmarked grave. A generation later, some fans of his work began a campaign to erect a monument to the writer. When the funds had been raised, a new headstone was commissioned, and Poe’s body was moved to a spot where this headstone would both fit and be seen by passersby. The campaign raised money mostly through donations from students, who gave spare change to the effort. Today, people still will leave small gifts at the site.

Edgar Allan Poe monument
The monument erected over Poe’s twice-buried body

To read before this stop:

  • “Eureka: A Prose Poem”
  • “The Poetic Principle”
  • “Eldorado”

The Edgar Allan Poe Roadtrip is a long one! But, let’s face it, there are plenty of other things to do in Philadelphia, New York City, and Baltimore while you’re there. Also, there’s plenty of time for catching up on your EAP reading in the car.

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