Poe's Baltimore house museum has been closed. The Baltimore Sun Times and other sources, indicate that the house will reopen under "new management." I'm reporting this new quite late in the game, but I am stunned that the City of Baltimore has shuttered the home without a concrete plan in place to reopen it. It's rare that house museums reopen after a period of financial duress, but I hope this precedent does not apply.
The long-time director there, Jeff Jerome, came
to Philadelphia in 2009 and participated in a great event sponsored by
the Free Library of Philadelphia: THE GREAT POE DEBATE. (You can listen to the pod-cast here, although I have to warn you this was a spectacle sport and some of it doesn't transfer to plain audio). At the debate, Poe aficionados duked it out over which city had the right to "claim" Poe. It was both absolutely hilarious and touching. I attended and dragged Seth, who admitted it was a great time; I was sore from laughing. There is a great uproarious spirit in these people who love Edgar Allan Poe and who work to preserve his historic sites.
A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with Kate Henry, here at Temple, who is currently thinking about Poe and Philadelphia--how his time here influenced his writing and what this might mean as we seek to understand him, his writing, and history of Philadelphia. And I have a number of students who are writing about the Poe House this semester.
I have to think, if we didn't have the NPS Poe National Historic Site, it would be harder for us to "see" Poe here in Philly. Poe was impoverished much of his life. He lived in several houses other than the one that the Park Service has preserved, but, as far as I know, none of them are extant. We largely remember Poe here, because of the fact--the presence--of this house.
Now with the looming "fiscal cliff," I'm worried about the Park Service's ability to keep all of its Philadelphia sites up and running. It's much more likely that this Poe house would be shuttered than many of the other sites that make up the Independence National Historical Park system. And once again, I find myself wishing that the National Parks had been a much larger part of the the recent stimulus efforts--and that local sites like the Poe house in Baltimore had been too. The CCC, during the Great Depression, insured that we have many of these sites today, and without Federal investment--through the creation of jobs that both teach us how to preserve and do the work of preservation--it's likely we'll see more such sites closed before the economy ticks back up enough to create the revenue that local governments need to keep these sites open.