If you are an admirer of Edgar Allan Poe and his work, The Baltimore Poe House and Museum needs your help. Last week, The Baltimore Poe Society posted a special announcement on their website stating the House and Museum is in danger.
“Since December 18, 1977, the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum at 203 Amity Street, in West Baltimore, has been run by the Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP), a division of the Department of Planning with the City of Baltimore,” the announcement explains. “Unfortunately, the city, suffering under intense and continuing budgetary problems—and perhaps hoping that hardly anyone will notice—has decided that the Poe Museum must become self-sufficient or it must be closed.”
However, becoming self-sufficient is not necessarily a realistic expectation. It would take about $85,000 a year to allow the Poe House to be self-sustaining—a very minimal amount in a city budget, but a large amount for a museum.
“Barring the miracle of someone with sufficiently deep pockets stepping forward to establish a large endowment fund,” the announcement further laments, “the only plausible course would seem to be to convince the City of Baltimore that closing the museum is short-sighted, a failure to its citizens, and such a small savings to the budget that it is not worth doing.”
It can easily be said that American speculative fiction was born in this house. Here Poe penned one of the pioneering science fiction stories “Hans Pfaal,” (that would go on to influence Jules Verne), and his seminal horror tales “Berenice,” “Morella,” and “Ms. Found in a Bottle.” If the city cannot be persuaded to change its mind about cutting funds, the Poe House—a site of pilgrimage for Poe fans all over the world—will have to shut its doors no later than early 2012.
This is where we, the readers and lovers of Poe, can come in. There are two ways to help. There is currently a petition, Save the Poe House and Museum In Baltimore, which will go directly to Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. You can also contact the Mayor’s office directly via e-mail, by phone at 410-396-3835. and via snail mail at: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Mayor, City Hall, Room 250, 100 N. Holliday Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202.
While this threat of closing down a very important National Treasure is outrageous, the Poe Society urges people to please express their displeasure politely and respectfully.
To read the Baltimore Poe Society’s official announcement in its entirety, visit here.
S. J. Chambers is an independent Poe scholar and the Articles senior editor at Strange Horizons. Her first book, The Steampunk Bible, co-authored with Jeff VanderMeer, will be out from Abrams Images in May, 2011.