Feb 8 2011 3:21pm

Baltimore Cuts Poe House Funding

Edgar Allan Poe stampIf 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.

Edgar Allan Poe house“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.

U.S. postage stamp painting by Michael Deas who wrote the book on Edgar Allen Poe daguerreotype portraits andplayed a significant role in the Poe/Antique Roadshow scandal!

1. RanchoUnicorno
I used to live around the corner from the Poe House while in law school (at UM, where the Poe grave is).

One of the biggest problems for the Poe House is that it is in one of the many areas of Baltimore that has been left to rot as the city has slowly decayed. I think that had it been in a better kept area, it would hav ebeen easier to attract visitors and bring in funds. The B&O museum suffers from this same problem (except the B&O gets funding).
2. N. Mamatas
Terrible. First NYU trashes its Poe house—eliminating the last standing Poe home in Manhattan—now this.

When the Poe Cottage (Bronx) was under threat decades ago, Life Magazine sponsored a fund-raising endeavor to save it—one of the donors was a young fellow by the name of Jim Thompson. I hope to see SFWA, MWA, and other writers groups step up to save Poe's Baltimore home. Perhaps, like Poe's Philly digs, it can be declared a national memorial?

Here's a link to a little essay I wrote about Poe homes for Weird Tales a couple years ago:
3. Nicole Cushing
I grew up in Maryland, and visited this museum as a child. I still fondly remember an actor dressed as Poe giving us kids a talk about "his" life. I'm certain experiences like these helped inspire me to become a writer (and now I am one, with a book just out from Eraserhead Press and a short story sold to a mass market anthology).

I am saddened that Baltimore feels the need to do this. The irony is, if the Ravens football team (yes, named after *that* Raven) wanted city funding, they'd get it. They'd sell grandma's spleen to get it. That's how crazy they are about football!

The only good part of this news is that it may convert a few people to misanthropy. It certainly reinforces my own.
Ellen Datlow
4. datlow
I took the tour of the Baltimore Poe house after participating in the various events celebrating Poe's Bicentennial Events in 2009. I'm really sad to hear about this. I've signed the petition and written a note to the Mayor. I urge everyone to do the same and I'm reposting this on my own blog/FB.
S.J. Chambers
5. S.J.Chambers
@ Nick, I am glad you linked to that as it's a great article. I first saw it in Weird Tales. @datlow, thank you!

Thank you all! Like Nicole, I wouldn't be writing if it wasn't for Poe, and given the LARGE influence he has had on all genre, I hope our community will step up and at least provide names to this petition.

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