This is a part of a series called Literary South, which highlights important literary landmarks and the writers and authors who made them known.
Born on January 19, 1809, in Boston, Massachusetts, Edgar Poe lived with his mother, an actress, after his father abandoned the family. She died shortly after his birth and he was adopted by the Allan family, whose name he ultimately took. His siblings were adopted by other families.
He lived with them in Richmond, Virginia and later briefly attended the nearby University of Virginia. Edgar argued with his adopted father over his gambling debts and eventually dropped out to join the Army. He was stationed in South Carolina and published his first collection of poems, but it was not considered to be a success.
After failing to become an officer at West Point, he moved to a number of cities in search of work. During this time, he married his 13-year-old cousin Virginia Clemm in Richmond.
His greatest commercial success, The Raven, was published in 1845, but his happiness was short-lived as his wife passed away from tuberculosis two years later.
His behavior became increasingly erratic after his loss, especially his drinking. In 1849, he was found delirious on the streets of Baltimore and died shortly afterward. There is still much debate about what actually caused his death. Edgar Allan Poe is remembered for his works of the macabre and he is largely considered to be the father of the detective novel.
Poe Museum, Richmond
While none of the Richmond homes where Poe lived are still standing, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum is set inside the city’s oldest house. The collection focuses primarily on Poe’s early life, including early writings and items related to the Allan family. Highlights include his childhood bed, rare daguerreotypes, and a lock of his hair.
The museum is located at 1914-16 East Main Street in downtown Richmond’s historic Shockoe Bottom district. Admission is $8 for adults and $6 for students, seniors, and AAA members. Free parking is available in their lot and on surrounding streets. They’re open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm and on Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm.
University of Virginia, Charlottesville
While his time at the University of Virginia was brief, Poe fans can see what is believed to have been his room at 13 West Range. The student dormitories that line the Rotunda are the most requested, but this room has been interpreted as it would have looked when he was a student. The Raven Society manages it, but visitors can see inside through the glass.
The university offers guided and self-guided tours, which can be arranged through their website. It’s located at 400 Ray C. Hunt Drive in Charlottesville.
Fort Monroe, Hampton
After quitting university, Poe moved to Boston and enlisted in the Army at Fort Independence. He then was stationed at Fort Monroe in Hampton on the Chesapeake Bay. Two years into a five-year commitment, he decided to quit and was discharged.
It’s said that his time there inspired the poem “Annabel Lee.” After leaving the military, he returned to the Hotel Hygeia at the fort for some rest and relaxation. Today the base is decommissioned and serves as a museum.
The fort is located at 41 Bernard Road and is open to visitors daily. There is no admission fee to explore the grounds or the Casemate Museum. You can also go on a Segway tour to learn about the history of Fort Monroe.
Fort Moultrie, Charleston
While Fort Sumter is more well known as where the Civil War first started, nearby Fort Moultrie is another significant fortification for the city of Charleston. Located on barrier Sullivan’s Island, it was built to defend against British invasion but was later used during the Civil War and later conflicts. Poe was stationed here and wrote his story “The Gold Bug” during his tenure. It was decommissioned in 1947 before it became a museum operated by the National Parks Service.
The fort is located at 1214 Middle Street on Sullivan’s Island and is open to visitors daily except for national holidays from 9 am to 5 pm. Parking is free in the visitor’s center lot. While you’re there, grab a bite at Poe’s Tavern, which honors the writer.
Additional Poe Sites
A number of locations interpret various points in Poe’s life. Edgar Allan Poe House in Philadelphia, Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Birthplace Site in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum and the Edgar Allan Poe’s Grave in Baltimore, and the Poe Cottage in New York are open. Hop on a Edgar Allan Poe and His Ghostly Neighbors Walking Tour in New York City .