Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site Philadelphia, Pa. Visited: March 24, 2004 NPS Site Visited: 4 of 353 NPS Website, Local Website
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WHAT IS IT? Brick building lived in by American author Edgar Allan Poe in 1843 and 1844.
BEAUTY (2/10) How nice can an unfurnished house that was rented over 150 years ago by a broke writer be? The house is also situated in a light industrial zone amidst many a factory, union office and warehouse.
HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (3/10) Edgar Allan Poe only lived here for a year and a half. And how historically interesting is Poe anyway? But he did live here and the site is evocative of his spirit. The basement in particular seems to have been the setting for his story, The Black Cat.
CROWDS (8/10) We happened onto a group of 13 or so giddy 5th graders. A park volunteer indicated that the site’s most common constituency is school children. The kids were ecstatic to see the house as they had just read many of Poe’s stories. They were well-behaved, asked superb questions and elicited a few shrieks and eeeews when the Ranger’s story got spooky. This group of kids enhanced our trip.
EASE OF USE/ACCESS (2/5) Parking is free on the streets but not particularly reassuring. Lots of broken glass everywhere. The site off of a major road and clearly marked, but every street is one way and not that easy to navigate. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.
CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5) No food or drink. The bookstore has a great deal of Poe’s works as well as books by other 19th-century authors.
COSTS (4/5) Free.
RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (5/5) There were two Rangers and an extremely helpful volunteer. Our experience was enhanced a tremendous amount by the generosity and knowledge of the staff.
TOURS/CLASSES (8/10) The intro film on Poe’s life was interesting, but it opened up just as many questions as it answered. A bland recreation of Poe’s life and works. But, we piggy-backed onto a Ranger-led tour of a 5th Grade class and it was wonderful. The Ranger told a ghost story in each room that mixed Poe’s stories with a little bit of history and background of both Poe’s life and the room itself. A spooky joy.
FUN (8/10) We had a lot of fun. And if we had had more time (as well as an inclination to re-read Poe’s works) there was a lovely quiet reading room with all of Poe’s works.
WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (6/10) I can’t imagine a museum about an author that could be more fun. And we're not even big fans of Poe. Still, he only lived here for a year and none of the rooms have any furnishings, just stripped down walls. It is only a short bit north of the Independence NHP site and if you are able to get a Ranger-led tour your stay will be worth the trip to an industrial part of Philly.
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