It’s often contested which U.S. city has claim over famed American poet and writer Edgar Allan Poe, as he did have homes in Virginia, New York and Maryland throughout his lifetime, but there is no denying the strong ties between Baltimore and its beloved macabre poet. Poe’s great-grandfather established the family in Baltimore in 1755 and it was here that Poe met his wife, and where he published his second volume of poetry in 1829 and launched a literary career after winning a contest sponsored in 1833 by the Baltimore Saturday Visiter for the best short story.
Follow in Poe’s footsteps around the city starting with the only remaining home he ever resided in and ending with his gravesite at Westminster Hall. See below to learn more about Poe's legacy in Baltimore.
The Edgar Allan Poe Collection at the Enoch Pratt Free Library & More
The Enoch Pratt Free Library is Baltimore City’s public library, the Central Library is located at 400 Cathedral Street, and it has been a local monument to literature and information for generations. Among its treasures is an important collection of Poe memorabilia, including rare books, manuscripts, original letters, images, biographical and critical articles, illustrated editions, and even a lock of his hair and a piece of his coffin. A special meeting room on the second floor has been dedicated as the Edgar Allan Poe Room. Curated tours for groups between 10 and 15 people are available of Poe’s life with the Pratt Library and the Poe House.
The George Peabody Library in Mount Vernon also houses some rare Poe books and a number of original letters he wrote to novelist and politician John P. Kennedy, as well as a large collection of musical settings for his writings.
Prior to moving to Amity Street, Poe became part of Mrs. Clemm’s family unit when they lived in what was known as Mechanic’s Row, in a house and alleyway that no longer exist. His brother, William Henry Leonard Poe, died here in summer 1831 after an extended but unspecified illness. In October of 1849, Poe was traveling from Richmond to his home in New York, but he never made it. Instead, he went missing for several days before reappearing, unconscious, in Baltimore. An acquaintance, Dr. J. E. Snodgrass, who lived nearby, found Poe unconscious in a local drinking establishment that had been converted for the day into a voting place. There, an agreement was reached (along with Poe’s uncle, Henry Herring, who also lived in the neighborhood) to send Poe to Washington University Hospital on Broadway, where he would die a few days later under mysterious circumstances.
The tavern itself, known as Ryan’s Fourth Ward Polls and later as Gunner’s Hall, has long since been swallowed up by development, but Fell’s Point today retains much of the charm it must have had when Poe visited. Rumor has it that his ghost still haunts the area, and perhaps even such local drinking holes as The Horse You Came in On Saloon (although there is no evidence that Poe actually imbibed there). What to know more? Take a stroll through the area with The Original Fell's Point Ghost Walk.
Church Home and Hospital
Originally the Washington University Hospital but better remembered by the name of the later and more enduring establishment of Church Home and Hospital, this building is memorialized as the place where Poe died. Reliable facts are hard to come by, and several first-hand accounts are poorly documented and even contradictory. Having been found unresponsive, Poe was initially presumed to have been suffering from an alcoholic spree and assigned to a room in the tower where special cases were placed to avoid disturbing the other patients.
In later years, Dr. John J. Moran, the attending physician, claimed that he came to think that Poe had not been drinking. The official cause of death was listed in the local health reports as congestion of the brain, a painful swelling of tissues that may be a symptom of a number of illnesses.
Many theories have been offered, including the fact that it was an election day and, in that violent and lawless time, political gangs were known to kidnap innocent people and force them to make the rounds at the polls, whether they were registered to vote or not – among other details, it would account for the missing days, and the fact that he was not wearing his own clothing.
The building itself has other dark stories to tell, including a tradition of body-snatching from nearby graveyards, which at one point led local residents to attempt to burn it down. In an ironic twist, Poe’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Clemm, came to spend her final days here, and died in the same building where her dear Eddie had died more than two decades earlier.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Original Burial Site and Memorial Grave
Edgar Allan Poe, his young wife, Virginia, and her mother, Maria Clemm, all eventually found their final resting place within Westminster Burying Ground. Westminster Hall, one of the most historic half-acres in Baltimore, is well-recognized as an architectural landmark. The imposing brick church was built in the early 1850s on raised arches above the existing Westminster Hall & Burying Ground, creating uniquely atmospheric catacombs. Several early mayors of Baltimore, heroes of the American Revolution and members of the city’s elite also rest here. Group tours of Westminster Burying Ground and Catacombs can be arranged year-round for a minimum of 15 people.
The Poe Toaster
Beginning in about 1949, and repeating each year on the night of the anniversary of Poe’s birth on January 19, a mysterious stranger enters this cemetery and leaves as tribute a partial bottle of cognac and three red roses on Poe’s grave. The identity of the stranger, referred to affectionately as the “Poe Toaster,” is unknown. The significance of cognac is uncertain, as is does not appear in Poe’s works as would, for example, amontillado. The presumption for the three roses is that they represent the three persons whose remains are beneath the monument: Poe, his mother-in-law, and his wife. Out of respect, no attempt was ever made to stop or hinder him. After a brief pause from 2009, the tradition was revived in 2015.
Edgar Allan Poe Statue
The Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Association was formed in April 1907 specifically for the purpose of commissioning the statue of Poe, the last work of the great American sculptor Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel. It was hoped that the statue would be ready by Poe’s centennial in 1909, but a series of problems prevented its completion until 1916, and World War I delayed its arrival in Baltimore. The statue was dedicated in Wyman Park on October 20, 1921. Throughout the years, it suffered neglect, vandalism and the effects of wind and rain, which eroded the inscriptions until they were virtually unreadable. Deciding that the park was too isolated a location for the statue, it was moved under the recommendation of the E.A. Poe Society of Baltimore to the plaza of the University of Baltimore’s Law School, where it now resides. It was dedicated at this new location on October 7, 1983.
Paying Homage to the Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore
No other NFL team has such a historically-influenced name as the Baltimore Ravens. The name comes from one of Poe’s most revered masterpieces, “The Raven,” and the team’s three mascots are named Edgar, Allan, and Poe.
You can visit the official raven mascots, Rise and Conquer at the Maryland Zoo or at the Ravens Walk outside M&T Bank Stadium before every home game. Rise and Conquer are two brother birds that have been raised since 2009 to be animal ambassadors for the Zoo and the team.
Annabel Lee Tavern
“Annabel Lee” was the last poem that Edgar Allan Poe wrote before his tragic death in 1849. Opened in 2007, the Annabel Lee Tavern in Canton pays homage to the great poet and the great city of Baltimore. Don’t miss a trip to this pub-style restaurant and bar on your tour of Baltimore.
Located inside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront, Apropoe's restaurant and bar got a facelift around 2014 and reopened with a gothic feel and a subtle nod to Edgar Allan Poe. Dishes are classic American inspired by local fare with names like the Poe burger.
Cruises on the Bay
Take the Legends of Maritime Baltimore cruise aboard The Raven, a purple-trimmed, 99-foot-long, 28-foot-wide touring yacht. Learn about Poe’s presence in Baltimore, the founding of Fell's Point and the "red light district,” the development of the Clippers, Francis Scott Key and more during this 2.5 hour tour.