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Literary Trailblazer Edgar Allan Poe’s Legacy Lives on in Philadelphia

Literary Trailblazer Edgar Allan Poe’s Legacy Lives on in Philadelphia

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Edgar Allan Poe‘s legacy is one of the most famous writers and literary critics the world has ever seen. He penned eternal classics like The Pit and the Pendulum, The Raven, and The Telltale Heart. And he is credited as the “architect of the modern short story.”

Poe‘s works have a lasting footprint on American literature. In particular, in the genres of horror and detective fiction.

Edgar Allan Poe wrote some of his most acclaimed works in a house in the heart of the Philadelphia

Poe’s fascinating life story began in 1809 in Boston, where he was born to two professional actors. Poe lost his parents at the age of 3. He moved to Richmond, Virginia, in 1812 to live with his foster parents, John and Frances Allan.

John Allan invested heavily in Poe’s education and pursuit of academics. Poe attended some of the nation’s best boarding schools, and eventually the University of Virginia. His formal education came to an abrupt end after one year. His foster father refused to pay his mounting gambling debts, forcing his withdrawal.

Poe’s Legacy on Philadelphia

poe's legacy
Edgar Allan Poe spent six formative years in Philadelphia. [Courtesy of britannica.com]

In 1838, Edgar Allan Poe relocated to Philadelphia with his wife Virginia, his mother-in-law (whom he called Muddy), and their cherished tabby cat, Catterina. Poe moved to Philadelphia in hopes of securing a job at a magazine. He had written and sold a few short stories prior to the move.

But his literary career would truly begin after he arrived in the city.

Poe worked as a freelancer for a year. He wrote fictional short stories, penning reviews before he was hired as an editorial assistant by Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine. It was there that William Burton exposed Poe to Philadelphia’s burgeoning circle of artists and writers.

In 1839, Poe wrote The Fall of the House of Usher, which he sold for ten dollars to the magazine. Subsequently, Poe realized he under priced the work. He reflected his regret in later works like Man of the Crowd and The Man Who Was Used Up.

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Visiting the Edgar Allan Poe House

Poe spent his last eighteen months in Philadelphia at a red-brick house on the city’s quaint and cobblestoned 7th Street. It was here that he wrote some of his most acclaimed works, and it’s the only one of his homes that still stands today.

While at the tiny house, visitors are shown an eight-minute film about Poe’s life before walking through the empty rooms. It’s easy to imagine how Poe was inspired to create works like The Telltale Heart, as he sat alone with his thoughts in the stark rooms with their peeling paint and cold, brick hearths.

Visitors can choose to tour the house on their own or with a tour guide that brings Poe’s legacy to life through stories of his literary career, his struggle with poverty, and the illness and death of his beloved wife.

The Edgar Allan Poe House, at 532 N 7th St., is open 9 am-12 pm and 1 pm-5 pm Friday through Sunday. Admission, including guided tours, is free for visitors of all ages.

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