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Edgar Allen Poe Cottage

Edgar Allen Poe Cottage

Built in 1812, and rented by Edgar Allen Poe from 1846 until his death in 1849, this cottage in the Bronx was successfully preserved despite several threats.

Location: 2640 Grand Concourse, Bronx, NY  |  Google Maps
People: Maria Clemm, William Fearing Gill, Edgar Allan Poe
Organizations: Bronx County Historical Society, New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, New York Community Trust, New-York Historical Society, New York Shakespeare Society, Poe Memorial Association 
Above: Edgar Allen Poe Cottage, c. 1910-1920; Courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

The Edgar Allen Poe Cottage is a small wood-frame farmhouse that was built in 1812, and was typical of the design for working class houses that made up the old village of Fordham in what is now the Bronx. It has only five rooms: a kitchen, parlor, and bedchamber on the main floor, and two small rooms in the attic.1 The sparsely furnished main floor includes a 19th-century cast-iron stove, a rocking chair, a desk, and other furnishings. A narrow staircase leads to the bedroom, the ceiling of which is barely six feet high.2 

Edgar Allan Poe, his wife Virginia, and her mother Maria moved to the cottage in 1846. Poe reportedly paid $100 a year in rent for the house and the two-acre property surrounding it, seeking to use it as a place of self exile after publishing “a series of barbed essays in Godey’s Lady’s Book on the New York literati, arousing a tornado of criticism.3 During his time at the cottage he composed the poems “The Bells,” “Eureka,” and “Annabel Lee,” while tending to his tuberculosis-stricken wife before she died in 1847. The residence was fated to be Poe’s last as well. Poe died while visiting Baltimore in 1849, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, who had been living in the house, moved out.4

The Edgar Allen Poe Cottage was designated a New York City Landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 1966. It was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980. The cottage is also owned and managed by the Historic House Trust. Currently the cottage is open to the general public as a museum, and has undergone renovations in 2009 and 2010.

1889: The cottage is sold at auction for $775 to William Fearing Gill, avoiding demolition

1895: The New York Shakespeare Society leases the cottage and embarks on an unsuccessful fundraising campaign to purchase it. Poe Park is also proposed during this same year.

1896: Poe Memorial Association lobbies for a $250,000 plan to purchase the entire block, leaving the cottage in its original location

1897: New York City adopts a $100,000 park plan

1905: The $100,000 plan is spent on Poe Park, however, the cottage itself remains private property

1913: The cottage is moved to its present location in Poe Park

1922: The New-York Historical Society restores the cottage to its original appearance

1962: The New York Community Trust gives the cottage a plaque to recognize it as a "Landmark of New York"5

1966: The Edgar Allen Poe Cottage is designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as a New York City Landmark6

1975: The Bronx County Historical Society becomes the cottage's permanent custodian7

1980: The building is placed on the National Register of Historic Places8

2009: The cottage is slated for a $700,000 renovation9

The cottage saw many owners and advocates after Poe's death, and it quickly attained status as a literary landmark. In 1874, an account of a visit to the cottage appeared in the literary magazine Appleton’s Journal.10 Mrs. E.D. Dechert, reported to be the widow of an engineer who had drawn plans for Central Park and the avenues of the Fordham neighborhood in the Bronx, occupied the cottage in the 1880s.11 The New York Times reported Dechert was "very much annoyed lately by curiosity seekers."12 

In February 1889, the then-owner offered the cottage to the Department of Parks if the department would move it, but in March the department said the project was too expensive.13 The New-York Tribune said it would be torn down in a few months, with the land disposed of for building lots, but it was soon sold instead to William Fearing Gill. Gill, who bought the property for $775, was to "preserve the cottage from decay,” according to The New York Times.14 

However, within a few years the cottage was threatened by a proposal to widen Kingsbridge Road, which prompted members of the New York Shakespeare Society in 1895 to lease the cottage for a few months and start a fundraising campaign to buy it outright.15 When this campaign failed, the society lobbied the New York State Legislature and the City government to establish a public park across the street from the cottage.16 

The Shakespeare Society’s plan was opposed by a group calling itself the Poe Memorial Association, which wanted the city to spend $250,000 to preserve the entire block.17 In the end the Shakespeare Society’s proposal prevailed, and the state legislature allocated $100,000 to establish the park across the street from the cottage.18 The City then sought to relocate the cottage into the park, but could not come to terms with the owner, a dentist who had moved the cottage back 20 feet to save it from the road-widening project and wanted $10,000 for it.19

Poe Park was soon established, but by 1912 the cottage was still in its original location and obscured by a tall apartment building.20 It was not until 1913 that the City appropriated funds—$5,000 in all—to purchase the cottage and move it to its present site, about 450 feet north of its original location.21 On November 15, 1913 the cottage was opened to the public.22 In 1922 the New-York Historical Society undertook a renovation of the interior and exterior to restore the cottage to its state from the 1840s.23 According to The New York Times, the work of restoration was “greatly assisted by the discovery of a detailed description of the interior written by a visitor to the cottage in the early 1850s.”24

In 1966, the Poe Cottage was designated by the Landmarks Preservation Commission as a New York City Landmark. In 1975, the Bronx County Historical Society took over administration of the site, and in 1980 the cottage was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

A major renovation was announced in 2008 with an estimated cost of $250,000.25 However, as recently as January 2009, Abby Lootens of The New York City Parks Department stated a total of $700,000 had been set aside for the project.26

  1. “Edgar Allan Poe Cottage,” Historic House Trust 8 February 2016.
  2. “Poe Park: Edgar Allan Poe: History,” NYC Parks 8 February 2016.
  3. 
Christopher Gray, “Kingsbridge Road and Grand Concourse in the Bronx; Poe’s Last Home, 1810’s Cottage That’s a Museum,” The New York Times, 18 March 2001.
  4. 
“Poe’s Home in Fordham,” New-York Tribune, 21 June 1885.
  5. 
“First Phase of Long-Range Project to Mark City’s Notable Structures Is Completed; 100 ‘Landmarks of New York’ Are So Designated by Plaques,” The New York Times, 28 September 1962.
  6. 
“Poe’s Cottage Made Landmark; It Is Among Buildings Named by Preservation Group,” The New York Times, 8 March 1966.
  7. “Poe Park: Edgar Allan Poe: History,” NYC Parks 8 February 2016.
  8. 
Ibid.
  9. 
Abby Luby, “Poe Cottage Celebrations Mark Tormented Writer’s 200th Birthday,” New York Daily News, 15 January 2009.
  10. 
“Poe’s House at Fordham,” Appleton’s Journal, 18 July 1874.
  11. 
“Poe’s Home in Fordham,” New-York Tribune, 21 June 1885.
  12. 
“Edgar Allan Poe’s Home: The Little Cottage in Fordham Sold at Auction,” The New York Times, 10 June 1883.
  13. 
“Poe’s Fordham Cottage: Where the Poet Lived and Wrote,” New-York Tribune, 31 March 1889.
  14. 
“Edgar Allan Poe’s Cottage,” The New York Times, 19 April 1889.
  15. 
“To Save Poe’s Home: The New-York Shakespeare Society Has the Project in Charge,” The New York Times, 23 September 1895.
  16. 
Appleton Morgan, “History of the Poe Park in the Bronx,” The New York Times, 3 September 1905.
  17. 
“To Remove Poe’s Cottage: Opponents of the Plan Heard by Mayor Strong,” The New York Times, 24 April 1896.
  18. 
“Where Poe Wrote ‘The Raven’,” The New York Times, 20 August 1905.
  19. 
“Poe’s King’s Bridge Road Cottage,” The New York Times, 1 September 1901.
  20. 
“Would Buy Poe House: Literary Shrine Now Obscured by Tall Apartments in the Bronx,” The New York Times, 1 December 1912.
  21. 
Orvillle G. Victor, “The Poe Cottage: Reasons for Its Removal to the Park Opposite,” New-York Tribune, 10 January 1913.
  22. 
Christopher Gray, “Kingsbridge Road and Grand Concourse in the Bronx; Poe’s Last Home, 1810’s Cottage That’s a Museum,” The New York Times, 18 March 2001.
  23. 
“Restoring Poe Cottage,” The New York Times, 19 February 1922.
  24. 
Ibid.
  25. 
Tom Acitelli, “Poe Cottage in The Bronx Getting $250K Makeover,” New York Observer, 9 July 2008.
  26. Abby Luby, “Poe Cottage Celebrations Mark Tormented Writer’s 200th Birthday,” New York Daily News, 15 January 2009.