Fans of mysterious 19th century poet & writer Edgar Allan Poe, most famous for poems like The Raven and short stories like The Tell-Tale Heart, will definitely want to plan for a visit to the Poe National Historic Site during their time in Philly. This is a really unique local gem that will not take up more than an hour or so of your time. The 3 story red brick house, built in the 1840’s, is located just a short walk from the Old City tourist area (that is if you are up for a mile walk!).
Poe came to Philadelphia in 1838 for the literary opportunities and proceeded to live here over a 6 year period. Today, you can take a tour of the house which he lived in from 1843-1844. In 1978, Congress declared the house a National Historic Landmark. This is the only house that survived out of the 6 which Poe inhabited. Poe chose this property for its’ bright & sunny interior, which he thought would help with his wife’s tuberculosis. Along with his wife, his mother-in-law and cat Catterina resided here.
Also on-site are various exhibits and a short 10 minute film. Start with the informative movie, scan through the interesting exhibits, and then proceed on the tour. There is not really much to the house as it is unfurnished. It is said that while Poe lived here he did not own much furniture as he moved around frequently. Several Poe artifacts including the stuffed raven can be seen at the Philadelphia Free Library.
As you tour the house, you will notice it is pretty bland. The only thing that particularly stands out is the word death carved into the plaster near the kitchen. No one knows who did it, but Poe being a gloomy guy who wrote so many dark stores, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Also interesting is the fact that the house had no electricity or running water! Hard to imagine living without the modern conveniences we take for granted today!
A few additional pics from the house
And, although Poe did not write his most famous works here, (it is assumed that he wrote The Black Cat here as the cellar resembles the one mentioned), it is said that his years in Philly were his most productive and creative workwise. It is speculated that he may have written The Gold Bug while living here. Due to his wife’s illness and failed attempt to find a backer for his literary magazine “The Stylus,” he eventually went bankrupt.
On an interesting side note, several people owned the house after Poe. In 1933, Richard Gimbel (of Gimbels department store), an avid Poe fan, purchased the home and turned it into a museum. In his will, he left the house to the City of Philadelphia. Renovations began in 1978 after his death, with the NPS eventually taking over. In 2009, in honor of Poe’s 200th birthday, the site opened with new detailed exhibits.
Poe died mysteriously in October of 1849, although his legend lives on through his 120+ works. Check out this interesting Smithsonian article detailing 9 possible theories for Poe’s mysterious death.
- The house is located at: 532 N 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123
- Hours are: Friday-Sunday, from 9am-Noon, and 1-5pm
- Admission is free.
- Ranger led tours are available by request.
- More info on the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site