That’s what Poe fans worldwide are wondering today.
As of three o’clock Friday, The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum on Amity Street in Baltimore has officially closed. Control of the museum, which has been left somewhat in limbo since the city cut off its $85,000 a year funding, is being transferred from the department of planning to a new non-profit group called Poe Baltimore. The city is also paying the B&O Railroad Museum $175,000 to reinterpret the house based on suggestions made by an outside consultant, CRMG.
What changes are in store for the museum? That is a question which largely remains unanswered. CRMG was paid $45,000 for its study. The consultant’s final report, which was due last June, has yet to be released to the public. Speculation of the coming changes, based on several sources close to the transition, include a museum mostly stripped of its artifacts and one without a full-time curator. Equally troubling is the prospect that the house would reopen on a more limited schedule and that visitors would have to park, not at the museums door on Amity Street, but rather park six blocks away at the B&O Museum and wait for a shuttle to carry them to the Poe House. As previously reported by the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Jeff Savoye, the secretary of the E.A. Poe Society opined, “There is no practical way to do it with a shuttle.”
Those lucky enough to see the house today, before the doors closed were glad they made it but were shocked by the stripped down feel of the beloved museum. A number of artifacts, such as the bronze plaque from the Edgar Allan Poe school and the lockets of hair from Poe and his wife Virginia, were gone. These and other artifacts were retrieved by the private collectors who had lent them to the museum. It is unclear what items, if any, will eventually return.
Actor and producer Mark Redfield, who has been asked to be on the board of Poe Baltimore, was on hand to greet visitors and answer questions about the home’s still uncertain future. Redfield regretfully told patrons that photography was not allowed today and that one bedroom was closed off because its contents were already gone.
“The Poe Society and other collectors have removed a number of items. Everything was catalogued. Some of it may be returning.”
Redfield reported that there was a good turnout this week of visitors, though he wasn’t sure what today’s numbers were. “We weren’t taking admission donations and frankly I just lost count.”
Some of those who visited the house this week had heard the news about the imminent closing. Some had not. One mother showed up with a large group of children not knowing that she and the kids would be witnessing the end of an era.
A Friday visitor who had heard of the closing was Brooke Duffy. Duffy, a graduate student and a lifelong fan of Poe, traveled all the way from Connecticut to see the house before it closed.
Duffy, who shares her birthday with Edgar Allan Poe, said as a child she was intrigued by the story of the mysterious Poe Toaster who would leave roses and cognac at Poe’s grave every January 19th. “It’s like he was celebrating my birthday, too.”
“I learned of the closing two days ago and knew I had to make this trip. I’m still not sure why the city would cut the funding. It seems counter-intuitive. The only thing I think of when I think of Baltimore is Edgar Allan Poe.”
As the final hours wound down, dozens of people arrived to get one last look and say a tearful farewell to Jeff Jerome, the longtime curator of the Poe House. Jerome, who began his career at the museum as a volunteer in 1977, has been the full time curator since 1979. He had no comment today as he walked away from a lifetime’s worth of work, but in an interview last spring with the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Jerome recalled the charge he was given on his hire by the late Mayor William Donald Schaefer.
“I want you to do three things, Jeff. Promote the Poe House, promote the Poe House and promote the Poe House.” Schaefer then paused and said, “Now get out of here and go promote the Poe House.”
“That’s what I did for thirty-three years. It’ll be hard when I leave this place for the last time.”
Jerome’s departure has not set well with fans of the museum. Numerous Facebook posts expressed shock and sadness, with one fan saying, “We are losing our beloved narrator.”
Redfield said there are no plans to temporarily open the house again in October nor to open it next January. For years, the house was the must-see destination during the annual Poe Halloween and Birthday celebrations. Redfield said he hopes the work of reinterpreting the house will be completed some time next spring.
Til then, Poe fans, like the narrator of the Raven, will simply be left to ponder.
Please read Baltimore Post-Examiner editorial on the Ravens turn their back on the Poe House and let us know what you think.
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony’s poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, “Thou shalt not steal.”