Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Is the Poe House Doomed?

The Poe House
Edgar Allan Poe's family appears to be on the brink of losing its Baltimore home for the second time in in the last 175 years.  After Poe moved from the home in 1835 to take up residence in Richmond, his aunt and cousin were forced to move out because of financial difficulties.  Now, the city of Baltimore, faced with its own financial problems, is no longer able to help support the museum located in the home and it may have to be closed down.

According to the Los Angeles Times book section, the museum is in trouble partly because the part of the city in which it is located is not one that attracts many tourists:
Edgar Allan Poe's Baltimore house is running on fumes. The historic house is a museum open to the public that lost the $85,000 in support it gets from the city of Baltimore for the second year running, and may be forced to close.
A Baltimore city official told the New York Times that budget cuts left everyone "under the gun," although the city's $55,500 support of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum continues. Babe Ruth's museum gets many more visitors than Poe's.
The New York Times offers more details:
Since the city cut off its $85,000 in annual support last year, the house has been operating on reserve funds, which are expected to run out as early as next summer. In the coming months consultants hired by the city will try to come up with a business plan to make the Edgar Allan Poe House financially self-sufficient, possibly by updating its exhibits to draw more visitors. But the museum sits amid a housing project, far off this city’s tourist beaten path, and attracts only 5,000 visitors a year.
The Poe House, which is owned by the Baltimore City Housing Authority, is designated a landmark, so it’s in no danger of being torn down, even if it closes as a museum. It is about a mile from Poe’s grave in the Westminster Burying Ground, where for decades a mysterious visitor left a half-filled bottle of cognac and three roses every year on his birthday, Jan. 19.

No one would argue that we are living in the toughest economic times most of us have seen in our lifetimes, but it would seem that funds to keep open the doors of the Poe House could be found.  $85,000 is not a huge amount of money for a city the size of Baltimore and it would be a shame to see it shut down such an interesting piece of its history for savings that would surely just be squandered elsewhere in the city budget.

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