HISTORY OF THE COTTAGE
The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage, built c. 1812, is a New York City and State landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic house museum is famous as the final home of the writer. At the time that Poe, his ailing wife Virginia and mother-in-law, Mrs. Maria Clemm moved in during the spring of 1846, the house was owned by John Valentine. Poe rented it for $100 per year. Virginia died in the house in 1847 and after Poe’s death on October 7, 1849 while in Baltimore, Mrs. Clemm moved out.
Until 1913, when the city of New York purchased it, the small farmhouse was occupied and owned by a number of individuals, although the owners tended not to be the occupants. The Valentine family sold the house in 1866 to James Cole, who sold it the following year to Henry Stoney. Stoney sold it to Thomas and Ann Holt in 1871 who sold it that same year to John Berrian. Berrian transferred ownership of it in 1877 to Henry Berrian. It was in 1874 that the first newspaper article appeared about visitors to the poet’s former home due to the growing popularity of his writings – the Cottage’s occupant [name unknown] was a young woman. The house remained in the Berrian family until 1883, when it was sold to Nelson and Julia Strang. In a New York Times article, dated June 10, 1883 and entitled “Poe’s Home” the occupant at the time was said to be a Mrs. Dechert, widow of William Dechert who had worked on plans for Central Park and who had designed many of the roads around Fordham. She is described as an elderly Southern lady who had lived there for many years. By the Fall of 1891 Mrs. Dechert had left the house due to ill health; by then Poe Cottage was described as being in a run-down condition. In 1884, the property was purchased by Patrick J. Keary. In 1889, Keary offered it to New York as a memorial, but the city didn’t want it. In April of that year, it was sold at auction to William Fearing Gill; he sold it in 1892 to Austin Ford who, in turn, sold it in 1895 to Joseph Edward Chauvet, a dentist.
In 1895, the Shakespeare Society rented Poe’s Cottage to publicize its plight but was unable to raise $5,000 needed to buy it from Dr. Chauvet, who lived in it for a time – and used it for a dental office. He had difficulty finding renters due to the fact that so many came to see Poe’s home. It was Chauvet who persuaded New York City to buy the house, which it did in 1913. It was moved across the street into Poe Park and opened as a museum in 1913.
The Bronx County Historical Society has administered the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage as an historic house museum since 1975, in cooperation with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation and the Historic House Trust of New York City.