It’s been months, exactly four, since the article “The Train Stops Here,” in reference to Baltimore City’s proposed plans for the Edgar Allan Poe House. Since then, much has transpired and even more has circulated the internet and the media about the state of the Poe House. Much of what has been disseminated until now has been misleading, inaccurate, biased, and created in efforts to manipulate public and popular opinion as opposed to exposing the TRUTH. Sounds like a round of presidential campaign tactics.
Well, at the risk of sounding cliche’, it will be said perhaps now, The Buck Really Stops Here! On the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s death, here we are with yet another dead end. Without going into exasperating details; pages and pages of consultant mumbo jumbo that has cost the city thousands of [wasted] dollars; the bottom line is this-
A few years ago the great city of Baltimore CUT funding to The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum; $85,000.00 to be exact. Yes, such a small amount when you look at the city’s overall spending. We are not talking about much needed funds for city street repairs, garbage pick up, sewer systems, money to help fight crime… No, a mere 85k probably could be racked up by those city fringe benefits and politician perks that brought controversy a few weeks ago that the mayor so avariciously defended. 85k could be spent in a weekend hotel stay, wardrobe, and meal for a few city employees over a few days; but that is not the point here. 85k could be used on useless consultants or given to another museum, which is exactly what has been done. Funding was cut for the Poe House and thus the museum operated on reserve funds, private donations and money raised through Poe related events and promotions. This is money that lasted and would continue to last far beyond the two years that funding had been cut. Yes, everyone tightened their belts and worked harder to keep Poe’s rich Baltimore history in tact and thriving. None worked harder than the Poe staff, administrators, as well as those who donated time, talent, and sweat equity into keeping the home very much Alive and Well, preserving its Baltimore history and legacy. Actors, authors, educators, publishers, historians, celebrities, business owners, media personalities, and even school children offered support to honor Poe and his Baltimore home. The biggest effort was made by the tireless days and nights of the long time Poe House Curator who oversaw the day to day operation of the house and marketed and promoted Poe world wide like no other, in addition to wearing a million hats on any given day, representing Poe’s Baltimore legacy and history, setting the record straight and still having time to treat each visitor as a respected guest, giving them the opportunity to experience the Poe that Baltimore knew over 160 years ago. Just like run-on sentences, the work of the staff was never ending!
To show the museum and its patrons appreciation, the City of Baltimore then later hired con$ultants to come up with a plan for the future of the Poe House. In this case the word “plan” and “future” of the Poe House has become an oxymoron. Thousands of dollars later and after political elbows were rubbed, buffed, and shined, the consulting group proposed, the creation of a new entity to market and brand Poe. Yes, “brand!”An entity that would be called Poe Baltimore, which would promote and help people CONNECT the writer with this city. This would make sense if Poe was an obscure writer who everyone already didn’t connect with Baltimore. He lived here with a loving family…some of his fondest memories. He wrote and worked here. He, yes, died here, and subsquently is buried here. Also, one of the nations most popular NFL teams named after one of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works, is here…The Baltimore Ravens. People here and abroad have no problem connecting Poe with Baltimore. Yet somehow the consultants didn’t think so.
The consulting group convinced the city that privitization is best and that because of proximity, one of the existing museums, The B & O Railroad Museum would be ideal to help operate the future Poe House and Museum. So ideal that the B & O Museum would be given MORE than double the amount of funds of money for the Poe House, $180,000.00 to be exact. Would the B & O not accept such an overly generous offer? Of course not. That would be like turning down… well, MONEY. One of the many disheartening aspects of the consultants ideas, is that they made a “convincing” argument that it would be better for tourists to take limited shuttle/van tours to the Poe House instead of persons being able to actually come to the Poe House, and experiencing it on their own. It seems as if there is a degree of fear or disdain for the community surrounding the Poe House by those who have made these rash, unreasonable, and dishonorable decisions. Have any of these consultants or decision makers ever even visited the Poe House? Read a Poe story? The area on Amity Street, is not a high income area and does not sport some of the attractions that the Inner Harbor or traditionally hot Baltimore tourist spots may have. It is just a residential urban community that represents Poe’s humble beginnings, which is one of the main reasons that a personal tour is more beneficial, not waving by on a shuttle or van with an unknowledgeable tourguide spewing half truths about the famed Edgar Allan Poe and pointing out of the window as tourists snap photos of the small rowhome. There are treasures inside the Poe House and what will their fate be? Items that are priceless and to be shared with the world. The experience one has when visiting the Poe House is personal and guided by the knowlegable and caring staff. Everyone comes out getting a feel for Poe and his family and his mark made on the world from inside those tiny roomed walls. What they don’t get is a cheesy tour by train officials, a tshirt and a 2 minute snippet video about Poe. The city has taken the personal experience away…washing their hands of, yet shuffling money to and from in every direction except to the Poe House where it rightfully should be.
Railroad fans have absolutely no interest in Edgar Allan Poe, and though there may be a fan or two of Poe who may happen to like or appreciate trains, there really is no true connection…other than now in 2012 Poe has been hit head on by this train wreck, compliments of Baltimore City…so close to the anniversary of his death; how aproPOE. The B & O Railroad Museum is on board and full steam ahead.
September 28th The Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore was CLOSED at the washed hands of Baltimore City, compliments of the Mayor. Feel free to contact the Honorable Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to thank her. The long time curator of the Poe House, also became “nevermore” and has become retired, because of this closure. The museum staff, no longer needed. This is the worst time of year to have any Baltimore jobs simply vanish when there clearly is a need for them. All of these things have made museum patrons and friends of the Poe House, outraged. There’s probably a group of folks wearing “Bring the Curator Back” or “Save the Poe House” tshirts standing virtual vigil at the Poe House since its closure. The Poe House has gained fans over the years and in the last few years also have drawn a wide internet based fan group that has grown far into the thousands and thousands. People have been watching Baltimore and the state of things at the Poe House and to say they are disappointed is an understatement. The world HAS been watching…and can’t stop looking, as if watching the aftermath of a huge train wreck..Poe buried beneath the rubble. Cities such as Richmond, Boston, and NYC are watching in amazement because they too house parts of the great writers history.
Other than for minor seasonal renovations, the Baltimore Poe House has never been shut down, until now. Sometime in 2013 it may reopen under the auspices of this new “Poe Baltimore” entity that seems to have some wild ideas about branding, changing, and marketing Poe. They have to, because the proposed operating funds reach into the $300,000.00 annually, to keep this thing going. Many have expressed concern to the B & O Railroad Museum about their involvement as well as their acceptance of funding that should have gone to the Poe House. It appears that the B & O is still “full steam ahead” with the operation.
This is not the Poe we grew up with. This is not the museum with local charm and worldly appeal that truly educated and inspired fans of Poe. This is not the city that is supposed to care about historical preservation and a focus on education, particularly reading/literature and the arts. The public release of much of this information was done systematically as to prevent all opposition to it from coming to light. The treatment of the Poe House has been ill willed and backed by greed. A fast one was pulled on the Poe House and the fans just a few days ago.
Somewhere buried deep inside there may have been some good intent and maybe one or two actual decent ideas, but it’s buried deep inside the darkness and shadow of this big political sham. This is similar to how the writer was treated and mishandled after his death. Baltimore really should make this right! Some good folks are probably caught up in this giant mess. We can only hope that they will be able to fix it.
The House is closed, abandoned practically, someone should be caring for this historical treasure. What will the City of Baltimore do or this new organization running it? It was deemed a National Historical Landmark years ago and now it’s being pretty much abandoned and unavailable to the public. How can a city take Edgar Allan Poe and history away? How can this be? We should’ve seen it coming… that huge train…coming.
I can’t say exactly what this new group will do, but listening doesn’t seem to be a quality they seem to possess. We the people… and that’s a really big “WE” want the Poe House to be respected and run by people who care and who understand the part of history they are potentially destroying. But the city’s politics and pocket padding consultants have already done damage. Is is revocable?