Things to Do

A Guide to Edgar Allan Poe’s Baltimore

Who better than the spooky poet’s distant cousin to give an insider’s tour of his Baltimore hangouts?

Photograph of Poe House by Lisa Lewenz; Photograph of grave by Stephen Bay/Alamy; Photograph of saloon by Diana Pappas/Alamy.

I lift a pint at a scruffy Baltimore bar, and when I pay with my credit card, the bartender spins around: “Are you really a Poe?” Indeed, I am really a Poe. Edgar Allan Poe is a distant cousin, and my family has collected memorabilia and lore since long before I was born. For this stroke of fate, I earn a high-five and several selfies with my fellow barflies.

Baltimore proudly claims my ancestor as one of its own, going so far as to name its football team the Ravens, inspired by one of Poe’s best-known poems.

Although the author had a peripatetic existence, living in New York and Richmond as well as near Charleston, it was in Charm City that his family got a foothold when his grandfather David Poe Sr.—who’d emigrated from Ireland to fight in the Revolutionary War—made a small fortune and, later, where Poe toiled in near obscurity.

What says Halloween more than his spooky tales? Here, a look at Poe haunts you can hit.

1. Start at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum (203 N. Amity St.; 410-462-1763), where the author lived during part of the 1830s with his teenage cousin/bride, Virginia, and his aunt (her mother), Maria Clemm. Navigate the narrow staircase to Poe’s attic workroom, where he churned out many of his masterpieces, such as “MS. Found in a Bottle.”

2. Not far from the house sits Westminster Hall & Burial Grounds (519 W. Fayette St.; 410-706-2072), which surrounds a Gothic Revival church. Poe died in Baltimore on October 7, 1849, when he was 40 years old. But at the church that houses his grave, he’s still rocking: The large marble-and-granite marker near the front gate is usually adorned with flasks of Cognac, coins, and flowers left by admirers. To find Poe’s original gravesite in the family plot, follow the brick pathways to the back of Westminster Hall. For a spooky extra, visit on the evening of October 31 for creepy organ music, a reading of Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and a rare chance to descend to the catacombs.

3. Die-hard Poe fans may want to pop into the Enoch Pratt Free Library (400 Cathedral St.; 410-396-5430) to look at original manuscripts, first-edition books, and even a lock of his hair.

4. Perhaps the best way to celebrate my forebear’s life is to do it as he might have: Head to a watering hole. Annabel Lee Tavern (601 S. Clinton St.; 410-522-2929), named for one of Poe’s poems, happens to be one of Baltimore’s best-kept secrets. This cozy Canton joint, founded by a Poe fan, delivers treats such as duck-fat fries and pulled-pork nachos that help soak up pints of Raven Lager. Don’t want to venture to Canton but need a break after touring Poe’s house? Apropoe’s (700 Aliceanna St.; 410-895-1879), in the Marriott, serves Maryland crabcakes and shucked oysters paired with an innovative bourbon flight. Aim for a seat by the window for people-watching along the waterfront.

5. Come nightfall, head to Fells Point for one of the atmospheric Baltimore Ghost Tours (410-357-1186), which lead visitors along cobblestone lanes, back alleys, and main boulevards that have defined the seaport for generations. After the tour, you can order a round at the Horse You Came In On Saloon (1626 Thames St.; 410-327-8111), rumored to be where Poe imbibed his final drink. Barkeeps swear his ghost still haunts the joint.

This article appears in our September 2016 issue of Washingtonian.