The Old Stone House located at 1914 East Main Street, near Shockoe Bottom, is Richmond’s oldest known structure. It was built around 1750. Perhaps much more significant than that to the rest of the world is the fact that it is also home to the memorabilia and artifacts of the gifted poet, horror short story writer, and Richmond resident, Edgar Allan Poe. The Poe Museum was established in 1922 to honor Poe’s life in Richmond and as a tribute to his literary contribution to the world.
Richmond lays claim to quite a few literary notables, including Ellen Glasgow, Tom Wolfe, and Patricia Cornwell. However, no one else creates such a thoughtful pause as Edgar Allan Poe. Through much of his work, Poe’s writing gifts demonstrated his mastery of effectively illustrating the macabre, suspense, and terror with intelligence, wit, and the use of beauty in language. He is an inspiration to many writers within the genre to date.
Poe was born in Baltimore in 1809 and raised in Richmond by the Allan family following his mother’s death in 1811. John Allan was an owner of Ellis & Allan, a mercantile shop in downtown Richmond. As a young man,
Poe attended Monumental Episcopal Church (now known as Monumental Church) with the Allans. It is believed that Poe’s strained relationship with Allan may have served as the muse for his works.Many of his stories mirror the intellectual and psychological experience of his youth and are carried through calculating and unhinged characters. He was reared in a large downtown Richmond home called Moldavia, which is also believed to have served as a form of inspiration, as many of his tales feature a mansion filled with gloom, madness, and events of a mentally spiraling nature.
The opposite of his maniacal expressions through prose was pronounced hopeless romanticism in verse. Three of his most beloved poems, including “Annabel Lee” and even “The Raven” are presumed to have been inspired by women of Richmond with whom he was known to have been involved.
The plan to use The Old Stone House as a museum was supported and funded by local historians, Mr. and Mrs. Archer Jones. The house possesses its own interesting piece of history. Poe’s connection to it may have been stemmed from his duty, around 1824, as a color guard escort to France’s Marquis de Lafayette during a visit to the Ege family, the original owners of the house. During the Revolutionary War, approximately fifty years earlier, Lafayette had stayed there as he worked to help Washington defeat the British. Other than that, there is no other association known between Poe and the house. However, commemoration of his works and time spent in the city was desired.
Remarkable thought went into the development of the museum and grounds. The Old Stone House is a small portion. By incorporating various items connected to Poe’s life to the museum, the grounds were expanded as a unique, heartfelt, nostalgic dedication towards his work on his craft and his life in Richmond.
The Old Stone House, which features the gift shop, contains the original heart-of-pine floors and a uniquely designed fireplace. The first leg of the self-directed tour in the House introduces the visitor to Poe and his family. The short walk to the Model Building reveals a stunning model of an early-to-mid 19th-century Richmond, complete with painstakingly created miniature houses and labels as they pertained to Poe’s lifetime. The minutest details of the model are so convincing, they constructively pull the visitor into the past. Featured are models of many of Richmond’s landmarks along with homes that are significant to Poe’s life, such as Elmira Shelton’s home – the woman to whom he was once engaged.
The Enchanted Garden – a peaceful courtyard with an engaging fountain – was designed in 1921 to resemble the garden in his poem, “To One in Paradise”. At the north end of the garden is the Poe Shrine, where a copy of Poe’s bust from the Bronx Historical Society sits. Bricks and granite rescued from the demolition of the Southern Literary Messenger, a local magazine where Poe had worked and practiced his craft prior to his fame, are used in the shrine and throughout the garden.
In the Elizabeth Arnold Poe Memorial Building, named in honor of his mother, many dynamic aspects of his literary self are displayed, including his desk from the Southern Literary Messenger. Also safely stored and displayed is the staircase from the first Allan home in which he lived. Several of Poe’s wares displayed in this building demonstrate his fine aesthetic tastes.
The last stop of the self-directed tour is the Exhibits Building. Most of those artifacts bring a more modern-day connection to Poe with the exhibit of film adaptations to his work. Included is an impressive letter displayed on behalf of Universal Pictures’ president, Carl Laemmle, asking that photo stills from the 1932 hit, Murders in the Rue Morgue, be added to the Poe Collection.
In 1849, at the age of forty, Poe died in Baltimore about two weeks after leaving Richmond for a brief stay. Even though he is buried in Baltimore, his life remains immortal here in Richmond with each piece that represents him, his contribution to the world he provided, and his life as a Richmonder in that charming Old Stone House and its grounds.
The museum features special events throughout the year, most notably in October, since Poe is usually synonymous with Halloween. Any time would make a great family outing to learn more about Poe’s era in the city. Make your plans to visit soon. Ticket prices range from $6 to $8.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Tuesday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Wednesday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Thursday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Friday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Reposted from my blog, "Front Porch, Sweet Tea, and A Pile of Books".
Standing high within the beauty of Byrd Park in Richmond’s West End, visible from various driveways of the city, is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s first memorial to Virginians who served in World War I: The Carillon. An illustrious landmark, this campinale is a beloved gathering area for local residents and visitors.
In 1924, several years after the end of the First World War, the General Assembly formed the World War Memorial Commission to determine the best way to honor those men and women. The City of Richmond donated an area of Byrd Park, located at the southern end of Blanton Avenue. After a lot of public discussion, which changed the initial proposal, construction on the tower began in 1931. It was completed in 1932.
On October 15, 1932, The Carillon was formally dedicated to the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Ralph Adams Cram, a noted Boston architect, had designed the structure, which stands at 240 feet. Cram was a favorite architect to the city, as he had also designed several buildings at the University of Richmond, which featured his trademark Gothic style. The bell instrument was designed by Taylor’s Bell Foundry, the world’s largest bell foundry. Known at the time of The Carillon’s construction as John Taylor Bellfounders Ltd, this company also cast Great Britain’s largest bell in St. Paul’s Cathedral of London.
At set intervals, the bells chime melodic patriotic hymns which sound throughout the park. Concerts at the Carillon usually take place on patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Flag Day and Labor Day. Most notably is the Fourth of July celebration with fireworks and the Richmond Concert Band. In the spring, the Carillon Civic Association hosts the renowned “Arts in the Park”, which helps to introduce the work of many national artists and artisans to the area.
The tower is a welcoming presence in the park and to its neighborhood residents. At the edge of a grass mall are crepe myrtles donated by the James River Garden Club. Other trees line the mall and the long, brick walkway. Quaint marble benches commemorate the gesture of 1937.
Prominently and sacredly featured is the grand star leading to the front of the Carillon which was laid in honor of the Gold Star Mothers. Their sons and daughters served from 1917 to 1918.
Visitors are welcome to climb the steps of the tower. Once visitors get closer, they will notice the ornate cast of the Virginia seal. Those marble steps lead to the imposing balcony which provides a dramatic panoramic view of the park and neighborhood. Lined by a stylish balustrade, the balcony allows one to take in the striking details much more closely as well as the opportunity to rest and take in the breathtaking view of the park from one of the benches along the walls.
Behind the tower is the Ha’Penny Stagewhere movies and plays are held. Also, next to the tower is the beloved Dogwood Dell Amphitheatre, where many concerts and plays are performed. After World War II, the annual Christmas production of “The Nativity” began on the steps of The Carillon; each year it is held on December 23rd at 7:00 p.m.
This coming Fourth of July, bring your picnic basket, blanket, and/or folding chairs and enjoy the Independence Day celebration, featuring music by the Richmond Concert Band and fireworks, all for free! Events begin at 6:00 p.m.
Reposted from my blog, "Front Porch, Sweet Tea, and A Pile of Books".
One of the most interesting details about Richmond was the origin of her name. In the 1730's, after years of discord between William Byrd, II, a wealthy merchant and planter, and the Virginia House of Burgesses regarding the House's desire that he sell fifty acres of his land to form a new town, Byrd eventually and reluctantly gave in. For several years during that time, business establishments formed and prospered along the James River. In order to help accommodate the bustling activity and financial growth of the area, Byrd added a ferry to his own enterprise of stores and warehouse. He thereby helped to shape a town as the House initially had in mind. Byrd, also a well-known politician, had been educated in England; he knew the British landscape quite well. While standing at the top of, what is now known as, Libby Hill, he took note of the bend of the James River below the hill and the striking comparison it held to the bend and surrounding area of the River Thames in Richmond upon Thames, just west of London, England. In 1737, he officially named the new town, “Richmond”, and became known as the city’s founder.
To celebrate this connection, Richmond, Virginia and Richmond upon Thames were named sister cities in 1991. In 2006, a commemorative plaque, featuring a captivating photograph of the River Thames’s likeness to that of the James, was dedicated by Mayor L. Douglas Wilder of Richmond, Virginia and Councillor Robin Jowit of Richmond upon Thames. It now sits in the garden of Libby Hill Park.
Libby Hill Park is one of the city’s oldest parks. Located at 28th and Franklin Streets, overlooking East Main Street, visitors can stand at the top of the same hill to take in Byrd’s observation. From Main Street and various areas of Shockoe Bottom and Church Hill, the park’s highly visible landmark, the Soldiers and Sailors Monument can be spotted as it stands atop the hill. Sculpted by Caspar Buberl and erected in 1894, this particular monument among our city’s collection was illustrated by William Ludlow Sheppard, using the famous pillar in Alexandria, Egypt, known as Pompey, as the inspiration for the 60-foot column which supports the bronze sculpture of a Confederate soldier.
The summit of Libby Hill Park provides a glorious panoramic view of Richmond from the east to the west, as well as points south towards Petersburg. The Carillon in Byrd Park can also be spotted beyond Interstate 95. There are picnic benches and other cozy seating areas, which include the benches at the base of the walkway of crepe myrtle trees under the romantic three-tier fountain. Underlined by the park’s cobblestone walkway, Richmond’s skyline is displayed in a striking fashion. Even closer to the park are the city’s former tobacco warehouses and factories, which may provide great conversation as they represent intense reminders of the city’s history as well as an enticing backdrop.
Byrd’s ability to capture such nearly identical scenes of the two rivers - an ocean apart - over 400 years ago, without the modern technology we sport now, demonstrates a remarkable component to this city’s history. Libby Hill Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.