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Tour Homes of Poets, Novelists, and Other Literary Geniuses
When one thinks of early American literary geniuses, the mid-Atlantic and New England areas as these writers stomping grounds quickly come to mind. Such writers as Edgar Allan Poe and Walt Whitman seem to top the list in mid-Atlantic historic sites, but others have left their marks on this region, as evidenced by the numerous exhibits you'll see in historical societies and museums throughout the area.
Edgar Allen Poe
Poe, author of the 1845 poem "The Raven," as well as many horrific stories, was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1809. He became a journalist in Richmond, Virginia and then settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later he moved to New York and in 1849 he died in Baltimore, Maryland.
Some of the sites paying tribute to Poe in the mid-Atlantic area can be found in Philadelphia, New York City and Richmond.
The City of Brotherly Love is home to The Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. Here, his life and work are portrayed in a three-building complex. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. Tours take about one hour. For more information, contact the site at 532 N. 7th St., Philadelphia, PA 19123; 215/597-8780.
Many of the gifted author's famous works were written in the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage on E. Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx, New York City, where he lived from 1846-1849. The cottage is open year round. Hours of operation are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays (for group tours only), 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday. Admission is $5 and $3 for students, children and seniors. Call 718/881-8900 for more information.
The Edgar Allan Poe Museum, in Richmond, Virginia, contains Poe memorabilia, library and garden, old stone house, exhibit rooms, and model of Richmond in Poe's time. Free parking is available. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The museum is closed Monday. Admission is $6 for adults and $5 for students and seniors. The museum is at 1914 E. Main St., Richmond, VA 23223. Call 804/648-5523 for more information
Whitman, whose major poet work was "Leaves of Grass" (1855), was born at West Hills, Long Island, New York in 1819. In his lifetime he worked in offices, as a teacher, journalist, poet and volunteer nurse during the Civil War. His ventures took him through such mid-Atlantic areas as New York, Washington D.C. and New Jersey. He died in Camden, New Jersey in 1892.
You'll find the Walt Whitman House, on the National Register of Historic Places, in Long Island. Highlights of this 19th century home, the birthplace of Whitman, are original exhibits, such as the first edition of "Leaves of Grass" and a copy of the poem "O Captain, My Captain." On the grounds are a library, gift shop and picnic area.
The home is open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.,Saturday and Sunday from June 15 through Labor Day. Winter hours are 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and students. For further information, contact the home at 246 Old Walt Whitman Rd., Huntington Station, NY 11746; 631/427-5240.
The Walt Whitman House in Camden is the former home of the poet and is also a historic landmark. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday. Hours vary so call to check when the museum is open. For more information, contact the house at 330 Mickle Blvd., Camden, NJ 08103; 856/9645383.
In Elmira, New York, you can recall reading about Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer and the mighty Mississippi because it's Mark Twain country! Twain, actually Samuel Langhorne Clemens, was born in 1835 in Florida, Missouri and died in Redding, Connecticut in 1910. He spent much of his life in the Midwest, but also spent time in France, Italy and Palestine, as well as spending many summers in Elmira, New York.
During the summer, Elmira College offers tours of Twain's study, designed like the pilot house of a Mississippi River steamboat. Hours of operation are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday from May through Labor Day. After Labor Day, The Study is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through mid-October. In the Elmira area you can also visit Twain's gravesite and his summer home, Quarry Farm. For more information, call Elmira College at 607/735-1941.
The "Home, Sweet Home" Museum on 14 James Lane in Long Island is the 1680 salt box home of John Howard Payne (1791-1852), actor, dramatist and author of "Home, Sweet Home." For more information and hours, contact the museum at 14 James Lane, Long Island, NY 11937; 631/324-0713.
In Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello: Home of Thomas Jefferson awaits visitors. Although normally thought of first as a great statesman, this author of the Declaration of Independence lived from 1743 to 1826. Designed by Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. president, this mountaintop plantation includes the main house, original furnishings, gardens, Jefferson's grave and a gift shop. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily,, March through October and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily, November through February, except Christmas. For more information and admission prices, contact the site at P.O. Box 316, Charlottesville, VA 22902; 434/984-9822.
Princeton University: A Significant Spot for Fitzgerald Fans
While in New Jersey, a tour of Princeton University's beautiful campus makes a nice afternoon retreat. As you walk among the ivy wreathed buildings, you'll be awed by some of the world's finest collegiate Gothic architecture.
Many famous Americans have passes through the university's gates, including novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald, who captured the spirit of the 1920s, "the Jazz Age", through his fiction. His best-known book was The Great Gatsby (1925), made into a movie starring Robert Redford. Other novels included The Beautiful and the Damned (1922) and Tender Is the Night (1934). His literary debut, This Side of Paradise, is considered a loosely autobiographical story of his years at Princeton.
Although Fitzgerald never graduated from the prestigious school (he dropped out in 1917 to join the U.S. Army) he helped make it synonymous with the repertoire of items characteristic of the Jazz Age.
According to Fitzgerald biographers, it was during his time at Princeton that Fitzgerald "lost" his religion and established intellectual friendships with Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop. It was here also that he met the sons and daughters of the wealthy who would later make up some of the leading characters of his fiction.
Princeton University is located at 155 Nassau St., Princeton NJ. Call the school at 609/258-3733 for more information.