Edgar Allan Poe, the American poet and horror story writer, spent most of his life moving from town to town. So it’s not surprising that there are several museums housed at sites where he once lived: the Edgar Allan Poe House in Baltimore (1833-1835), the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site in Philadelphia (1843-1844), and the Edgar Allan Poe Cottage in the Bronx (1844). Even his dorm room at the University of Virginia (February to December 1826) can be toured.
So I can’t be blamed, when I learned that there was an Edgar Allan Poe house museum in Fayetteville, North Carolina, for thinking that it was yet another house that Poe occupied in his short but transient life. As it turned out, it was not THAT Poe.
Edgar Allan Poe of Fayetteville was a local businessman and politician, and his house is now part of the Museum of the Cape Fear Historical Complex. The complex consists of a small museum, the Poe House, and the ruins of a Civil War arsenal.
The Poes of Fayetteville weren’t history-makers, but they were community leaders and they had a pretty house. It was built in 1897 and, as a museum, focuses on the domestic and social life of the North Carolina wealthy at the beginning of the 20thcentury.
It was the week before Halloween when we were there and the house was decorated with period appropriate Halloween decorations. I had no idea that pre-WWII Americans celebrated Halloween in that way. The guide, who seemed also to be the curator, said that she got the decorating ideas from the blogs of other house museums, notably Winterthur. The Halloween theme and some beautiful woodwork were the stand-out elements of the house for me.
The property on which the house stands was once part of a US arsenal. There are the remnants of arsenal buildings in the garden behind the house. From the garden, we crossed a pedestrian bridge over a highway that bisects the arsenal’s property, to get to the main part of the arsenal ruins.
The arsenal site has ruins — mostly foundation brickwork — with signs. The only “full” structure was the one shown above, which was a steel representation of a tower that was once there.
Completed just before the Civil War, the arsenal was turned over to the Confederate government when North Carolina seceded from the Union in April 1861. The Confederates produced guns, ammunition and gun carriages there until General Sherman and his Union troops destroyed it in 1865.