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Poe Museum could reopen in fall

MuseumsTour Operations IndustryEdgar Allan Poe House and MuseumKevin BaconThe Following (tv program)Edgar Allan Poe

The one-time home of Edgar Allan Poe could reopen for visitors as soon as this autumn, according to one of the people in charge of running the tourist attraction.

"Though we're still in the early stages, things are picking up steam," said Mark Redfield, vice president of the board of directors for Poe Baltimore, the nonprofit organization created to run the Poe House and Museum. "At this point, we don't have a specific date to reopen. But we're hoping it will happen sometime this fall."

For two years in the early 1830s, the author of "The Raven" and "The Tell-Tale Heart" lived in the small house on a street with the incongruous name of Amity. He is buried in the cemetery adjoining Westminster Hall.

In 2010, city officials decided they could no longer afford to run the Poe House as a museum and pulled the $85,000 annual budget from the city's spending plan.

The museum temporarily closed to the public Sept. 28 last year. Five days later, the city agreed to pay the B&O Railroad Museum $180,000 to work with Poe Baltimore to develop a plan to help the museum live up to its potential as a tourist attraction.

Once Poe Baltimore receives an official nonprofit designation, it will be able to seek donations from corporations and private individuals. Until then, the poet's two biggest local boosters — Redfield and former Poe Museum curator Jeff Jerome — are moving ahead independently to raise money.

"We didn't want to lose momentum," Redfield said.

The two men held a party Saturday night in honor of what would have been the 204th birthday of the master of the macabre — a tradition that Jerome began in 1983.

The 350 tickets for the event, which cost $25 apiece, sold out, Redfield said, adding that he and Jerome hope to raise between $2,000 and $3,000 for the museum.

Festivities included an auction of Poe-themed memorabilia, including rubber Poe masks and Poe birthday cakes, along with posters signed by Kevin Bacon and other cast members of "The Following," a new Fox drama that is scheduled to premiere Monday. (In the show, a serial killer portrayed by actor James Purefoy pays a gruesome homage to Poe, his idol.)

Bacon also contributed a brief video greeting to party attendees.

The evening also featured a performance by actor Tony Tsendeas and a book-signing by novelist Kelly Creagh, author of "Nevermore" and "Enshadowed," the first two parts of a planned Poe-themed trilogy.

Finally, each party guest received a red rose — a nod to the Poe Toaster, who for more than 75 years left three scarlet blossoms and a half-empty bottle of cognac at the author's grave early on the morning of Poe's birthday. It has been more than four years since the Toaster has paid that tribute, leading to speculation that he has died.

Jerome kept vigil overnight Friday, as he has done annually since 1977.

"The real Poe Toaster didn't show up, but six imitators did," Jerome said.

"Two of them almost bumped into each other, and a third nearly impaled himself on the fence," Jerome said. "I think we should let the tradition die a dignified death. If someone wants to pay tribute to Poe, they should come visit his gave during the daytime on his birthday, or read one of his poems."

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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