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Poe House to reopen for weekends in October

Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum, shuttered since September 2012, will open on weekends in October, offering a "sneak peak" at what visitors will experience when it reopens for good next spring.

"There aren't any major changes," said Kristen Harbeson, president of the board of directors of Poe Baltimore, the nonprofit that will be taking over day-to-day management of the West Baltimore historic site from the city. Inside the house, "it's been refreshed; it's been updated," she said. "It's what's always been there, maybe a little more."

Poe Baltimore officials have promised to enhance the visitor experience inside the house, where Poe lived from 1833-35 with his aunt, grandmother and two cousins (one of whom would later become his wife). Harbeson said visitors would find additional signage and interpretive displays inside the structure, talking about Poe and his time in Baltimore.

At the same time, the group is taking pains to avoid changing the visitor experience too much, or to crowd the already-cramped house. "Visitors don't want to be overwhelmed by information," Harbeson said. "They want to experience the house, experience whatever it was in the house that inspired, that gives you the sense of who Poe was."

Many of the items that were in the Poe House before it closed will be there when it reopens, including the author's portable writing desk and chair, plus a telescope, china and glassware he used when living with the Allan family in Richmond, Va.

Workers are installing the new signage and exhibits, Harbeson said, and should be finished next week. Few changes are expected between October and when the Poe House opens for real in the spring, she said. The extra time, she said, is needed to raise money.

"We're going to have to do some pretty major fundraising, to make sure we can make it permanent," Harbeson said. Poe Baltimore has no specific goal in mind, she noted.

"We like to tell people, for every $25 we raise, we can open the house for an hour," she said.

The house, at 203 N. Amity St., will be open from noon-4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through October, as part of the Free Fall Baltimore celebration.

Poe, an early master of horror fiction and the generally acknowledged creator of the detective story, was born in Boston but also lived at various times in New York, Philadelphia and Richmond, as well as Baltimore. He died here, under mysterious circumstances never fully explained, in 1849 and is buried in the Westminster Burial Grounds, off Fayette Street.

The house has been owned by the city since 1939. It was closed after city officials decided Baltimore could no longer afford the $85,000 annual cost of operating it as a tourist attraction.

The city will retain ownership of the building.

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