Edgar Allan Poe, writer, poet, inventor of detective fiction, is probably most famous for his poem “The Raven.” He spent time in Baltimore off and on through his entire life. Though born in Boston, he first arrived in Baltimore on a family visit to his paternal grandparents when he was just five weeks old in 1809.
Poe's association with this house began around the beginning of 1833, when Maria Clemm moved her family to this modest 2 ½ story rowhouse on Amity Street (originally number 3, now 203 North Amity Street). The household consisted of Maria, her daughter Virginia Clemm, her mother Elizabeth Poe, her nephew Edgar Allan Poe, and perhaps her son Henry. The small, five-room house was situated quite differently than today, surrounded by a few scattered houses and mostly open fields. Poe likely slept on the top floor, under low, slanted ceilings, accessed by a narrow, winding staircase.
Over the next two years, Poe continued to unsuccessfully explore various careers, and wrote for various publications. Notably, he was awarded first and second place for a fiction and poetry contest, respectively, sponsored by the Baltimore Saturday Visiter. He also established contact with the Southern Literary Messenger, and submitted both fiction and editorial pieces for publication, as well as providing technical advice to the editor.
In addition to the numerous poems and short stories, he wrote for the Visiter and Messenger at 203 Amity Street. It is also presumed that he penned a poem titled “To Elizabeth,” dedicated to a cousin, and "Latin Hymn," which is a comment on the Egyptian-Ottoman War (1831-1833). The war was called for by Mohammad Ali, who demanded control of Syria from the Ottoman Empire as a reward for his assistance with other battles.
The family was forced to move from Amity Street in 1835 after the death of the grandmother, Elizabeth Poe, and the loss of her pension.
The house was scheduled for demolition in 1938 to make way for a public housing project, but was saved by the Edgar Allan Poe Society, which was established in 1923 to promote Poe’s works through readings and lectures. The Society provided tours of the house from 1950 to 1977 when operation of the museum was taken over by Baltimore City’s Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation (CHAP). It is operated today by Poe Baltimore, a non-profit organization.