Photos courtesy of The Poe Museum, www.poemuseum.org
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston and died in Baltimore, but he always referred to Richmond as his home, and the land upon which the historic Linden Row Inn is located played a significant role in Poe’s early life. The charming downtown boutique hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the nation’s finest surviving examples of Greek revival architecture, but the role the inn has played in the history of some of Richmond’s most notable residents is known by very few.
In 1811, Edgar Allan Poe’s mother, Elizabeth, was performing with a traveling theater company at the Richmond Theater when she became ill and died from tuberculosis. Poe’s father vanished shortly after his birth and upon her death, Elizabeth Poe’s three children were separated. Edgar was eventually adopted by Scottish immigrant John Allan, a wealthy tobacco merchant in Richmond. Allan gave his foster son his middle name, and in 1815, he and his wife, Frances, took him along to England to establish a branch of the successful business he owned with longtime friend, Charles Ellis. When they returned to Richmond in 1820, the Allans moved in with the Ellis family at their home at the corner of Franklin and Second Street.
Ellis later purchased the eastern end of the property across the street to establish a garden, which became known for its lush rose garden, jasmine and linden trees. Poe played in the garden with the Ellis children and courted his first love, Elmira Royster, among the luxurious blooms. They became engaged, but Royster eventually broke Poe’s heart when she married someone else. Legend has it that the second version of his famous poem, To Helen, refers to that “enchanted garden” and first love.
Poe wrote that second poem in 1848 for poetess Sarah Helen Whitman as a Valentine’s Day card and later became engaged to her briefly. However, in an odd twist of fate, Royster, who was his first fiancée, also his last. Poe proposed to the widow for the second time shortly before his death in 1849.
Today, the Linden Row Inn – a collection of seven pre-Civil War row homes named for those linden trees in the Ellis garden – sits on the very same tract of land where Poe played with the Ellis children and romanced his first love. And it’s still known for its enchanting courtyard garden, one of the most romantic gardens in the city and the site of many weddings.
Linden Row Inn | 100 E. Franklin St. Richmond, VA 23219 | (804) 783-7000 http://lindenrowinn.com