Thursday, September 23, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage/ Maritime Industry Museum

3/13/10; Saturday, continued

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage ……..……................. 5 min
Maritime Industry Museum ………………..…... 1 hr

Edgar Allan Poe Cottage ……..…………..…... under construction
Maritime Industry Museum …………………... Free

PAUL HERE:  Continuing the story of our visit to the Bronx during the “Day of the Storm,” our third stop was the Edgar Allen Poe Cottage.  This is just off the Grand Concourse in the Bronx.  The Grand Concourse is an amazing street, easily one of the most aesthetically stunning streets I have ever seen.  Modeled after the Champs-Élysées in Paris, but larger in scope and length, the Grand Concourse is a 4 mile Art Deco masterpiece, and a drive down this road is a museum visit in its own right.

The Edgar Allan Poe Cottage was the final residence of the famous American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849).  In this farmhouse, after losing his wife Virginia to tuberculosis, Poe wrote some of his best known works, including Annabel Lee, Ulalume, The Bells, and Eureka.  The tiny white cottage is located on a small triangle of land in the middle of the concourse (not surprisingly called Poe Park), next to a visitor’s center, which seems to be perpetually under construction.  When we went, the building was closed so we did not go inside.  However, I felt that navigating through a torrential rainstorm to see a tiny cottage was a fitting tribute to the tormented author, so we checked it off our list and ran back to the car to find someplace drier to visit.

PAULINE HERE:  I have to say something here.  Paul, bless his heart, is somewhat of a hopeless romantic.  While he saw a cottage in a park, I saw a dilapidated shed sitting at a bit of a slant in a muddy traffic island, surrounded by a rusty fence that had clearly been there a while.   The “cottage” is under construction for at least 2 years.  While it's difficult to imagine what they could possibly be doing to a shed in a traffic island that would take that long, it does mean that we won’t be able to visit it during the duration of our “Museum-a-thon.”  I’ll try to overcome my disappointment.

PAUL HERE: Our next stop was clear across the Bronx, east to the Throggs Neck peninsula where the East River meets Long Island Sound.  Our destination was the historic Fort Schuyler, a pre-Revolutionary War fort once part of a gauntlet of forts built to protect the New York harbor.  Fort Schuyler has been lovingly restored and now houses the State University of New York (SUNY) Maritime College (founded in 1874 it was the first college of commercial nautical instruction in the U. S.) and the Maritime Industry Museum.

The location of this particular museum, jutting out on a low peninsula into Long Island sound, was probably not the best choice to visit during a major storm.  However, it was open (kind of).  There was no one around as we made our way through Fort Schuyler to the museum, making it difficult to find the right door, and we wandered around the chapel and an empty library before we found our way.  The museum ended up being located in the hallways of the old fort, which also doubles as classroom space for the school.  This is important as there was a troop of Boy Scouts and Explorer Scouts getting maritime training during our visit there.  The hallways were largely echoing darkened corridors containing only ship pieces and models, but every once in a while we would surprise a scout intently working on a project, garnering quizzical looks, as if asking “I am required to be here during a massive storm, what’s your excuse?”

The Maritime Industry Museum houses exhibits on the history of the United States maritime industry, including commercial shipping, the merchant marine, and the port of New York, as well as exhibits on the history of Fort Schuyler.  It is a treasure trove of scale models of ships, artifacts from shipwrecks (including dinner plates from the Titanic), large pieces of shipping equipment, and a vast detailed history of the Port.  As we walked through the long, dimly lit barrel vaults of the old fort, we got a feel for the importance of the port, and the hard work and sacrifice of the people who ran it.  We also really felt the love some people have for ships.  There are at least a dozen detailed ship models of various classes and sizes, most of them built by a single person, Frank Cronican.  These are not just plastic snap-together models. No, these are hand made, delicately crafted models that are awe inspiring in their intricacy, and clearly took a huge amount of work. The man who built these models loved his ships. 

I think that is what sets this museum apart from others we have seen.  This museum feels like a labor of love.  There was a passion for the subject that we could feel in the bones of the place.  The museum is funded, staffed, operated and maintained strictly though volunteer support and donations.  Many Maritime College cadets volunteer time to serve as museum tour guides and provide exhibit construction and upkeep, and alumni participate in periodic "work parties" to do their share.  While the museum was modest, it made a very strong impression on both Pauline and I, and we were very happy to have braved the storm to see it. 

Images in this post, from the top: silhouette of a ship model in the Maritime Industry Museum, the front steps of the Bronx County Courthouse, located on the Grand Concourse; photograph of Edgar Allan Poe; entrance of Fort Schuyler; lobby of the Maritime Industry Museum; dinner plates recovered from the wreck of the U. S. S. San Diego; ship model in the hallway of the Maritime Industry Museum; scene from "A Day in the Life at the Brooklyn Naval Yard," a replica model of the Brooklyn Naval Yard during World War II circa 1942-44 built by Chief Yeoman Leo J. Spiegel, USN (ret.); sailor's wristwatch recovered from the wreck of the Relief Light Ship.


  1. There is a picture of Poe's cottage in the Bronx on the wikipedia site, and it is definitely a cottage, not a shed, though the photo may not represent the structure as it was at the time you saw it. It is only right and fitting that a Poe memorial should be visited during a torrential rain storm. I went to his former house in Philadelphia on a bright sunny day and it seemed that something was lacking. - Mike

  2. It's "aesthetically" (having to do with art or bodily sensation), not "ascetically", (rigorous self-denial and austerity)

  3. We've corrected the typo. Thanks for caring enough to point it out. (We're still a little amazed that other people read this, let alone that they care about our typos!)