Hearing that Baltimore's Edgar Allan Poe House was about to shut its doors, Connecticut graduate student Brooke Duffy jumped on a bus and headed south Friday morning.
"It just really surprised me that the city would have cut off funding for something that was so well-known," Duffy, 27, said after snapping pictures outside the North Amity Street rowhouse that Poe called home in the 1830s.
"I had been mapping out the places of Poe's life and trying to visit as many as possible. Coming to Baltimore was always one of the prime things on the list."
More than 50 people, including a group of more than a dozen children and their parents, visited the house Friday, the last day before city officials shut its doors. If all goes as planned, the house and museum will reopen, perhaps as early as next spring, under management of the newly formed nonprofit group Poe Baltimore.
"Poe Baltimore has a lot of work ahead of it," said Mark Redfield, a local actor and longtime Poe fan who is on the group's board. "For one, they have to start raising some money pretty soon. But I have faith. ... I think this board can pull it together and do some good."
Redfield spent most of Friday at the house, welcoming visitors and saying a few words before sending them off on a self-guided tour of the compact, three-story 19th-century rowhome.
Baltimore officials announced two years ago that they were no longer interested in operating the house, and cut its $85,000 annual operating budget from the city's spending plan. Last April, a consultant hired by the city recommended the formation of Poe Baltimore, and that the house be operated under an agreement with the nearby B&O Railroad Museum. Further details of the city's plan for the house will be unveiled at Wednesday's Board of Estimates meeting.
Across North Amity Street from the house Friday, Dave Mykita, a math teacher at Anne Arundel Community College and a friend of long-time Poe House curator Jeff Jerome, said he was sad to see the doors close and his friend out of a job. But he refused to be pessimistic, he said, as long as die-hard Poe partisans like Redfield have anything to say about the house's future.
"I was just talking to him, and some of the ideas they have sounded exciting," he said.