Poe House Update!

The movement to stop New York University from demolishing Edgar Allan Poe’s Greenwich Village residence has gathered steam since Chatterbox last wrote about it. E.L. Doctorow and Woody Allen published letters in the New York Times last month urging that the building be saved. Neither, alas, mentioned the building’s important role fostering the birth of Internet journalism by sheltering Chatterbox during the summer of 1979, when he was an intern at The Nation. (It–the row house, not The Nation–was an NYU fraternity back then.) But we digress.

New York state Supreme Court Justice Robert D. Lippman has delayed the demolition while he reviews arguments from NYU and a small band of preservationists who are trying to save the building. Since the preservationists lack a legal basis for challenging the Poe demolition itself, they’re challenging another crucial component of NYU’s planned construction on the site–the sale to NYU by Judson Memorial Church (which was built by Stanford White, and, unlike the Poe house, enjoys landmark status) of the Judson Student House, which is also set to be demolished. (Click here to read the preservationists’ brief in Adobe Acrobat format.) The preservationists claim that the sale and the planned demolition proceeded without legally required notice to the public and to New York’s commissioner of parks, recreation, and historic preservation and also without legally required public hearings.

One argument commonly cited in favor of demolishing Poe House is that it no longer looks the way it did in 1845 and 1846, when Poe lived there. In fact, except for some minor alterations to the original ground level, the exterior looks the same. But don’t take Chatterbox’s word for it. Click here to see what it looked like in Poe’s day. Click here to see what it looks like today. And click here to see the staircase just outside the ground-floor room Chatterbox lived in during the summer of 1979. The interior may not match what it was during Poe’s lifetime, but it looks substantially the way it did 21 summers ago. And it almost certainly smells better.