Bad News for Poe Buffs

Judge Robert Lippmann of the New York Supreme Court has ruled on the fate of Edgar Allan Poe’s former Greenwich Village residence, which New York University wants to tear down. (To read the decision, click here. To read the preservationists’ brief in Adobe Acrobat format, click here. To read Chatterbox’s previous item about this controversy, click here. And to see “Edgar Allan Poe-tato,” a statue in Providence, R.I., that renders Edgar Allan Poe as a Mr. Potato Head, click here.)

Lippmann’s decision is that the demolition may proceed. He concedes that “forthrightness was not strongly in evidence” when NYU’s lawyers presented their demolition plan to the state, but he doesn’t find any legal basis to block that demolition. He concludes:

As a leading academic institution where Poe’s cadences are still heard (one hopes), NYU would seem to be the natural guardian of the Poe House that is so near its classrooms. From a historical, cultural and literary point of view, Poe House should stand. Unfortunately, not even academia will champion its preservation. And without the laws’ authorization, nor can this court.

This is probably right on the law. It’s certainly right on NYU’s moral duty to preserve a literary landmark. Maybe NYU can still be shamed into letting the Poe residence remain, but Chatterbox doubts it. It hasn’t been shamed out of bulldozing the rest of the once-beautiful blocks south of Washington Square. Not even the house’s little-known role in fostering the birth of Internet journalism can likely save it now. …