A princess, a boxer, a Phanatic, and a statesman are sitting in a bar eating cheesesteaks and soft pretzels having a Philadelphia Icons party with me. In walks Edgar Allen Poe…
This pretty much defines how I feel about Edgar Allen Poe as a Philadelphia Icon.
A “City of Neighborhoods”
Yes we are the “City of Brotherly Love” but as a resident Philadelphian I adhere firmly to the belief that we are a “City of Neighborhoods” and Poe does not check all of my “You’re a Philadelphia Icon if” boxes mostly because he isn’t from a neighborhood. He lived here for 6 years and wrote some major pieces of work here, he is undeniably a Literary Icon but as far as I’m concerned Baltimore can have him. I’ve made the argument in class that Poe was using Philadelphia as a launching pad into greatness (aren’t all Philadelphians) but that fact of the matter is he didn’t even live in a section of Philadelphia that was Philadelphia yet.
“Many of the current neighborhoods around Philadelphia existed as separate boroughs, districts and townships in the County of Philadelphia before absorption into the city via the 1854 Act of Consolidation. Before consolidation, Philadelphia’s city boundaries extended only as far as William Penn’s original plan, from the Delaware River to the Schuylkill and from Vine to South Streets.” Poe’s neighborhood didn’t even make the cut. “Consolidation brought into the city neighborhoods such as historic Germantown in the northwest, formally founded one year before William Penn’s arrival, and the Spring Garden community on the city’s northwest edge.”
Ben said it best, if you’re from the city and you meet someone from the city the first thing you asked is where did you grow up? And if the answer isn’t a neighborhood than you are probably going to doubt their Philadelphia-ness.
“Implicit in the “City of Neighborhoods” dynamic is the intense pride Philadelphians hold about the distinct residential areas comprising this city. Philadelphians love their city but they particularly love those sections of their city where they were born, raised and in many instances continue to live.”
Strike 1 Mr. Poe.
Exposure to your Home-City Icons
When born and raised in a city as wonderful as Philadelphia you are exposed at quite a young age to some ritualistic pilgrimages to places where icons walked and lived. Who didn’t go to the Betsy Ross house, the Franklin Institute, the Art Museum, or a Philadelphia sports game at least once during their Philadelphia childhood? If you aren’t making these pilgrimages yourself, then you are at least schooled in knowing when and where significant events in Philadelphia Icons lives happened.
I’m 25 years old and didn’t even know the Poe House existed in Philadelphia.
Now we can maybe blame that one on a sheltered childhood, or a lack of parental interest in exposing me to Philadelphia Icons properly but I’ve known where Grace Kelly lived, went to high school, and got married since I was 5. My sister changed her parish to get married at the same church as her even though she will never admit it. I knew Rocky ran up those steps since forever. And I certainly knew that the founding fathers were hanging out writing the Declaration of Independence in our fair city from a young age too.
*Side-note- Poe is definitely a literary Icon and my mom was an English literature major and still didn’t find the need to make me aware of “his” house.
Strike 2 Mr. Poe.
It’s my Party
Grace Kelly, East Falls. Rocky Balboa, South Philly. The Phillie Phanatic, South Philly. Bejamin Franklin, it doesn’t matter he harnessed electricity and was a founding father but we will give him Old City. I could offer my own personal Roxborough Icons that no one would know; mostly because they’re neighborhood people who grew up in and impacted my community while eating Wawa Hoagies and Deli’s cheesesteaks twice a week but I’ll just stick to my claims based on neighborhood pride and exposure to his story that Poe just can’t sit with MY Philadelphia Icons. Sure it’s a little Mean Girls of me, but who better than a Philadelphian to decide who makes the cut. Not everyone can be from Philadelphia- but my Philadelphia pride just couldn’t take the blow of admitting him to my Icons party.
Strike 3 Mr. Poe