Grounds of Historic Wissahickon Creek Home Boosted Spirit of Edgar Allan Poe

In a literary life racked with much pain and suffering, Edgar Allan Poe found few places of earthly comfort. One of those rare spots was in Philadelphia along the bucolic stretch of the Wissahickon Creek, a 23-mile creek running from Montgomery County, PA, to the Schuylkill River.

Autumn on the Wissahickon by Thomas Moran (1837-1926)

From his treks along the creek, Poe wrote “Morning on the Wissahiccon,” later reprinted in 1844 as “The Elk” in the 19th century magazine “The Opal.”

One of the most historic houses along the fabled waterway and parkland is the Spring Bank property, whose grounds are where Poe walked for inspiration for his travel essay in which he compared the countryside of the “Old World” with that of the “New World.”

But for all the celebrity Poe and other artists brought to the Wissahickon Creek, the Spring Bank house at 6700 Wissahickon Ave. was most importantly home to the most prominent Colonial era settlers of Philadelphia, the Rittenhouse family. Starting in 1690, and spanning 200 years and eight generations, the founders of the nation’s first paper mill spread their operation along hundreds of acres along the famous creek. The Spring House was built in 1730 and played host to generations of Philadelphia lore.

“Poe walked the property but this is not the Poe house, this is not a haunted house,” said listing agent Loretta Witt of Prudential Fox & Roach Realtors.

“I specialize in historic properties and have sold them for 28 years and this is one of the neatest I’ve ever listed,” Witt said.

The description for the West Mount Airy real estate market listing summarizes that history very well.

“A step back to colonial times when the Rittenhouse family owned hundreds of acres to the Wissahickon Creek, when Edgar Allen Poe walked on the property and wrote ‘Morning on the Wissahickon,’ and later when then owner John Welsh entertained international VIP’s during the 1876 Centennial International Exhibition.

“Today, Spring Bank is a stunning home with generous spaces, architectural distinction having been renovated by Frank Furness in the late 19th century, details unique and beautiful, and pleasing 21st century upgrades: top-of-the-line eat in kitchen, all new bathrooms including a master bath with marble finishes, new heating and central air, upgraded electric.” Witt said.

“Broad open and closed porches overlook the rear grounds. This 3-story stucco and clapboard home sits at the edge of a natural green valley looking toward the Wissahickon with views reminiscent of the Hudson River School genre of art.”

Witt said the current owners renovated the property after purchasing in 2005, paying careful attention to preserve the architectural design and features. But one of the biggest draws for the $1,285,000 listing is the proximity to the creek, which is park of Philadelphia’s extensive Fairmount Park system.

Edgar Allan Poe

The last few miles of the Wissahickon runs through a deep gorge, a dramatic scene whose beauty attracted not only Poe, but other writers including George Lippard, Christopher Morley, Mark Twain, and John Greenleaf Whittier. But as AOL Real Estate noted, it was Poe’s rhapsody on the verdant landscape that immortalized the place.

The Wissahiccon, a brook, (for more it can scarcely be called,) which empties itself into the Schuylkill, about six miles westward of Philadelphia. Now the Wissahiccon is of so remarkable a loveliness that, were it flowing in England, it would be the theme of every bard, and the common topic of every tongue . . . The Wissahiccon, however, should be visited, not like “fair Melrose,” by moonlight, or even in cloudy weather, but amid the brightest glare of a noonday sun; for the narrowness of the gorge through which it flows, the height of the hills on either hand, and the density of the foliage, conspire to produce a gloominess, if not an absolute dreariness of effect, which, unless relieved by a bright general light, detracts from the mere beauty of the scene.