POE AND VIRGINIA’S FAVORITE HAUNT
HIRAM HAINES' COFFEE & ALE HOUSE
12 West Bank Street, Petersburg, Virginia
Established 1829—Reborn 2010
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The building in which Edgar Allan Poe and Virginia Clemm spent their honeymoon was constructed in 1814 by Richard Hannon, owner of the nearby Powhattan Plantation. From its inception, the structure was a luxury hotel and "restorative" run by a French-Jamaican émigré, Richard Rambaut and his wife, the Countess Elise de Rochefoucauld (formerly married to a descendant of the famous French philosopher). After a market crash in 1827, Rambaut wrote a lengthy letter to his wife, and took poison, allegedly in the hotel. (Psychics have attested to his spirit still pacing on the second floor). Local poet and newspaper editor Hiram Haines took over the restorative in 1829, and moved his wife and six children into the adjacent No. 16. No pictures of the coffee house exist, other than the 19th-century illustration below, which shows a portion of Number 12, and all of Number 16 as it appeared at the time. The main level was used as the newspaper offices.
Whether by accident or design, the details about Edgar’s and Virginia’s brief escape from Richmond have remained elusive, and rarely pursued.
But Hiram Haines, a minor poet and editor of the American Constellation in Petersburg, was pivotal in the couple’s choice of a honeymoon venue. Haines played an important role in Poe’s Richmond years, but few historians have examined their relationship in any depth.
When the elderly General Lafayette visited Richmond in 1824, a young cadet at Burkes Academy, Lieutenant Edgar Allan Poe, led his "Richmond Junior Volunteers" in saluting the Revolutionary War hero with swords drawn. A day later, when Lafayette traveled 20 miles south to Petersburg, 22-year-old Hiram Haines, already known as a local poet, kicked off the general’s visit with a poem of welcome at Niblo’s Tavern.
No one knows exactly where or how these two young men befriended each other. But Haines’s wife, the daughter of a wealthy Richmond merchant, knew and played with Poe as a child. The pair were often mistaken for brother and sister and resembled each other greatly, according to Haines' family records.
By 1829, Hiram Haines' Restorative and Coffee House was a gathering place for poets, journalists, and intellectuals of the region.
Upstairs, luxurious living spaces surpassed much of what was available in Richmond and were touted as being worthy of "presidential visits" in newspaper ads of the time.
Poe first visited the coffee house while he was with the Southern Literary Messenger, and his friendship with Haines blossomed during his years at that publication. When Poe and Virginia married, it provided the perfect escape for a brief honeymoon getaway. One local historian, Catherine Copeland, states that the couple was wined and dined in Petersburg for two weeks before returning to Richmond. (Bravest Surrender, A Petersburg Patchwork, 1961)
Haines and his wife operated the coffee house/restorative from 1829 until late in 1836, when, beset by financial problems he sold it. While still a young man, Haines died of bilious pleurisy in 1841. His grave, in Blandford Cemetery, has recently been restored.
In 2010, Hiram Haines Coffee House reopened once again, reflecting an environment in which Eddy, Sissy and their friends would have felt right at home.
HIRAM HAINES COFFEE & ALE HOUSE IS NOW OPEN
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS
11 AM to 4 PM, then 6 to 11 PM
SUNDAYS, 2 TO 7 PM
SERVING FINE BEERS AND WINES, COFFEE, TEA, DESSERTS, AND REGULAR DINNER SPECIALS
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