Poe & Doyle Victorian Crime Fiction – The Buchtelite

The mansion converted into a museum has an extensive exhibit exploring the invention of the detective through fiction, right on the campus of the University of Akron.

The Victorian mansion Hower House was built in 1871 and has long been home to one of Akron’s leading industrial families. The mansion was handed over to UA and turned into a museum in the 1970s. It is located at 60 Fir Hill St., just around the corner from Bierce Library.

The Hower House is currently presenting a new exhibition: “Poe & Doyle Victorian Crime Fiction.” Stepping into the museum is like traveling back into the lives of detective authors Edgar Allan Poe and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Each room is filled with information and displays dedicated to the minds of the authors and their contribution to crime writing.

A banner with a photo of the house from the past hangs on the fence of the museum. (Image via Savannah Johns.)

Tine Hreno, co-vice president of the Hower House Museum Guild, organized and curated the Poe & Doyle exhibit with the help of volunteers. Hreno also worked with Jennifer Bazar, deputy director at the Drs. Nicolas & Dorothy Cummings Center for the History of Psychology.

“When people visit the Poe & Doyle exhibit, they can expect to learn more about the two authors who I believe have had the greatest influence on the invention of crime fiction and mystery literature as a genre,” Hreno said. “Because we associate Edgar Allan Poe so strongly with The Raven, we often don’t see that he invented the detective in literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle trusted Poe’s work to create Sherlock Holmes. In addition, both literary collections were related to the need for detective and police work in their communities. Readers found comfort in the fantasy of detectives who could solve any crime.”

While staff and volunteers work tirelessly to maintain the beautiful home and educate the community, many students are unaware that this resource is in their backyard.

Tours are offered on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Friday through Saturday from noon to 3 p.m. Admission for students is only $2 with a school ID.

Poe and Doyle both remain esteemed authors, and they played pivotal roles in the creation of Victorian crime novels. Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series contributed to the invention of forensic science and were the first stories to have a fan base as the media has today. Sherlock Holmes could be responsible for both busting dangerous criminals and the fan culture surrounding franchises like Marvel or Star Wars, Hreno says.

“I had a lot of fun putting this together, especially when building the bust of Edgar Allan Poe,” Hreno said. She hopes people will enjoy walking through the exhibition, which tells the story of the different backgrounds and social statuses of the two authors.

“Poe came out of privilege, but always ended up looking for money from friends and colleagues. Doyle’s family was of much more modest means, but he made a fortune writing about Sherlock Holmes. Poe was an orphan and Doyle came from a large family. I’ve tried to contextualize their lives and work so that there’s a lot to think about.”

The museum also contains a shop filled with local products and Akron’s history. Students get a 10% discount in the store with their Zips ID.

The Cellar Door Store, Hower House’s gift shop, is located on the lower floor of the residence and has its own entrance at the rear. (Image via Savannah Johns.)

If you have an hour off this fall, come and enjoy the hard work of local curators and delve into this history of crime fiction. Lovers of history, art and literature can all find something of interest here.

More information about the Hower House can be found at: uakron.edu/howerhousemuseum/.

facebook: facebook.com/HowerHouse

Instagram: instagram.com/howerhousemuseum?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=

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