The Providence Athenaeum is a two-story library that was built in 1753. It is the fourth oldest library in the United States. Both Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft were known to peruse the library's book collection. The Athenaeum is historically known as one of the key places in Edgar Allan Poe's courtship of his fiance, the poet Sarah Whitman. A play about the courtship between Poe and Whitman titled The Raven and the Dove held its premiere performance at the Athenaeum in 1986.
The library houses over 150,000 works from books to recordings. This includes rare editions of books by Walt Whitman, Herman Melville and Louisa May Alcott. The library spans two floors plus the rare book collection in the basement. Some of the bookcases are part of a mechanical system. As a crank is turned, book cases slide aside and move to the back as new bookcases emerge and reveal their collections. This ingenious mechanism allows for a larger collection to be stored in a very limited space. It is also fun to see in operation.
The Athenaeum has rare items written by both Poe and Lovecraft in its collection. It has been known to organize special events and readings in appreciation of America's two most influential horror authors.