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“The Monster Beside Me” – Lizzie Borden

19 Jul

NEWS: I’ve started another blog and added it to my Blogroll:  Insoymada.  Check it out.

Architecturally speaking, Scale and Form can be utilized to transcend the historic into new visuals of beauty.  But not in the case of the new court house across the street from where Lizzie Borden used to live.

In 1892, Lizzie could step out the front door of her humble but adequately furnished below-the-hill home onto the granite steps and peer directly across the street – straight ahead – to a small orchard, and from there scan left to a Chinese laundry, then fixing her eyes  diagonally right to the Dr. Bowen-Southard Miller double house.  All familiar.  All as it should be.

Fast forward to 2010:  The new grotesque Superior Court building, bounded by Second Street on the east and Main Street on west,  looms over a whole city block and can be seen in this new Google ariel showing the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum right across the street.  You’ll notice right off Google has the wrong location named “Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast”. (Google often gets the labeling wrong on these aerials, i.e., my own house in Payson, AZ is located at the wrong end of the horseshoe loop).  Anyway, you’ll have to use the “hand grasp” thingy and move it to the right to get the proper fix, but you’ll find it easy enough – then just increase the size on the scale thingy to the left.

From the architectural rendering:

Through construction phases:

St. Mary’s Church can be seen at the far left.  (“Windows?  Windows?  We dun’t need no stinkin’ windows”.)

My forearm covers my eyes, pained by the penetrating brilliance of its genius design.  (Hark!  Is that Mssrs. Cortlandt and Enright sharing a cigar of victory behind the truck?)   (I can see Howard Roark atop the crane, planting explosives, no doubt).

So there it is.  In all it’s majestic splendor.  There is, however, something to be said for this edifice of justice being sited almost directly in front of the town’s most infamous and compelling former resident.  There’s a certain symmetry regarding the purpose of this structure and the fact her legend has loomed large for over a century – out of scale and form to the facts of the case and her character in general.   That this odious structure, so out of scale and form with the neighborhood, is planted square where the crime took place is as if a gigantic concrete, chalk-coated foot stomped down to implant its not so-subliminal message:  “To hell with historic preservation – let justice be served!”   To those that see no symmetry but only lament about the lack of parking, you can join with me in my other concern:  What if the new court building is haunted?    (A current rumor has it ectoplasm wafted its way across the street and now the Court’s fourth floor is haunted by the Reverend Avery and the lobby by Lizzie).  Eeeeeyaaaaaaaa.

Far cry from the look of the court house (“same court”,  i.e., the State of Mass. Superior Court) in which Lizzie was tried in 1893 in New Bedford.

And it looked this way for a long time – even long after Lizzie died in 1927:

The August 4th anniversary is rapidly approaching and for those out-of-towners who trek to the annual B&B re-enactments – well, they’re sure to be impressed as they gaze upwards from those granite steps in front of 92 Second Street.

Anyway, architecturally speaking, Lizzie would not approve.

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