Category Archives: Maplecroft

Maplecroft Neighbors: Lizzie on French Street

(Recycled post – originally published in July, 2008) 

Here’s a question I’ve pondered from time to time: Of those French Street and nearby neighbors, who might have visited Lizzie Borden that last year of her life? Weak and not recovered from her gall bladder operation, who went a-calling? No mystery in finding out who lived nearby; more difficult is assessing which neighbors would have visited her. One can only speculate. Here’s a scan from my 1926 and 1927 Fall River City Directories. Let’s take a peek at a sampling of those neighbors


Directly across the street from Lizzie at 309 French was Mrs. Emma Lake. Her son, Arthur Lake praised Lizzie in Joyce Williams’ Casebook, but there had been a property dispute between Lizzie and Mrs. Lake after Lizzie acquired half a lot adjacent and wanting it for an open park. It would seem Lizzie and Mrs. Lake ended their friendship on ugly terms. Perhaps Arthur was never made aware of that dispute.

Lizzie’s nearest neighbor to the east would be at 328 French Street, shown above. The 1926 Directory shows this house as apartments with Edwin Belcher a tenant and school teacher Harriet E. Henry (listed in the Directory as “Hervey”). By the time of printing of the 1927 Directory, Edwin Belcher is no longer a tenant. This property was purchased in 1925 by Harriet and then sold to Charles C. Cook, Lizzie’s business manager, in trust for Lizzie about 7 months before Lizzie’s death. That particular transaction would end up being reviewed by the State Supreme Court, but we’ll skip the details for now. This property is alternately referred to as the Henry House or the Davenport House (a previous owner and relation to Harriet). Note: The rod iron spiked fencing separating the properties was installed by Lizzie.

Lizzie’s nearest neighbor to the west, 324 French, would be John T. Swift. Swift was the lawyer Alice Russell, her conscious weighing heavily, first told of the dress burning incident. Had Swift not advised Alice to tell it to District Attorney Hosea Knowlton, we would not even know who Lizzie Borden was 115 years later. Shown here left to right is the Swift house, Maplecroft, and the Henry/Davenport house. Photo taken in 1998.

The next house east is 344 French where the widow Mrs. Isabella Hooper lived. Perhaps she and Lizzie visited? Exterior re-hab has been going on for years with this house and it looks much better in 2007. This photo was taken in 2005. Across the street and slightly east from Maplecroft, this structure existed in 1926 but I’m unable to locate the number from the 1926 or 1927 Directory. It is now a commercial property and often referred to as the “Baker” lot. Lizzie bequeathed to Charles Cook “my so-called Baker lot on French Street across from where I live.” I took this photo in 1999.

At the southeast corner of French and Belmont was John Summerfield Brayton, Jr., a BC&C (Big Cheese & Connected) whose crowing bird annoyed Lizzie and made her nervous over a quarter century before she died. Did John and Mary Brayton visit Lizzie? I don’t think so.

At 257 French was Everett M. Cook, Vice President of BMC Durfee Trust Company. Another BC&C, like so many on French Street. At 243 French was Elizabeth J. McWhirr, widow of Robert A. McWhirr, who may have been related to the great McWhirr department store. Did she go a-calling on Lizzie? I don’t think so.

At the southeast corner of French & June at 421 June was Marion Jennings – the daughter of attorney Andrew Jennings. It’s safe to say she did not call upon Lizzie. It’s further safe to say Marion had no knowledge of what lay inside an old hip bath covered with a tarp up in the attic of this house. Most likely, neither did Lizzie.


Carrie L. Borden is listed in 1926 at 492 Rock Street, but in 1927, only her sister Anna H. Borden. These ladies went on the Grand Tour with Lizzie in 1890. It is my educated guess that they were the two sisters that spoke in confidence to author Edmund Pearson when he was writing his long, first essay on the Borden case in Studies in Murder. It’s highly doubtful these ladies went a-calling to Miss Lizbeth of Maplecroft.

At 618 Rock was Jerome C. Borden, son of Cook Borden and Grace Hartley Howe’s uncle, and strong supporter of Lizzie in 1892-93. Jerome succeeded Andrew as President of Union Bank, but it’s doubtful Jerome ever presented his calling card at Maplecroft during Lizzie’s last year. While most genetic threads were woven tightly, some weaves became irreparably tattered.

At 451 Rock Street was the formidable Elizabeth Hitchcock Brayton, whose nephew, having inherited this stately granite beauty, donated it to the Fall River Historical Society in 1935.

Actually, the 400 thru 700 blocks of Rock Street in 1927 reads like a Who’s Who of Fall River. However, after Lizzie died, Fall River had about one good year remaining before its economy and stratified society would fade and dissolve like so much smoke drift from the iconic mill chimineys that marked its once great prominence and vitality.


The interesting thing about French Street is that at #96 French Street, just west of Rock Street, we find Gertrude M. Baker, long time English teacher at BMC Durfee High School. ( The 1927 Fall River High School Yearbook, “The Durfee Record”, is dedicated to Gertrude Baker). Gertrude owned a summer house on the beach in Linekin, East Boothbay, Maine. She was a friend of a later friend of Lizzie’s, Miss Helen Leighton (we’ll get to her in a moment) but the important thing is through this thread that bound, Miss Baker was a founder and Treasurer of the Fall River Animal Rescue League from 1914-1930. It seems more a gratuitous gesture for service rendered than one steeped in a personal friendship that Lizzie left Gertrude $1,000 in her Will. Miss Baker never married and when she died she left her money to her close friend, Helen Leighton, along with her beach house in Linekin. Lucky Helen.

Helen Leighton struck half of the mother lode upon Lizzie’s death being one of two primary legatees. Seven years younger than Lizzie, Miss Leighton graduated from nursing school in Fall River a month before Lizzie went to Trial for the double hatchet homicide. Helen had been nurse and companion to Eudora Borden Dean, daughter of that very wealthy Captain of Fall River Industry, Jefferson Borden. Smart Helen. In 1913, she had successfully solicited money from Lizzie to start the Fall River Animal Rescue League of which she became its President. Clever Helen. She moved to Boston in 1919 and Lizzie visited her there, taking in galleries and the theatre. She moved to Brookline, MA. in 1924, and when she died in 1947, newspapers reporting on the Borden case were found stuffed inside the walls of the Linekin beach house.

So there they are: Gertrude, Helen, and Lizzie – they could have all three been sisters judging by how they looked in these photographs. It’s anyone’s guess as to who introduced who to whom in this three-some, a constellation in orbit around Lizzie’s moon. These dames were really out of the same mold. Same hair styles, same glasses, same kind of dresses. I can almost visualize them at the Animal Rescue League Board of Directors meeting or even taking their time walking through some museum in Boston or New York. Not exactly your party-hardy type broads. Uh uh. But oh so very proper, yes indeed. Decorum, decorum, decorum. All were proper spinsters who loved animals. None ever married or had children of their own to enrich their lives, to nurture, to enjoy, to love, and who would return that love.

Grace Hartley Howe hit the other half of the mother lode, inheriting half of Lizzie’s half of Maplecroft, furniture, jewelry, books, carpets, personal effects, etc. Grace’s grandfather was Cook Borden, a brother of Abraham, Andrew’s father. In 1926, Grace and her husband Louis are in the 1926 Directory as having a residence at 636 Rock Street, but in 1927 Grace is living at 464 Locust. Louis McHenry Howe was chief advisor and political strategist to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt but lived in the White House, visiting his family at their Westport residence in Horseneck Beach. (Louis would die in 10 years and be buried at Oak Grove with FDR attending his funeral.) But here we see Grace was literally in walking distance to Lizzie in 1926 and 1927, and surely she must have visited her. I have long believed Grace was called by the Reverend Cleveland of the Church of Ascension and was at Maplecroft when Lizzie died. She would have been, after Emma, the next and, literally, nearest of kin. Ten years after Lizzie’s death, two years after the final probate of Lizzie’s Will, and one year after her husband died, Grace was appointed Postmistress of Fall River by President Roosevelt.

Of these three women, Gertrude, Helen and Grace, two (Helen and Grace) gave newspaper interviews in the week after Lizzie died. One other woman, definitely not neighbor nor friend of Lizzie’s when she died, also gave an interview – Nance O’Neil. Nance met Lizzie in 1904. By 1927, Nance had successfully transitioned from the stage to motion pictures. In the newspaper interview she remarked on Lizzie’s kindness, refinement, and intelligence, downplaying their relationship and characterizing it as “ships passing in the night.” She was not named in Lizzie’s Will. Nance lived long enough to have read several books on Lizzie published prior to 1965. Her ashes are entombed with her husband, Alfred Hickman at Forest Lawn cemetery in Glendale, California.

I think Lizzie was probably always ladylike and refined and masked her inner angst and depression when in public. We know she let that mask down with Miss Leighton, who, after Lizzie’s death, commented so definitively on Lizzie’s loneliness and depression in her later years. The Roaring Twenties, shorter skirts, bobbed hair, Lindberg racing across the Atlantic through the skies while she, Lizzie never did anything in a hurry. The “Flapper Age” must have come on like gangbusters and not suited her at all, much like the sexual liberation of the 1970’s to the Born Again Christians. No, I don’t think Lizzie liked the changing times. She was nervous and depressed enough and now all this fast living. (Mammy to Scarlett: “It ain’t fittin’, it just ain’t fittin’).

I can envision her, in her last year of life, sitting on her window box seat in her summer bedroom in Maplecroft. More alone and isolated than ever with only a tiny few who ever came a-calling. Dressed in a stylish lounging gown, too weak to go up and down the stairs every day, she would have spent much time wistfully looking at the houses below and at the young people coming and going. Perhaps a young man honking the horn of his tricked out Model T Ford for his girlfriend to come out. Twenty Three Skid-doo. I envision one of Lizzie’s dogs in her lap feeling the gentle strokes of her hand as she remembers a quieter time of proper deportment. The era of when ladies were ladies and conducted themselves accordingly was gone forever. Stroke…….Sigh……Stroke.

No wonder our “Lizbeth of Maplecroft” preferred Dickens and Trollup over F. Scott Fitzgerald.


1926 & 1927 Fall River City Directory

Unveiled: Miss Helen Leighton by Leonard Rebello, Lizzie Borden Quarterly, October 2000, Vol VII, #4.

1927 BMC Durfee H.S. Yearbook.

Last Will and Testament of Lizzie Andrew Borden.

Knowlton-Pearson Correspondence, Fall River Historical Society.

Famous Actors and Actresses on the American Stage, vol. 2, by William C. Young, 1975.

Lizzie Borden- Past and Present, Leonard Rebello, Alzack Press, 1999.

Conversations with Robert Dube, owner, at 306 French Street, August 3 & 5, 2007.


Newspaper Reports When Lizzie and Emma Purchased “Maplecroft”

maplecroftpenink1“Maplecroft” as it looked when Lizzie purchased it – showing shutters

Lizzie Borden was pronounced “Not Guilty” on June 20, 1893.  In less than two weeks, she and Emma were looking for a home “on the Hill” to purchase.  Within 3 weeks they had bought one, and less than a month later, they took possession.

The French Street home was not the first they considered, and when they did purchase #7 French Street, on August 10, 1893, they became the 3rd owner of the property.

July 1st  – less than 2 weeks after her acquittal this report on the Alfred Butterworth estate – neighbors weren’t happy with the prospect.  (Click on images for larger view and use “magnifying glass” feature).


On July 6th came this report:


Five days later – July 11th, the first report of the sale


The next day – this report – The property sold for close to $13,000.



August 10, 1893 – Final transaction – transfer of property from Charles W. and Alto Allen to Lizzie and Emma.



There’s only been 7 or 8 owners of the property in 123 years.  I think that rather remarkable.   Another remarkable thing – the original shutters are being restored and will be put back on, according to my friend, Kristee Bates, the current owner.

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Posted by on April 27, 2015 in lizzie borden, Maplecroft


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Lizzie Borden’s “Maplecroft” Home Sold


Finally, it happened.  After more than 2 decades trying to sell, owner Bob Dube succeeded last month.  The new owner, Kristee Bates of Dallas, Texas has plans to turn it into a Bed & Breakfast.  If her plans become reality, she couldn’t do better than to have Shelley Dziedzic be the Manager.  Her taste and affinity for the Victorian would bring class and elegance to the B&B experience.

I was first inside Mablecroft in 1992 during the Lizzie Borden Centennial Conference and again in 1999.  Since that time I’ve visited inside nearly every visit to Fall River as Bob Dube has been a good friend and gracious host.


Front Foyer Nov --2000

Parlour-Nov 2000

I’ve been fortunate to have spent the night there twice and used the downstairs commode (the door adjacent to the bench here) on many occasions.  It has the same tin ceiling as is in the kitchen.  And while passing nature’s liquid bodily waste, I have often stared upward at the ceiling and contemplated what might have been Lizzie’s thoughts as she did the same.   :)


Sadly, what is no longer at this French Street home is this beautiful stained glass window where Shelley posed in August, 1992 during the Conference and when Mr. Dube opened the house up for tours.


Nearly a decade after purchasing the home, Mr. Dube cited the stained glass windows in particular during the property settlements with his wife.


I’m certain Stefani Koorey, ever vigilant on the comings and goings of activity at Maplecroft, be it “For Sale” signs going up or if I’ve parked my rental in the driveway, will continue her binocular stakeouts when Ms. Bates moves in, and thus providing the details in her blog and Facebook postings.   Cautionary Note to Kristee: “Beware of neighbors bearing warm cookies of welcome.”   (wink, wink).

An now a look back at Maplecroft over the years – Click HERE.

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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Maplecroft


Declining Property Values in Lizzie Borden’s Hometown

Click on this page link and play around with the GPS imagery.

Property values have declined steadily in the past 20+ years in Fall River.  This property, next door to “Maplecroft” (Lizzie Borden’s post-Trial home) on French Street, was assessed at $258,500 in 2013.

The declining property values  are a result of Fall River’s declining economy and has put many homeowners “underwater” in their loans, i.e., they owe the bank more on their mortgage than the property is worth.

The hot topic in Fall River today concerns a possible mega resort/casino proposed by Foxwoods and the positive or negative effect it will have on the economy; those for it scream “we need the jobs”, those opposed yell “property value will decline”.  The mere mention of a casino being built in Fall River has the Bank of America sending out “heads up” letters that – from their POV -, the property that is the subject of this letter is worth only $222,491 in 2014.  In any event, it has some people waiving the letters and hollaring: “The sky is falling!  The sky is falling!  Stop the casino!”

Frankly, Fall River is on a path to being a sister city of Detroit if it doesn’t do something soon.


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Posted by on March 19, 2014 in Fall River, MA, Maplecroft


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Interactive Aerials of Where Lizzie Borden Lived 1st & 2nd Halves of Her Life

Here’s some fun stuff to play around with via Bing Aerial Maps.  Be sure to note other Fall River locations to the left.
This is 230 Second Street, Fall River, Ma.; otherwise known as 92 Second Street, otherwise known as The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum. This aerial image was taken in around 2001-2002,  My Fall River Lizzie friends and Lizzie Borden case experts will be able to name everything shown here in a two block radius – and maybe more. Lizzie lived here from the time she was 12 in 1872 until after her Acquittal in July, 1893.

Built by Southard Miller in 1845, the house has remained in the same location and virtually unchanged for nearly 170 years.  Since this aerial was taken, however, the house has changed ownership, been painted green, the L-shape Leary Press has been demolished, the bus terminal directly across the street has been relocated and an architectural monstrosity known as the Superior Court towers in its place,  Subtle symmetry?  Perhaps.

Shown here is the French Street home, (otherwise known as “Maplecroft”)  that Lizzie and her sister moved into several weeks after her acquittal in 1893. This aerial was taken around 2001-2002. The house in the bottom of the frame, partially cut off, was also owned by Lizzie and is now owned by Michael Brimbau (author of Girl With the Pansy Pin). Stefani Koorey, Mr. Brimbau’s girlfriend, moved in to this house in 2006, Interestingly, neither one have ever been inside “Maplecroft”, which has been owned by Robert Dube’ since 1980.
Lizzie lived here the entire second half of her life until she died in 1927.

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Sex, gore and schlock rock ratings. The Lifetime Movie Network airing of Lizzie Borden Took an Axe should have good ratings tonight (January 25th) – at least in the New England market. I find people here on the west coast, either haven’t heard about it, don’t care, or wouldn’t watch it anyway.  The current Lizzie Borden hype is more regional and of more interest (as to the accuracy of this production) by case experts than it is to the general public.

When anything airs about Charlie Manson and the Manson murders, it gets huge ratings here in SoCal because SoCal is where it happened.  People in Fall River don’t care that much about it.  And most of them in Fall River don’t care about Lizzie Borden.  It’s the sex and gore that attracts.  Always does.  Can you say “Jody Arias”?

However, I’m still kaphitzed about how this kind of crap perpetuates all the myths and misinformation and I’m certain this airing will move to the front of the line tonight in that regard. I hope when it begins showing there is a caveat in front of the Title feed that says: “Any resemblance to the real Lizzie Borden or consistency of facts is purely unintentional.” LOL

I think the curators at the Fall River Historical Society have shown their usual professional restraint and class in not seeking out to be interviewed in connection with this grossly inaccurate production.  Another person, however, has aggressively pursued being quoted or interviewed and is planning to strategically place herself in a local Fall River bar which will be airing the program and where the local print media will be showing up to interview customers – again planning to be one of them. .  Some people just LOVE getting their names in the paper – it serves to self-validate who they are and their own self-worth.  Sad.

One of my friends in Fall River said: “Faye, I’ll Skype you and you can watch it with me on my TV here 3 hours earlier!”   I said, No, that I was gonna record it and wouldn’t be near a TV anyway between 7 an 10:30 tonight.

Anyway, as to the quality and accuracy of LMN’s rendition of the Lizzie Borden case,  I don’t need to see two trains going head to head on the same rail to know the result.   Excuse them, Lizzie, for know not what they do.  Uhhh.  Scratch that.  They know exactly what they’re doing.  ;)

I, myself, am capitalizing on the thousands of Google searches that will undoubtedly follow the airing so as to sell off some of my overflow collection on eBay.  HERE, HERE, and HERE.

As to the REAL facts of the case, here’s a terrific 13 minute video by the Fall River Historical Society.  Please do yourself a favor and watch it!


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This is Lizzie Borden in 1922. This image appeared for the first time in the magnificent book: Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River – written by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette, Curator and Assistant Curator of the Fall River Historical Society. I snatched it from Pinterest, as posted by Stephen Martin. Lizzie died in 1927, just short of her 67th birthday.  If you really want to know about Lizzie, buy the book. 

PLWide    dennis-michale


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