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Inside Lizzie Borden’s Renovated Maplecroft

Created by author Rebecca Pittman – The History & Haunting of Lizzie Borden.  Enjoy.

BTW, while I think Kristee Bates has done a very good job in renovating “Maplecroft”, I still do not think this is how Lizzie had it furnished and decorated in her day.  Lizzie selected only the very best of furnishings, fixtures and equipment because she could well afford it.  Her home, which she nurtured and lovingly maintained as if it were her child, had the very best appointments.  She bought only “the very best”.   Kristee worked on a budget and it does not escape the discerning eye.  Nonetheless, it is still beautiful and representative of Victorian homes of the 1890’s.  However, one only has to go to the Fall River Historical Society  or the Easton Tea Room (1870 Alexander Dorrance Easton residence also owned by the FRHS) to see the high quality wallpaper and exceptional quality furniture donated over the years.  The difference is remarkable and unmistakable.  There one will find furniture and fixtures inside these two establishments closer to what “Miss Lizbeth” would have had in her own home.

While the precise decade (1893 to 1927)  Maplecroft’s renovated interior  is reflecting is unclear, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum is furnished exactly as it would have been on August 4, 1892.  Aspiring and inspired detectives can play out what they know or suspect of the crimes with a full and thoroughly captivating  “stage”.   Kudos to the original “set decorators” and Kudos to General Manager Lee-ann Wilber  (since 2004)  and owner, Donald Woods,  who have not altered  its base authenticity.

And a special Kudo to Rebecca Pittman for providing us with the first ever video showing the interiors of both the Second Street and French Street homes in which Lizzie lived the entire first half and entire second half of her life, respectively.   Well done!

 

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If You Could Have Only One Book on Fall River’s Lizzie Borden – This Would Be It.

Click HERE

 

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Prepare yourself – – this book is justly warranted, as well as worthy, of such a lengthy review.

Exquisitely produced, brilliantly structured, thrilling and groundbreaking in its content, Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River is a seven pound, 1,179 page, ten-years- in-the-making epic that had it been written as a historical novel it would be right up there with Roots, The Secret Magdelene, and Gone With The Wind. It is a book of transformation and revelation – transforming in the way it compels readers to alter their mental landscape when thinking of Lizzie Borden, and filled with stunning revelations that meticulously dissect rumors and legend long thought to be truth. It is so rich and full it would constitute several Master’s Thesis, multiple biographies, and even a few individually published books based on its title. Indeed, it is so spectacular in scope and content, all future authors who write of Lizzie Borden must incorporate information from Parallel Lives or find their work irrelevant.

The book is a treasure trove of new information about Lizzie taken from the journals, letters, cards, photographs, artifacts and remembrances of those that knew her personally, much of which was coveted by their owners who were resolved in their belief that Lizzie “could not have committed those crimes.” Their beliefs and tangible mementos were passed down to third and fourth generation descendents who continued to keep them sequestered and private until trusted relationships were established between them and the authors.

Masterfully woven within the new information are expanded stories of known individuals and events (some prominent, some little or previously unknown) that had an impact on Fall River’s history and society.  The authors have beautifully crafted the world in which Lizzie Borden lived (from her birth in 1860 to her death in 1927). And while the crimes of August 4, 1892 are presented, allusions to or fresh insights on whether or not Lizzie was guilty are not presented. In fact, the murders and who did them become almost inconsequential to the broader tapestry presented throughout the chapters with its more than 500 photographs and other images, including 5 new images of Lizzie never seen before. Who committed the crimes or the case itself, are overshadowed by the depth and breadth of all that which deals with the people and stories within.

The book progresses almost chronologically in terms of events of each decade. People are often introduced in chapters with no mention of Lizzie but later re-introduced in the decade in which they factored into her life. The chapters are so beautifully written and the photographs so beautifully reproduced within the book that we can almost feel the silk and lace as we read their wonderfully detailed descriptions. We can rub our finger across the image of a pocket watch and feel the grooved indentations, or one of Lizzie’s traveling suitcases and feel the contrast of the brass to the leather. We can smell and see the wedding flowers and the sparkle of jewelry at the Assemblies and grand parties. The meticulous effort in the use of adjectives is remarkable. It is fairly obvious the authors wanted to be as accurate and precise as possible when applying descriptors to people, places and things.

The “reveals” of new information and closure of legends are bountiful and thoroughly engaging. We learn so much of Mary Ella Sheen (Mrs. George S. Brigham) and her sister, Anne Eliza Sheen (Mrs. William Lindsey, Jr.), two sisters whose lives took very different trajectories. Mary was Lizzie’s friend since girlhood and the future mother-in-law of Florence Cook Brigham, but Anne had been her friend as well for most of their lives. Anne was a “Grand Dame” and lived the kind of life that Lizzie most probably would have wanted for herself. We also learn that not only was Grace Hartley Howe such a close and devoted second cousin to Lizzie, we discover that Helen’s mother had a friendship that also was life lasting with Lizzie.The reveal of the true identity of “Todd Lunday” would have been anticlimactic had it not been for the intriguing story associated with it, or the story of Officer Phillip Harrington and police reporter Edwin Porter who penned the Fall River Tragedy and why Porter may have left Fall River so soon after its publication. Nor have we read anywhere the connection of reporter McHenry and City Marshall Hilliard. (I suspect that many “reveals” were derived from the so called “Hilliard Papers” which have been in the Society’s hands for 22 years).

We learn certain elitist members of the seven “first” families did a fine job in two-facing Lizzie after the Trial; they “cut” her quite severely and most obviously spoke of her “guilt”- handing down their opinions to their children who maintained those opinions and passed them down to their children. On the other hand, those that kept friendships and believed Lizzie was not and “could not” be guilty passed that info down to their children. The difference was that many of those who believed in her guilt spoke out, influenced by a biased press and the embryonic beginnings of misinformation that would grow with a sinister sustainability. Between those that “cut” (socially banished) her and the relentless and continuous newspaper coverage, the damage had been done. She endured that damage throughout her post-Trial life, and it subsequently served to give us a Lizzie Borden that is so grossly mis-characterized in contemporary pop culture.

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Mr. Martins and Mr. Binette have stated it was only when they explained the kind of book they were writing and, more importantly, after a solid basis of trust was established, that the possessions and remembrances were revealed. I strongly suspect much of what may have been was done so with soft-spoken caveats or perhaps some asserted caveats along the lines of:“Well, you may use these journals (or photos, or letters, or cards, or remembrances) but I trust you will present Auntie Borden (or Lizzie) in a good light because she never could have done those murders.”And/or:”I would consider it a great injustice to finally make this information known if it were used to give a poor impression of this wonderful woman or lend any credibility to the horrible reputation she endured during and after her life.”For decades, the curators of the FRHS have been meticulous in documenting the “drop in” visits or phone calls from people – many descendents of the principals – as to what they had to say and when. These “notes to file”, so to speak, have been preserved in their respective file folders and filed with the relative topics. These contain more of the “reveals”, some as surprising as finding out JR getting shot was only a dream, or Scarlett realizing she loved Rhett all along, or Edward glistening out of the cloud bank. As stated, the revelations are thrilling and and transforming.

The authors were literary craftsmen in the way they told these stories, presenting the information from the journals or letters, and in detailing information about the people involved without trumpeting a new path but sufficient to give you pause. The book is peppered with phrases such as: “Is it possible that…”, or “Although we can never know for certain, could it be that…”, or “Would it seem likely that…” and we pause on the page and hearing ourselves utter “hmmmm” and suddenly realize we are thinking things differently.

The End Notes are extraordinary and I found them thrilling to read. When reading, one says: “Where did they get that from?” and we go to the End Notes which are flush with information. Our eyes don’t just stay on the sight bite but naturally scroll downward until we know where most all the information for that chapter came from. The End Notes tell us more about relationships and just who had what information and for how long. The End Notes help us identify what came from FRHS “notes to file” as opposed to who held on to what for decades and allows us to identify from where the bulk of new information came.

Lizzie Borden has long been encapsulated in pop culture based on an inaccurate quatrain characterizing her as a one dimensional psychopath wielding a bloody axe. Parallel Lives has irrevocably transformed and revealed Lizzie Borden to be a three dimensional flesh and blood human being with heart, spirit and soul. Indisputably, this is the new “go to” book which researches and scholars studying the history of Fall River during its rise and decline, as well as the woman herself, will discover impossible to find anything more definitive or comprehensive, more exciting or enlightening.

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Parallel Lives is a monumental achievement and a body of work to make the entire Fall River Historical Society proud. It is representative of that level of excellence consistent in all endeavors of Messrs. Martins and Binette. It is truly a remarkable and unique work – the likes of which we shall not see again.

 
 

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Regarding that Chloe Sivigny-Kristen Stewart Film on Lizzie Borden

Prepare yourself for another grossly fictitious telling of the Lizzie Borden story – this one showing her as having a lesbian affair with the maid, Bridget Sullivan.  Read about it HERE.

Aside from the two female stars, everyone else now attached to the project are pretty much unknowns.  Sadly, the work of the Director tells us a lot about the genre and qualilty of this yet to be produced film.

When, oh, when will we ever have a true depiction of this most compelling case?

Sigh.  And so it goes.

Meanwhile, enjoy this “Then and Now” image depicting the Sitting Room at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River.

SOFA LBBphoto credit Joey Razda

 

 

 

 

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Lizzie Borden’s Maplecroft: To B or Not to B&B

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Photo by Deborah Allard, Fall River Herald News

It’s been over a month since the Facebook page “Lizzie Borden’s Maplecroft” has revealed an update of the renovation progress or information on planned opening date for tours.

It is still most likely the residence where Lizzie lived the entire second half of her life will NOT be operated as a Bed & Breakfast as first indicated by Kristee Bates.   

While curators Rebello and Pavao have been on the hunt for furniture, fixtures and artifacts associated with the home during the period Lizzie lived there (1893-1927), they have yet to discover and acquire items with the “Wow” factor, such as the bed in which Lizzie died. 

Unlike 92 Second Street, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum, where the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden took place on August 4, 1892, there is not one fixed date of historical significance at 306 French Street.  Lizzie lived there for 35 years but only 12 with her sister, Emma (1893-1905).  So will the furnishings depict that period or post Emma?  Will it depict furnishings and artifacts of the elderly Lizzie?  Styles in home decor differed greatly from the mid and late 1890’s as cultural shifts in society changed from the Edwardian era to World War I to the Jazz Age.  Definitely a curating – let alone a seek and obtain – challenge.

One of the basic tenants of marketing an event is to build excitement.  If the event is to draw attention and excitement about a future tourist attraction, titillating “teasers”  are essential.  No doubt whenever the opening, there will be significant local interest.  Local media reporting will feed into the regional news, but with ongoing good marketing appeal would extend to national and international interest.   And our treasured Lizzie Borden and her story is not landlocked within our own shores.

Early on in Ms. Bates renovation endeavors she sent me nearly a dozen short videos of her sweat equity.  From the “steeple” room where she plans (planned?) to have “tarot card readings”, to the 3rd floor (attic, i.e., servant’s quarters), to kitchen, to basement, to enclosed porch “where I’ll serve tea and crumpets” these videos show exactly what was being done and explained by Kristee herself.    IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE THESE VIDEOS, EMAIL ME AND I’LL SEND THEM TO YOU.

There are those who do not think “Maplecroft” will open to the public at all.   Perhaps it will be a seasonal thing and for tours only.   Whatever the use it should be marketed effectively.  The Lizzie Borden B&B Museum is self-marketing – Maplecroft is not.

 

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Lizzie Borden’s Impeccable Taste at “Maplecroft”

Time to revisit Maplecrof – Lizzie Borden’s home for the entire second half of her life.  She had great pride in this house which she nurtured, maintained, and coveted  as if it were the child she never had.

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Former owner, Bob Dube and current owner Kristee Bates – Fall River Herald News photo

House was purchased on November 21, 2014 by Twilight Enterprises (actually Howard and Kristee).

While its been written and often stated that Lizzie and her sister moved into a mansion on The Hill, the Charles M. Allen house was not a mansion.  Newport had mansions –  Fall River had stately Victorian homes.  “Maplecroft” was purchased in November 2014.

The house even has its own Facebook Page.  (A webpage by the new owner is being developed and you can set up a Google alert to stay current.  It’s aptly named “Lizzie Borden’s Maplecroft.”)

The Fall River Herald News ran this article on early discoveries Kristee made of her renovation endeavors.

Last year, Kristee sent me fragments of the original wall paper and drapes from Lizzie’s front bedroom which I framed and show here:

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Lizzie seems to have favored the darker colors, unlike her dining room paper shown below.

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Front Foyer Nov --2000

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There are attempts to identify and acquire books Lizzie owned  which, when signed by her, can cost several thousand dollars.  Copies on display in Maplecroft would most certainly lack the “oooohh” and “aaahhh”  factor as only things that really belonged to her will deliver satisfaction to visitors.  For example, having a tour guide correctly state: “And this is the bed that Lizzie Borden died in.”

The house – as a tourist attraction – will have to be furnished with exquisite and tasteful furniture, fixtures, and other appointments that Lizzie herself would have purchased. Such acquisitions will be costly and difficult to find or otherwise acquire, however, will grant great credit to the new owners if achieved.  I wish them the best of success in these endeavors and look forward to their progress.

 

 

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Lizzie Borden in Hawaii

I decided to take Lizzie Borden with me to Hawaii this year.  Aside from bringing the most inappropriate clothing and a few surprising missteps in behavior, she was a most agreeable travel companion.

I usually stay on the more touristy side of the Big Island, Kona, but this year opted for Hilo – the only place in the entire State that is still representative of old time Hawaii.

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DSCN6421From the balcony of our hotel room we had a view of the cruise ships harbored in the distance.

Lizzie so enjoyed watching them sailing in and out and told me of her voyage on the Grand Tour in 1890.DSCN6657

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DSCN6685  I was surprised at her exploratory nature at my friend’s 5 acre estate just north of Hilo.

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“Lizzie get down from there, you’ll hurt yourself.”

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“That’s better.”

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One day we drove straight across the middle of the island on the new between the two volcanoes.

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Lizzie was in awe of its beautiful terrain.

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We lunched in Kailua Kona.

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We visited the old stone church across from the Queen’s Palace…….

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….where Lizzie suddenly became distressed that no one was in the pews.  I had to remind her it was Thursday.

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At one point she even climbed aboard the display of the ship on which the missionaries sailed from Boston in the 1870’s.

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Lizzie loved the many beaches and when she asked “Will we see more up the roadway?” , I answered “Since we’re on an island, I’d be saying Yes.”

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At the famous Rainbow Falls.

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“Lizzie, you’re too far out…..come in closer to shore.”

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“Thank you.”

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Sunrise.

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Moonrise.

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Always conscious of her deportment, I was surprised on one occasion having to say:  “Lizzie, get up off the table, you’re embarrassing yourself.”

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But in all fairness, this is what occurred a little earlier.

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Aside from that misstep, the trip was amazing for both Lizzie and myself.   I may even take her next year.

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Aloha and Mahalo.

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Translation of Newly Found Letter Written by Lizzie Borden

Translation of Newly Found Letter Written by Lizzie Borden

Since improved images of a letter written to Frances Willard dated July 23, 1893, have been posted on the Frances Willard House Museum website, I can provide a translation.

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Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard (1839-1898) was an American educator, temperance reformer, and women’s suffragist. Her influence was instrumental in the passage of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.

My translation is as follows:

Fall River
July 23 – 1893

My Dear Friend

I can hardly
tell you how much
comfort and joy
your letter gave me.

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I thank you and
Lady Henry Somerset
from my heart for
the love and trust
you give me.
I appreciate it all

 

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the more as you
did not know
me yet still had
faith in me.
We have again
offered a reward
but our senior

counsel Ex. Gov. Robinson
did not deem it
wise to increase
the amount.
We have little hope
of our finding the
guilty one after so
long a time has
elapsed.
I hope some time
you and Lady
Henry Somerset
may come to America
and that we may
visit face to face.
With sincere regards
to you both, I am
yours in loving hands

Lizzie A. Borden

 

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Lady Henry Somerset

 

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Collectibles, lizzie borden

 

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