Lizzie Borden took an ax fans can take a snooze

July 12, 1995|By Providence Journal-Bulletin

FALL RIVER, Mass. -- To Lizzie Borden buffs around the country, the Borden house has long been a mystery, the missing link in a darkly Oedipal puzzle.

Now, the owners of the unassuming Greek revival house on Second Street are thinking of opening the former Borden home to the public.

Ronald Evans and Martha McGinn want to transform the private residence into a bed and breakfast/museum that would cater to Lizzie devotees who want to sleep in the rooms where Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered on Aug. 4, 1892.

"One of the biggest trends in this country is bed and breakfast," said Mr. Evans. "We'd furnish the house in the Victorian style, sell little mementos, Lizzie postcards and T-shirts.

"Most museums take five to 10 minutes and you walk out of there," he said. "It might be fun for people to spend the night, if you dare."

Mr. Evans envisions a tasteful tribute to the most famous murder trial of the 19th century. No rubber hatchets or ghoulish artifacts here. Instead, he pictures couples playing chess or Parcheesi by the fire in a room lined with books.

Although the city has kept Lizzie under wraps for more than a century, interest in the murder has never waned. Mr. Evans and Ms. McGinn said they get hundreds of letters and phone calls a year from people who want to tour the house.

A Lizzie fan from Pennsylvania recently paid a friend of Ms. McGinn's $250 to visit the Borden house, across the street from the bus station and sandwiched next to Leary Press.

A brick from the chimney, which was recently renovated, sold for $25 at a yard sale, then for $100 a short time later.

Ms. McGinn and Mr. Evans have contacted Mayor John Mitchell's office to find out what must be done to satisfy zoning and public safety requirements.

"This is still in the planning stage," Mr. Evans said. "We want to make sure we have enough rooms to cover expenses and make a profit. We're waiting for the city to get back to us."

The owners are also meeting with the Fall River Area Chamber of Commerce tomorrow to discuss how best to promote a Borden bed and breakfast. A representative from the Salem Witch Museum will attend the meeting and describe what made that venture so successful.

Ms. McGinn said she began brainstorming what to do with the house after her grandparents died last year. John and Josephine McGinn had lived in the Borden home for many years.

"The city needs tourism, and we feel we are in a position to help," Mr. Evans added. "Everyone we speak to thinks it's a great idea. We figure we'll give it a shot and see what happens."

Ken Souza, publisher of the Lizzie Borden Quarterly, thinks it's high time the city recognized the tourist potential of the house.

"This is long overdue," he said. "Most people go to the historical society and ask if they can see the house. I think if the city wants to look at tourism, Lizzie will have to be a part of that."

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the Fall River Celebrates America festival Aug. 11-13, will highlight the infamous murders for the first time.

A trolley car will take visitors to the Borden house on Second Street; Maplecroft (Lizzie's home); the Historical Society, which houses the Lizzie archives; and the Oak Grove Cemetery, where the Bordens are buried.

During the waterfront festival, a series of documentaries and films on the murder trial will be shown at the Heritage State Park auditorium.

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