A hex on the new Salem Lizzie Museum?

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Once again the much-anticipated opening of the True Story of Lizzie Borden attraction in Salem was delayed.  Hoping to open on Lizzie’s birthday on July 19th, the date had to be pushed forward to August 4th, the anniversary of the murders.  The woodwork paint was drying, the local newspapers were touting the opening, and Fall River was getting into the controversy about Lizzie’s presence in Salem-when the August 4th opening never materialized.  Hopefully eager visitors-to-be called ahead, or else there were some murderous prospective guests who must have been disappointed to find closed doors on the day.  Meanwhile, back in old Fall River, August 4th went on as ever. 

Today the word is out that the opening  date of the attraction/museum/exhibit is uncertain due to some difficulties with the city of Salem officials- red tape, paperwork, permits, -something like that.  Makes you wonder if the other famous ladies of the city- those ladies in the pointy hats- are brewing up some spells !  Maybe they don’t want any competition from another woman!

August 4th is coming to Second Street !

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Bed and Breakfast co-owner LeeAnn Wilber starring as

Lizzie Borden for August 4th

 

Sure signs it must be August are the heat and humidity- and the Fall River newspapers and local television channels talking about Fall River’s most infamous native daughter.  This year, as in every year since the B&B museum on Second Street opened, there will be a recreation of the Borden story on August 4th.  There is a new script again this year, this time with the largest cast ever assembled.  The production, which was sold out by noon last year, will feature new characters, some for the first time ever.  Naturally visitors want to meet the family, Abby and Andrew, Lizzie and Irish maid Bridget- but this year sister Emma, several of the neighbors, ( Mrs. Churchill, Mrs. Kelly, Mrs. Bowen) Dr. Dolan, Little Abbie Whitehead, and even the undertaker, Mr. Winward will be making an appearance at #92 Second Street.  Visitors to the house will “find” the body of Mrs. Borden upstairs, listen to Dr. Dolan’s preliminary observations on the body of Andrew Borden which is covered with a sheet on the sofa, hear about the funeral plans, and help to search for a possible weapon in the cellar!  Tours will take place between 11 and 3:30, approximately on the half hour. Tickets may be purchased in the barn gift shop behind the Borden house.

“She’s not my mother- she is my step-mother.”

“It all depends on your idea of cordiality.”

Eli Bence’s New Bedford Pharmacy

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One of the most interesting witnesses for the prosecution must surely have been young Eli Bence, the pharmacy clerk who testified that Lizzie Borden had asked for a dime’s worth of deadly Prussic acid on the morning before the murders.  Mr. Bence denied her request without a prescription, but remembered her face and voice, and would later identify Lizzie, as did two other men in the store at the time, as the lady who visited the store that Wednesday morning. 

Bence’s evidence was a godsend to the prosecution and stood firm until it reached the higher court.  There it was ruled too remote in time from the killings -and no poison was ever found in the stomachs of the two victims.  Eli’s evidence, had it been heard by the jury, may have had serious consequences.  Miss Borden denied going to the pharmacy and even knowing where it was located on Main Street, only two blocks south of her house.

Bence left Fall River and started his own pharmacy in a residential section of New Bedford in 1894 at the corner of Russell and Fourth Streets. His wife died in New Bedford, but Bence remarried in 1904, to a Fairhaven woman, and the pair with his young son Roy Sydney Bence, moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts to establish another pharmacy. The couple had two children, Priscilla and Maxfield.  Bence had a successful career and rose to the top of his profession.  His name in print was always followed by a mention about the part he played in the famous Borden trial, even in his obituary. This medicine bottle, minus its cork stopper was recently found in a New Bedford antique store and reads Eli Bence Pharmacy, New Bedford.

 For more on Eli Bence visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dlJumWmayLc

Warps and Wefts – One Year Anniversary

Thank you!

On Saturday, July 26th, Warps and Wefts marked one year on the blogosphere. As we approach our 200th post, thanks and appreciation go out to all our readers who have visited over the past year,  and left comments and encouragement.  We hope you have read something of interest here and will continue to visit Warps and Wefts and other Fall River sister blogs often.

Friends of Oak Grove  http://oakgrovecemetery.wordpress.com

Fall River Painted Ladies  http://fallriverpaintedladies.wordpress.com

Fall River Eats  http://fallrivereats.wordpress.com

Jack the Ripper 2008 Conference

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The fifth biennial U.S. conference on Jack the Ripper will take place October 10-12th in Knoxville, Tennessee.  It will be held at the Four Points by Sheraton Knoxville Cumberland House Hotel, which is immediately adjacent to the World’s Fair Park and its distinctive Sunsphere and less than an hour’s drive from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. For more information please visit the website at http://www.ripperology.com/conference/where.html

Salem Lizzie Museum announces August 4th opening

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The Salem local papers announced this morning the date of the long-awaited Lizzie Borden Museum -August 4th, the date of the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden in Fall River. According to Leonard Pickel, the designer of the exhibit “This is going to be very much like a museum. More like the Peabody Essex than the witch museums. Don’t expect to come and be entertained, but come to learn something about the true story of Lizzie Borden.”

It should be interesting to see how the Salem Witch venue will succeed with a Fall River legend.

 

http://www.salemnews.com/punews/local_story_207000848.html

Now & Then #3 South Main

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Not too much remains today of the 1903 postcard view of South Main St. looking north.  The city hall, once the prominent landmark in many postcards, has been replaced by the government center. Shopping fixture, McWhirr’s, was demolished years ago, and the steeple of the Central Congregational Church, currently the Culinary Institute and Abbey Grille now wears a sheath of black mesh after some brickwork and concrete fell to the ground a few months ago. It is still a reassuring presence in the center background of both images. With the price of gasoline now, it sure would be great to have those trolley cars back on Main Street!

The Hiker

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Work continues this week behind The Hiker statue on Plymouth Ave. at Pleasant St. intersection. The now verdigris green familiar landmark was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983 as object #83004857 and is officially titled as the Spanish-American War Veterans Monument although he is sometimes mistaken for a Boy Scout or Teddy Roosevelt!

Sorry, No Ghost for Guests!

There was great excitement last weekend when a guest at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast continued to get a pale reflection in a mirror while using a digital camera in Emma Borden’s room on the second floor. The little room had once been Lizzie’s from age 12-30 before Emma changed rooms with her younger sister.  It certainly seemed as if something supernatural was trying to “come through the veil”.

After trying several digital cameras and obtaining the same eerie effect, someone suggested taking the shot without the flash. No ghostly image appeared!  The flash was apparently bouncing off the framed oval portrait of Emma over the bed and reflecting it into the mirror.  But it was fun for a few moments!

 

Blood Spatter Evidence: Andrew Borden

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(Medical Examiner, Dr. Dolan)  “They (blood spots) were over the back of the lounge eighty six of them, in one cluster, as I say, describing the arc of a circle from the west, east that is, from the parlor door towards the kitchen door. I should say not over three or four inches east of his head [and describing a semi circle]. Some very minute, some the size of a pin head, others were the size of a pea, and varying from that.”

‘Further along towards the east on this picture, a picture framed and suspended above the sofa  On that picture and frame were in all forty spots. The highest spot there was fifty eight inches from the floor.
. . . They were more as though shooting directly upward, that is, diagonally from the head .”


 “On the door (to the kitchen) there were two spots.. . . If I remember correctly, I think one was three feet one inch from the floor in the groove in the division of the door. There was another one about six inches from the floor on the door proper, about quarter of an inch from the casing of the door.The one in the groove was a medium spot. I could not give you the measurement..  it was probably the size of a huckleberry, a small huckleberry.”

 “I found one on the west door, the jamb of the door leading from the sitting room into the dining room.I did not measure it. I should judge from twelve to fourteen inches (from the carpet).It was not a spot, it was a string, as it were, of blood. Instead of being a spot of blood, that was long, it would probably measure, if drawn out, two inches or two and a half inches.”

(Preliminary testimony, John Morse answering questions about door in photo below)

Q. Do you recollect how the blood spots upon the parlor door in the sitting room appeared before they were washed off?

A. The one that goes into the parlor?

Q. The sitting room door, yes, that goes into the parlor.

A. There was quite a considerable many spots of blood on it.

Q. What portion of the door were they on?

A. Mostly from the knob down.

Q. Any above the knob that you noticed or recollect?

A. I dont recollect.

Q. Mr. Dolan testified that he thought there were seven or eight, what should you say as to that, were there more or less in your opinion?

A. On that whole parlor door? On the place that is now washed out, he counted ten, as I understood him.

Q. So far as you know that parlor door was the only place where there was any blood washed from, is not it?

A. It is all I know anything about.

Q. What should you say of the number of spots there was upon that door?

A. I never counted them, only just a rough estimate; I should say not less than forty, and maybe more.

Q. Was it, or was it not, sprinkled over the entire width of the door along the lower part?

A. Yes, all over the door, that is all over in spots.

Q. Can you tell what the location of those spots are, as to the large or small spots?

A. The largest ones were nearest to the bottom of the door.

Q. Did you notice what the direction of those spots were, whether there was a spatter and a direction which they appeared to take after they struck?

A. I think the heaviest part of them, if I recollect, was down.

Q. The heaviest spots were nearest the bottom?

 A. Yes sir.

The portraits of Rochelle Pettenati

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Capturing the characteristics of a person in a portrait is never easy, especially when the subject is as well known as Lizzie Borden.  From late 1995-1996, Rochelle Pettenati, sister of the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum office manager offered her abilities and talent to create individual portraits for the house which was undergoing renovations to become a bed and breakfast under the management of Martha McGinn and Ron Evans.  Antique oval frames were found and Rochelle got to work producing portraits for all of the rooms which were named for various key figures in the Borden Case.  Particularly pleasing are the two portraits of Lizzie, who has never quite been adequately captured by other artists over the years. Rochelle painted the Swansea Farm, Uncle John Morse, Hosea Knowlton, and other incidental art around the house. Rochelle also appeared in the media dressed in Elizabeth Montgomery’s size 4 Lizzie Borden acquittal gown on loan to the house from Paramount Pictures and worn in the 1975 film.

Victorian Air Conditioner

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Summer paper fans were a popular advertising possibility to beat the summer heat and promote local businesses.  Trade cards and calendars were also cheap tools to attract trade.  This late Victorian-turn-of-the-century advertising fan is produced by a calendar company in Ohio for Fall River’s well-known department store, McWhirr’s, which would have been patronized by Lizzie in her day.  Note the suggestion to use “the telephone” for placing an order! Mr. Borden had no phone in his house. The fronts of these fans were usually embellished with glorious chromos of sweet-faced children, beautiful women, fruit and flowers, or enticing landscapes. Sadly, McWhirr’s, once a Fall River institution for shopping needs, was torn down some years ago.  The Fall River Historical Society revives the McWhirr’s candy counter, complete with the McWhirr’s signature paper candy boxes during the annual Victorian Christmas House Tour in the city.

 

A big change to the skyline

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As the new courthouse rises on Second Street, the skyline takes on a whole new look.  Fourth of July will never be the same from the front steps of the Borden house-this year the fireworks over the Taunton were blocked by the new construction.  Guests at the B&B will have to fight the traffic at Heritage Park next year to catch a glimpse!

Now and Then- A New Photo Series

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Fall River post cards are still plentiful and can be had in the 1-8 dollar range locally.  Cards span the decades from 1900 to about the 1970’s when sending postcards began to lose its appeal.  This is the “debut view” of a series of postcards and their counterpart sites as seen today in 2008.  It’s sad to see so many familiar landmarks, some of significant architectural merit, destroyed. The most obvious feature missing on the left in the second photo is the great old city hall which was torn down in the early 1960’s. Also gone is the Durfee Theatre and the Granite Block building. The postcard is dated 1945. Happily, the Academy Building is still standing as seen in 1945 in the far background of each image.