If you’ve always dreamed of owning the former home of a notorious suspected murderer, good news: Lizzie Borden’s house, Maplecroft, is for sale. Before you get too excited, no, it is not the Fall River, Mass. house in which the proverbial 40 whacks allegedly occurred; that would be the Lizzie Borden B&B and Museum, located about a mile away at 230 2nd St. This house, located at 306 French St., is the house Lizzie and her older sister, Emma, lived in after Lizzie’s trial. Either way, though, it’s still a piece of macabre and fascinating history — so if you’ve got around $900,000 to spare (or, y’know, at least enough for the down payment), well, you might just have discovered your strange new home.
The house was originally built in 1889 and sold to Lizzie in 1893; according to South Coast Today, Dallas, Tex. resident Kristee Bates bought it in 2014 with plans to turn it into a bed and breakfast. A Queen Anne Victorian, it’s about 4,000 sq. ft, with eight bedrooms, three full bathrooms, one partial bathroom, and a whopping six fireplaces. Bates has been working to restore it to how it looked in 1893 — and it comes fully furnished, too, so for the asking price of $849,000, you can get it complete with “accurate period pieces and …accoutrements that speak to its Borden history,” according to the house’s Trulia listing. Other details include “tin ceilings in the kitchen, coffered ceilings in the parlor, exquisite mantelpieces, walnut wainscoting, custom millwork, and inlaid parquet flooring.”
On Aug. 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered in their home at 230 2nd St. in Fall River. Abby was attacked first; sometime between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., while she was cleaning the guest room, she was struck in the head with a hatchet around 18 times. Andrew’s attack came sometime between 10:30 a.m. and 11:10 a.m., while he was in the downstairs sitting room; he, too, was hit with a hatchet, although he suffered fewer blows than Abby did (around 11). Lizzie was accused of the murders and put on trial for them in 1893; however, she was acquitted of the crimes due to a lack of forensic evidence linking her to the scene.
Abby wasn’t Lizzie and Emma’s mother; Sarah Anthony Morse Borden died in 1863. Andrew had married Abby Durfee Gray three years after his first wife's death, although it appears that neither Lizzie nor Emma were ever close with their stepmother. They called her “Mrs. Borden,” rather than by her first name or any sort of parental or maternal marker; additionally, the Bordens’ maid, Bridget Sullivan, noted in her testimony that Lizzie and Emma did not typically take their meals with Andrew and Abby. Money was also presented as a possible motive.
After the trial, Lizzie began going by the name Lizbeth A. Borden; she bought a house in the well-to-do Fall River neighborhood known as the Hill (in what is now known as the Highland District) and moved into it with her sister, Emma. They called the house, which was located at 306 French St., Maplecroft. Emma moved out in 1905, but Lizzie remained there until her death in 1927. She had been ostracized since the trial, and few attended her funeral.
We still don’t know if she got away with murder; no one else was ever charged with the crimes, and they remain unsolved to this very day. Still, though, a popular skipping rope rhyme insists that Lizzie did it. You know the one — it goes like this:
Lizzie Borden took an ax,
And gave her mother 40 whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father 41.
In 2016, Kristee Bates applied for a variance to turn the house a multi-use building; however, another variance request concerning the turning of the carriage house into a gift shop was rejected. Eventually, Bates decided, “I’m just not the person for [the project],” she told South Coast Today. “I wish it would have worked out.”
The house does still need some work — Bates told South Coast today that the kitchen and the back porch aren’t quite finished, and according to a clerk in the Building Department, the whole building might need a sprinkler system put in in order for it to meet current code — but if you’re interested, you can get in touch with the agent handling the listing, Taylor & Associates (Mott & Chace Sotheby's International Realty). Heed the note in the house’s description, though: “Serious inquiries only, please.”