Lizzie Borden house to sport a Starbucks

Not open for further replies.
Here is somthing Lizzie Borden buffs may find offensive..
In today's Boston Globe newspaper, it said the new owners of the Lizzie Borden House might convert part of the house into a Starbucks coffee shop...
Talk about showing disrespect for the dead.
Plus Starbucks coffee tastes like burnt dwarf saliva (i.e the worst coffee on earth), so it will hardly add to the atmosphere..
A Starbucks in the Lizzie Borden house? Whats next, a K -Mart on the Titanic?


tarn Stephanos

Inger Sheil

Wow! Shelley, any comments? Anything printable, that is?

There's that eternal tension in historic site conservation - the need to preserve vs economic necessity. The balance between the two can be a very fine line.

Here are a couple of articles:

I don't drink the coffee because I love the Frappachinos...we used to have a network of Starbucks shops across London and surrounds to meet in. Jemma and I were well chuffed when they opened one opposite the FRC...all we needed was to see them outside the PRO and the Newspaper Library. Many a happy hour has been spent curled up on the lounges with papers spread across the table, plotting the next course of attack. Almost as many as in dodgy Wetherspoons!

Fred Pelka

There is a parallel between the Lizzie Borden story and the Titanic phenomena, in that both were among the world's first mass media events. My understanding is that the Borden trial happened just as syndication was becoming a major feature of newspaper coverage, so you had a relatively small group of reporters whose accounts of the trial were printed and reprinted all across the continent. Certainly, there had been murders as grisly as the Borden slayings, and defendants as enigmatic as Lizzie, but never before had there been the media necessary to bring these elements onto everybody's breakfast table. I suppose you could say it was sort of the OJ trial of the 1890s (and Lizzie, remember, was also acquitted).

Anyway, re: "that eternal tension in historic site preservation" I imagine there are some who would argue that the Borden murder site has been nothing more than a tourist trap ever since the day of the murders. What, exactly, is the historical significance of this particular murder scene that rates it worth preserving above and beyond the tens of thousands of murder scenes all across the country? So, Starbucks seems entirely appropriate, in its own grisly way.

Years ago (many years ago) I went to Salem and Danvers to see the scene of the witch trials. Talk about commercialism! It felt much more like an amusement park to me, replete with the official Salem police logo of a witch on a broomstick, than the scene of an awful series of judicial murders. I haven't been back since then (early 1990s) but I suppose it hasn't changed much.

Nothing, though, beats what I saw at Dachau. There, at the entrance to the concentration camp (which is an overwhelmingly sad and powerful experience) the Dachau Chamber of Commerce had set up a little booth with a stack of "See beautiful Dachau" type brochures. I suppose it must be kinda tough, living in a town that the world views as synonymous with torture and death. Still, it was rather jarring, especially on the way out.

At least they're tearing down (or maybe have already torn down) that hideous tower at Gettysburg.

Best wishes to all,

Fred Pelka

Inger Sheil

Hallo Fred -

Yes, there is an interesting connection there with Lizzie Borden and Titanic phenomena as mass media events - rather like the Ripper murders of 1888, which occured during an important period in the development of the popular press. Sometimes academic historical significance and popular culture/history don't coincide!

I would have liked to have visited the site of Salem Village, but given how chilling the judicial murders are that took place there, I'd find it hard to reconcile the horror of what happened with modern commercial exploitation. I wasn't keen on some of the crasser aspects of the tourist traps at Glenrowan in Victoria - the siege of the Kelly Gang resulted in civilian casualties as well as a fiery end for most of the gang.

What about the original plans a few years back for the Disney theme park at Manassas? Anyone care to venture an opinion on that one?
To answer the question about "what is the historical significance....etc..." you have answered it yourself, in your post, in your previous paragraph. It WAS the OJ trial of the Victorian era, 'though it is inaccurate to describe it as one of the first murders heavily covered by the press- the Victorians had an insatiable appetite for such cases going back at least as the Dr. Burrell affair in NYC- but what set Lizzie apart is that the crime had what a later generation called "It" and that is why it is remembered while most of the other equally well reported "major crimes" of the era are footnotes.

As for it being a tourist trap for most of its history- the house was in the same hands from early in the 20th century through at least the late 1980s, and that owner was, shall we say, VERY protective of the house and did not admit visitors. It was a tourist "destination" but since they were not admitted upon arrival and the owner by no means solicited their visits, "tourist trap" does not seem an accurate description.

Converting part of the Lizzie House into Starbucks is not quite the same as when, about a decade ago, the now-demolished Sharon Tate house was temporarily converted into a recording studio by the name of "le Pig," but it still seems to be a bit of a bizarre marketing decision. Perhaps they meant them commercial structure behind the hiouse built on the site of the former barn.

There is a dealer on ebay by the handle of chescrowel - he has a collection of several dozen scrapbooks compiled 1880-1900, containing accounts of at least 3000 of the most vile murders imaginable, compiled by a Victorian of odd sensibilities who gave each book the title "Death," and if you read the Lizzie volume and then buy one of the others you will see, interestingly, that the press was relatively restrained in their coverage of Miss Bordens case when compared to their accounts of some of the other murders of the period.

Disney Theme Park at Manassas - the equivalent of the le Pig fiasco, only on a larger scale and even more repellant.

Fred Pelka

Hey again,

Thanks Jim for the corrections on the Borden house etc. I suppose I see something of a difference between popular interest in a story and "historical significance" -- but then again that sort of difference is probably pretty subjective and very hard to define. Anyway, another factoid I recall about the Borden case is that Lizzie continued to live in Fall River long after the trial, a living reminder of the murders and the focus of lots of speculation, since no one else was ever indicted for the crimes. Then too, there was that catchy little jingle, set I think to a pop tune of the day. It just goes to show -- never underestimate the power of a catchy jingle.

As for the Theme Park at Manassas, I know there are folks organizing to try to stop that, though I don't know the details of the proposal. A couple of years back (well, more like seven) I went to the Antietam battle site, walking the ten miles or so from Hagerstown to Sharpsville. Most of the area is still devoted to farming, so it was possible to get a sense as to what the terrain was like in 1862. Approaching the Sunken Lane and the Dunkard Church in this context seemed to me much more eloquent and moving than any theme park could ever be.
The Disney theme park in Manassas is dead and has been for several years - seems someone finally noticed that the Washington D.C. area has some difficulty with traffic - a big surprise for all of us who live here and have to commute.
Yes, this is an eyeful about Starbucks indeed. Personally I am sorry to see the new management stop considering the house as a museum, after working there for 5 years as guide, innkeeper and historical consultant. The plus side is a hefty amount of cash is going to be pumped into the property, painting, new historically correct wallpapers and carpeting, and restoration of the side yard, trees, and demolition of the current unsightly printing press which is stuck onto the side of the house. Those of us on the "old staff" have not been asked to sign aboard, but we are waiting patiently to see how this all plays out. There is the amusing aspect that the new owners, he in his late 50's and his girlfriend, a bodybuilder of 31, -plan to run this place on their own. Both are amateur theatrical actors and plan to do re-enactments every weekend. They seem to have the support of the local Historical Society- a top-notch organization- but I will reserve comment until I see how this thing pans out- I have SERIOUS doubts. I am glad the house will be preserved. The owner, Mr. Woods is a very successful businessman and the old bus station across from the house is being torn down eventually to make room for a courthouse. I believe he sees big money in coffee for the traffic it will generate. Once in a great while, a commercial enterprise can co-exist with a historical property- I hope this guy has some good taste. I plan to tell him if he does not!! :)
I live in Massachusetts, but eastern Massachusetts, and it was always my understanding that the Lizzie Borden house was an Inn or a Bed and Breakfast or something? Is this not true?

Shannon- it was a museum with all that word implies, with day tours, and also a bed and breakfast from 3 p.m. to 10 a.m. the next morning, and did a good job of making history and also making a profit at it to keep the history financed!
This just in- there was a retraction in today's Globe. The new owner is not opening a Starbuck's franchise on the historic property- he is merely going to sell the coffee in the new gift shop which will be in the rebuilt Borden Barn- so that's good news!

Fred Pelka

Leave it to the erudite folks at ET to post up to minute news about Lizzie Borden's house, the Manassas battlefield, and also to fill me in on the Victorian obsession with murder!

Shelley, your work at the Borden house sounds fascinating. I'll bet one of the most interesting aspects was the reactions and attitudes of people who came to visit. Anything that stands out in your mind, that you'd care to share? Anyway, I hope that the new management will see the wisdom of keeping at least some of the "old hands," and that you get to keep your connection to the house.

And while we're on the topic of Fall River, let's not forget it's also home to Battleship Cove and the USS Massachusetts. I figured I'd mention this just to add the proper, nautical note to this thread.

Best wishes to all.

Fred P.

Inger Sheil

Thanks for that background, Shelley - I thought there might be quite a bit of a back story there! It's always hard to know what response to doesn't want to be a NIMBY or adopt a blanket negative approach to all commercial development. Concessions are almost inevitable when it comes to preserving historic sites, and can be essential to the conservation work - it just depends on how big the concessions are before they compromise atmosphere, interpretation of the site, aesthetics etc. Good to hear that there won't be a full-scale operation (although I hope they sell the odd Frappachino...I hear those Fall River summers can get a bit warm

Jim, that was my take on 'Disney's America' at Manassas - I dabble in the odd bit of Civil War history, and was following it quite closely at the time and remember the campaign well. I also have friends not too far from there who weren't adverse to whipping me up about it :lol: I was very happy when the project went belly-up back in 1994 (and remember feeling amusement at suggestions that a certain scene in Pocahontas was a sly self-deprecating dig - 'With all you've got in you, boys / Dig up Virginia, boys!' ) Anyone familiar with the Civil War scene, however, knows that preservation/development tensions around many such sites continue, and are echoed elsewhere in the world.
I used to 'vacation' with my parents at various Civil War battlefields in the Virginia area, ca. 1971- '75 and recalled the various towns in the Chancellorsville, Fredricksburg area as being small and largely intact. In the mid 1980s I returned and was more than dismayed to see how developed the area had become, and I suspect that it has gotten worse over the last 18 years. I am a member of a group, through my father, which raises money to save as much acreage as possible from development.

As for the theme park- I thought then, and still think, that it would have been a bad idea on many different levels. How many New Yorkers on this board remember "Freedomland?" I suspect few, if any, but it was an amusement park (as theme parks were once called) which came close, in concept to what was proposed for Manassas. It came, largely unnoticed, ca 1964 and went entirely unmourned ca 1970, and its ruins now sit under Co-op City in the Bronx- and I would be willing to bet that the Manassas plan would have 'tanked' just as badly.
>>Plus Starbucks coffee tastes like burnt dwarf saliva (i.e the worst coffee on earth), so it will hardly add to the atmosphere.<<

Personally, I like Starbucks. Quite an improvement over the robusta beans used for most coffees and nowhere near as acid. They use arabica beans and roast them very thoroughly, so it can come as quite a shock to anyone not used to coffee the old fashioned way.

Can't say as I like seeing an historical landmark used for one of their shops.
Whilst in Seattle we visited several Starbucks as the place is inundated with them. My favourite was the Frappe thingy-me-jigs, those coffee milkshake-type things. Mmmm....very nice.

Was there ever a connection with Lizzie Borden and the Newell sisters of Titanic fame? Marjorie Newell Robb died in Fall River.


Hi Iain, wow- what a concept for a novel! No, Mrs. Robb's only son Newell, was a curator at the Fall River Marine Museum, home of the big 28 foot Titanic model and former repository of some THS memorabilia until about 3 years ago. Marjorie and her son's family lived in nearby Westport Point. She passed away in the Adams Nursing Home on Highland Avenue, which was a lovely old brick place, filled with many antiques left by years of genteel inhabitants. Marjorie, of course, being a well-read native of Massachusetts, had heard of Lizzie Borden -but it was a very distasteful subject to her, as it was to many of her generation. Still today in Fall River, there is a minority of elderly who do not wish the city remembered for , as in the words of author and Fall River native, Victoria Lincoln in her revealing book, "A Private Disgrace: Lizzie Borden by Daylight". Lizzie went to the Chicago World's Fair (Columbian Exposition) in the autumn of 1893 after her acquittal, and often travelled the Newport-Boston-New York corridor fairly extensively. She was a social pariah in her own hometown and said just before dying that she might have been better off leaving Fall River.In 1890, before the foul deed, she took the Cunarder Scythia on a 19 week Grand Tour leaving Boston- Liverpool. The famous Irish maid in the murder case, Bridget Sullivan, arrived in America about 8 years prior to the 1892 murder aboard White Star's Republic. Yes, it is an endlessly fascinating case, America's Jack the Ripper. If you have not read The Devil in the White City by Erik Larsen-grab it for a summer's read today. It details the building of the Chicago World's Fair and parallels the famous mass murderer "Dr. Holmes" and his horrifying chamber of terrors located in a vistors' hotel and pharmacy near the fairgrounds. I like to think how close Miss Borden came that 1893 afternoon in Chicago to meeting a worthy mate! Our Titanic friend Frank Millet is also a character in this drama, as he was a kingpin in the arts design of the fair. Good stuff!How history does overlap and connect in unlikely places!
Not open for further replies.