It was a rainy morning after the 129th anniversary of the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden when Lizzie Borden’s grade school was demolished for a private parking lot.
After serving as the city’s oldest operating school, demolition of the c.1868 Nathaniel B. Borden School was completed quickly after Fall River Building Inspector Glenn Hathaway deemed the building a hazard to the public.
The hazard declaration came after the property owner recently completed asbestos abatement – a requirement before demolition. However, once abatement was completed, the building was left open for weeks. Despite an order from the Building Commissioner for the property owner to make safe the building, the windows were left accessible and the order to demolish was given on July 27, 2021.
The property owner submitted his letter of intent to demolish the structure in 2019, which triggered a six-month demolition delay until October 2019. The demolition delay expired after a year for not being acted upon, requiring another delay for the school in order to demolish it. However, the Building Inspector’s order superseded the demolition delay required by city ordinance.
When the N.B. Borden School was sold to the current owner for $5,000 in 2012, it was with the promise and legal agreement that it would be redeveloped into apartments. But as years passed and nothing happened, the building owner’s neglect and own stated lack of capability was used as justification to rob the city of a valuable resource.
Because the City of Fall River could not locate its copy of the purchase and sale agreement from when the school was sold, city officials were not able to verify if the language contained in the contract included the conditions of sale originally intended to make sure the redevelopment project was completed successfully as promised.
Although the school is now gone, many questions remain, leaving city officials and residents alike in the dark on how this happened and how can it be prevented from happening again.