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 However, the Building Inspector’s order superseded the demolition delay required by city ordinance.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.
The second phase of the Preservation Society’s exterior preservation efforts at the c. 1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House on Pine Street received the go-ahead from the Fall River City Council at its June 8, 2021 meeting.
The City Council unanimously voted to approve the FY22 appropriation order recommended by the Community Preservation Committee, which includes $60,000 in Community Preservation Act funds to restore the 13 remaining front façade windows and two basement windows (previously altered), the shutters, and front portico of this historic federal transitional to Greek revival house.
“By improving the front façade of this Underground Railroad site, all Fall River residents and visitors will benefit from the property’s visual, architectural, historical, and aesthetic demonstration,” Board of Directors President James Soule said.
This project will historically restore and/or preserve the front windows and shutters to look and operate as originally intended.
The front portico porch is in poor condition with signs of deterioration in the wood at the base of the columns. The CPA project will deconstruct and reassemble the portico with repairs made in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.
The first phase of the Preservation Society’s Fiske House CPA projects was approved in June 2019 and included the repair and replacement of seven windows and the installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units for four of the apartments in the historic house.
The total FY22 appropriation order was $1,809,616 for a total of eight projects, including the Preservation Society’s project.
Fall River Historical Society: Funding for design fee, removal and replacement of EPDM, new PVC membrane, slate roof, gutter replacement, downspout replacements, window repairs, installation of fixed shutters, repair of pilasters and brackets, and painting and repair and painting of the Mansard roof ironwork.
Notre Dame Rectory: Funding to partially fund the elevator.
Dr. Isaac Fiske House: Restore 13 front façade windows and two basement windows (previously altered), the shutters, and front portico.
Maplewood Park Lighting: Funding to remove six lighting poles and replace with seven new ones, includes all electrical work and permits.
Historic Commission Form B’s: Funding for preparation of Form B’s in the Steep Brook and East side of Fall River.
Article 97 Protections: Funding to prepare Article 97 protections for unprotected properties located in the Bio-Reserve.
North Burial Ground: Funding to refurbish the iron gates at the entrance to the cemetery.
Fall River Fire Museum: Funding for roof replacement with a material in compliance with the Secretary of Interior standards, replace gutters and downspouts, and repointing the chimney.
When the Lincoln School on Pine Street and Silvia School on Hartwell Street were
purchased by David Hebert, it was with promises to redevelop the properties and
transform their respective neighborhoods.
Promises that then-Mayor Jasiel Correia II and other Fall River officials helped facilitate
with minimum sale prices in 2017 and 2018.
However, as Hebert admits to criminal conspiracy around the time of the sales in the
federal trial of Correia, the true value of the transactions is already on display to the
Five years later and the Lincoln School is no closer to being turned into apartments. The
building Hebert bought for $10,000 is now on the market for $795,000.
The Silvia School was bought for $5,000 to be transformed into a hotel and restaurant, but
last year, the only guests the building inspector found were squatters and rats.
The Preservation Society obtained copies of the city’s purchase and sale agreements for the
sales of the Lincoln and Silvia Schools through public records requests and shared details
with Mayor Paul Coogan at the start of his administration.
The Preservation Society expressed concerns that Hebert wasn’t fulfilling his contracts
with the city and highlighted the conditions of sale included in the agreements meant to
safeguard the best interests of Fall River such as set project timelines and $100,000
There had been no prior follow-through by the city on the conditions of sale for the Lincoln
and Silvia Schools during the Correia administration; conditions that have been included in
previous purchase and sale agreements for municipal sales of historic schools.
With these documents, Corporation Counsel Alan Rumsey was able to attach a right of
reverter to the Lincoln and Silvia Schools’ deeds on behalf of the city in January 2020 to
help enforce the conditions of sale, since Hebert failed to deliver on his legal promises to
As the futures of the Lincoln and Silvia Schools remains in question, these two historic
buildings demonstrate the importance of purchase and sale agreements to Fall River
residents and the risks that come when the process isn’t followed.
The Preservation Society of Fall River, Inc., was recently designated a Community Housing Development Organization (CHDO) under the HOME program by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This designation makes the Preservation Society eligible to receive HOME funds set aside for CHDOs – private nonprofit, community-based organizations that develop affordable housing for the communities they serve.
“This changes everything, Board of Directors James Soules said. “By receiving CHDO status, the Preservation Society now has access to federal funds that will be vital to redevelopment projects that provide, not just affordable housing to the city, but rehabilitated history in Fall River.”
This certification will enable the Preservation Society to better serve its mission to protect and preserve Fall River’s historic properties, showing that historic preservation and affordable housing can work together hand in hand.
After purchasing its first property, the Dr. Isaac Fiske House – an Underground Railroad Station on Pine Street – in 2018, the Preservation Society is in the process of searching for its next property to redevelop utilizing CHDO funds.
In order to qualify for designation as a CHDO, an organization must meet certain requirements pertaining to its legal status, organizational structure, and capacity and experience. The Preservation Society worked with Fall River’s Community Development Agency Housing Department on its application.
Jim Soule, President of the Preservation Society’s Board of Directors, welcomes members new and old to the New Year in the video below, giving a recap of the last year’s efforts by the Preservation Society while looking forward to what’s to come in 2021.
You can watch the video message on our YouTube channel here.
With the start of the new year, the Preservation Society of Fall River is kicking off its Annual Membership Drive! Member dues and donations make up a large part of PSFR’s budget, so your continued support is valued and appreciated!
To join or pay this year’s dues, you can download our membership form below and mail it to our office or you can join online here.
The City Council voted to award the sale of the former Central Police Station at 158 Bedford Street to Wethersfield LLC of Chelsea, Massachusetts, for $10,000 at its meeting on August 11, 2020.
Developer Mark Lederman intends to develop the property into 30 market-rate apartments and said he intends to demolish the interior and preserve as much of the historic facade of the building as possible. However, Lederman noted that architectural plans for his proposal are still in development and the end result will depend on the size of units that can fit within the existing exterior.
“What’s really going to determine is if we can physically fit the units within the structure,” Lederman said at the meeting. “And based on the square footage and the window layout as far as egress windows, I think we can do it. We’re going to have to get a little creative.”
“Our goal is to keep the facade of the building and keep it looking as historically and architecturally intact as possible,” added Lederman. “Perhaps We may have to cut a few windows in, maybe in the back, do something for the venting of the new heating systems, but again hopefully that will be small and won’t really affect the facade too much. But our intention is to try and keep the envelope of the building intact.”
Ahead of the meeting, the Preservation Society submitted a letter to the City Council requesting more information on what processes are in place to follow up on the conditions of sale and provisions in the purchase and sale agreement to ensure the city’s best interests are protected.
The Preservation Society noted that similar provisions in past purchase and sale agreements have so far failed to protect historic properties like the Nathaniel B. Borden School and Healy School, where the purchase and sale agreements for those sales are inexplicably missing.
The Preservation Society previously submitted a letter to the City Council Committee on Real Estate ahead of its July 29, 2020, meeting requesting information on the vetting process of bidders as well as details of the partially-signed purchase and sale agreement.
City Tax Title Attorney Matthew Thomas described his vetting process of the bidder, which included conversations with various vendors Lederman has worked with, and noted this level of vetting isn’t generally conducted for other city sales.
Thomas also outlined a variety of conditions of sale and provisions in the purchase and sale agreement to ensure the project is completed, including a project timeline, performance bond, and reverter clause.
Two previous owners of the property were the subjects of separate criminal investigations in Florida, one for an alleged real estate scam, which resulted in the City reclaiming ownership of the property for back taxes.
After a Massachusetts Public Records Request and months of searching, the city of Fall River is still unable to locate the missing purchase and sale agreement for its sale of the Nathaniel B. Borden School.
During the search, it was discovered that the purchase and sale agreement was the only document missing from the city’s building file on N.B. Borden School at Government Center.
In the continuing pursuit for the missing purchase and sale agreement, more facts and irregularities have come to light about the property’s sale as well as more questions. Therefore, the Preservation Society has updated its N.B. Borden School fact sheet to include all the most recent developments since its initial release in October 2019.
The historic c. 1867 school at 45 Morgan Street was sold to current owner T.A. Restaurant by the city in 2012 during a time when Fall River was disposing of several vacant school buildings. The city’s requests for proposals included multiple conditions of sale to ensure each redevelopment project was completed or that the city was compensated.
Despite T.A. Restaurant’s redevelopment proposal only being half a page long and missing multiple minimum criteria such as developer credentials and a schedule for project implementation, the proposal was allowed and accepted over two others.
A Public Records Request for the bid and sale documents of another historic school sold by the city at the same time — the c.1892 Osborn School at 160 Osborn Street — produced a similar request for proposals by the city and a purchase and sale agreement that included conditions of sale like a project timeline, required documentation, and proven financials to complete the redevelopment.
Because the N.B. Borden School’s missing purchase and sale agreement can’t be located, city officials and residents are unable to confirm the conditions of its sale, which could save the building from the current owner’s intent for demolition.
The property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Fall River Significant Structure List.
*Drone photo courtesy of William Costa.
The Preservation Society of Fall River was awarded a $6,500 grant sponsorship from BayCoast Bank to purchase and install a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) unit for the c.1833 Dr. Isaac Fiske House — a Fall River Underground Railroad site.
“We at the Preservation Society are extremely grateful for the sponsorship by BayCoast Bank,” said Jim Soule, President of the Board of Directors. “This grant brings us one step closer to completing our HVAC project for the Fiske House, which will reduce energy costs and help preserve its historic exterior.”
The grant was approved by the BayCoast Bank Executive Committee on June 16, 2020.
The Preservation Society purchased the Fiske House, located at 263 Pine Street, in September 2018. The building is currently a multi-tenant apartment and office of the Preservation Society.
The Preservation Society of Fall River opposes the planned demolition of the c.1887 Sagamore Mill No. 1 building at 140 Ace Street.
Sagamore Mill No. 1 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Fall River Register of Significant Structures. It was purchased by an abutter of 26 years in January 2019, who initially planned to redevelop the building into apartments.
However, after less than a year of ownership and with no major work done to preserve the structure, the property owner now intends to demolish the 133-year old mill to construct a set of five two-story commercial condo buildings.
A six-month demolition delay on the property expired on June 13, 2020.
The Preservation Society believes that qualified developers can utilize a variety of alternative funding mechanisms like state tax credits and grants to make these redevelopment projects economically feasible and worthwhile.
Until the city strengthens its ordinances so that property owners must demonstrate efforts to restore historic resources before demolition, residents will continue to lose what has always made Fall River home – piece by piece.
The Preservation Society of Fall River, Inc.
Board of Directors
Two historic buildings on the Preservation Society’s 2019 Most Endangered Properties list didn’t make the 2020 iteration of the list because of positive developments towards an end goal of preservation. They are:
Central Fire Station, c. 1920 (165 Bedford Street)
The historic fire station on Bedford Street has been a longstanding regular on past most endangered lists by the Preservation Society. However, a Community Preservation Act grant recently funded a new roof for the building – a vital first step in preserving the building – and also included a preservation restriction on the deed of the property, all but ensuring its future preservation.
229 Highland Avenue, c. 1899
This historic Queen Anne-style house has been owned by the Fall River Housing Authority since 1985, but has remained empty for several years. After making the Preservation Society’s most endangered list last year for the first time, the Preservation Society reached out to the Massachusetts Housing Authority to inquire about the future of the property, which indicated future plans to redevelop the property.