Owners of Lizzie Borden’s final home hoping for accessibility exemption

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FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — The owners of the final home of Lizzie Borden and her sister Emma say they’re going to appeal to state officials for an exemption they say is crucial to preserve history — and to make it available to the public at all.

Maplecroft, on Front Street, is where Emma and Lizzie moved to in September 1893, according to property manager Ryan Woods. Ryan’s father, Donald Woods, and Donald’s partner Lee-ann Wilber purchased the property in February with every intention to make it into a bed and breakfast.

City officials gave them a checklist of things that needed to be fixed in order to be safe for the public to visit, and Ryan Woods said Monday they’ve invested thousands in those fixes: a sprinkler system inside, updated plumbing and electrical systems, and rebuilding things like the porch.

Wheelchair ramps have also been added outside, on the back porch, and someone using a wheelchair can use them to get to the first floor. The city said wheelchair visitors need to be able to get to the second floor, and called for a lift system to be put on the outside of the home, from the first-floor pantry to the second-floor bathroom.

But that second-floor bathroom is a crucial cornerstone in the historical value of the house, the owners say. The fixtures and tile are original; it was a sensation to have indoor plumbing for the first time in the 1890s, and no less an event for the Borden sisters. History would have to be destroyed to install a lift there, the Woods claim.

The owners are now in the process of making an appeal to state officials in Boston – the Architectural Access Board and Board of Building Regulations and Standards – for an exemption to accessibility rules.

Lizzie Borden was charged with murdering her father and stepmother, but was acquitted. The two sisters moved to the Maplecroft location after Lizzie’s acquittal.

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