Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 35: Fall River, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund
Trip 35: Fall River, Mass.
March 25, 2010

            Located just before the border with Rhode Island and about forty-five minutes south of Boston, Fall River has an array of tremendous sites that can be the cornerstones of a great trip.  However there are a few that go beyond that and make this small city an exciting destination.  Any trip to Fall River needs to feature stops at Battleship Cove, the Old Colony Railroad Museum, and of course the Lizzie Borden house.
            Fall River got its name from the ‘falling river’ known as the Quequechan River.  Quequechan comes from the Wampanoag word believed to mean ‘falling river/waters’ due to the waterfalls that ran through the city.  These falls were diverted underground due to the development of the Braga Bridge and Interstate 195.  The borders of Fall River at one time included Tiverton, Rhode Island but this area was annexed to the Ocean State to satisfy the border disagreement between Massachusetts and Rhode Island in 1746.
Battleship Cove is the largest collection of World War II naval vessels and is a breathtaking sight upon arrival.  I parked at the nearby Fall River Heritage State Park(left) which gave me a wider scope of what lay out before me.  The park is only about eight and a half acres but with some benches underneath the trees facing the cove it is a sweet resting spot to escape the bustle of the busy streets just behind it.  There is a lush green meadow which hosts summer concerts as well, it amazed me how close this park was to the streets but how it could feel so far removed from them as well.
Nestled partially beneath the Braga Bridge, Battleship Cove includes many vessels but chief among them is the U.S.S. Massachusetts(left) which is one of eight surviving battleships built by the United States.  It is now a museum ship and can be toured year round.  Also included among the ships U.S.S. Joseph P. Kennedy which was a destroyer in the Navy; this is also a museum which can be toured.  The U.S.S. Lionfish is a submarine situated between the Massachusetts and Joseph Kennedy; it avoided a pair of Japanese torpedoes during the war and became part of the Battleship Cove collection in 1972.
Apart from the impressive collection of vessels and war memorabilia at Battleship Cove there is also an unexpected site, a restored carousel.  Originally located at the now-closed Lincoln Park in nearby Dartmouth, the carousel, which was built in 1920, was restored by local high school students in the early-1990’s.  Unfortunately on this day it was being rented out for a private party so my best view was through the windows.  It is certain to be more accessible on other days so it should be sought out during any visit to Fall River.  Having never been to Battleship Cove I took a bit of time to simply stand near the water’s edge and just marvel at the enormity of the ships and the area they covered. 
Only a short walk from Battleship Cove is another piece of American history that needs to be seen: The Old Colony & Fall River Railroad Museum(above).  Although the museum itself is small, consisting of a few vintage railroad cars, it is still nonetheless a very important collection and piece of history.  The Old Colony & Fall River Railroad came about as a merger between the Old Colony Railroad and the Fall River Railroad in 1854.  Though the museum itself is small it contains a very conclusive look at the cars which once ran along the Fall River Railroad.  On the museum grounds you can see how a rail switch works along with specific rail cars like the caboose and theater cars.  It is impossible to miss this museum if you are anywhere near Battleship Cove and is a great stop on a visit to Fall River especially during the warmer months.
My final stop during my time in Fall River was the site of one of the most famous, or infamous, murders in American history: The Lizzie Borden House(left).  For those of you who may have never heard of the events legend has it that Ms. Borden murdered her father and step-mother with an axe inside the house in 1892.  She was acquitted but the murders still took place regardless of who the perpetrator was.
The house is now a Bed & Breakfast and is available for overnight stays.  It stands out in the neighborhood as a snapshot of when the Borden family lived there, not just because of its deep green color but also the fact that it is virtually unchanged in nearly 120 years.  It was part amazement and part trepidation as I walked through the rooms and stood in the same spots where Mr. and Mrs. Borden were brutally murdered.  It was something I would have regretted not doing during my travels.

The interior of the house looks much the same as it did on that fateful day in 1892 with many original items and other period pieces of furniture.  The owners have done a masterful job of keeping the integrity of a legendary crime scene while also updating it enough to be a modern bed and breakfast.  My tour guide was very knowledgeable, sharing so much of the details of the murders and the lives of the Borden family that you’d have though she had lived during the time.  I highly recommend taking the tour of this piece of American history.  Stay the night as well if you are in town for a longer time as well.  You will leave the house with a feeling that you have just been a part of the legendary story of Lizzie Borden.
Fall River started as a small farming town, grew into a textile industry giant, and is now synonymous with Battleship Cove and Lizzie Borden.  Close to both Providence and Boston, this historical wonderland needs to be seen and enjoyed by any and all travelers.  Spend some time at Battleship Cove and take a walk through the Lizzie Borden House and you will see what I mean.  Have fun and happy traveling!
Directions: Heritage State Park & Battleship Cove: From I-195 heading west take Exit 5 for Rt. 79.  Keep left at fork in road to continue toward and merge w/Rt. 79.  Continue to Broadway Extended, take left at Columbia St., turn left at Eagle St.  Turn right at Firestone Ave., continue onto Water St.  Battleship Cove, Lincoln Carousel, Heritage State Park, and Old Colony and Fall River Railroad Museum are all within walking distance.
            Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast:  From I-195 heading take Exit 7, Plymouth Ave. Exit.  Merge onto Hartwell St., slight left at Borden St., slight left at 2nd St.  There is parking behind the house.
Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

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