Fall River, Ma
Fall River, Ma has the reputation in Southern New England as being a less-than-desirable place to live and even less desirable place to visit. The city of around 90,000 people is the eighth largest in Massachusetts. Formerly an industrial city, it has become residential. Taxes, however, remain low for both residents and businesses and Fall River Industrial Park is still home to dozens of businesses. Sadly, the last of the major mills, Quaker Fabrics, recently closed down. Fall River, as a blue collar city, never fared well during depressions.
Once the textile capital of the country, the Great Depression hit the city hard. It filed bankruptcy and it’s once swank downtown waned. Recently, the commercial South End has lost a movie theater.
Once a city of great beauty, with a waterfall, of course (hence the name), huge stone mills, quarry cliffs and cathedral spirals, one has to look hard nowadays to notice that most of these are still there. The 1960’s saw a building boom and unfortunately the Quequechan river was routed and the water fall closed. Mills, susceptible to fires, were not rebuilt. Quarry cliffs were filled in and built over. Most visitors to the Southern New England area pass the Fall River exits noticing only the city hall above the highway. However, one can still enjoy part of the Quequechan river; walk or bike around the Wattuppa pond; shop, work out or get scared out of one’s wits in a mill; see the Rolling Rock, which once teetered over a quarry cliff and visit gothic St. Anne’s cathedral.
And these are not all Fall River has to offer visitors if they try hard enough. Fall River is home to a railroad museum, marine museum, the nation’s largest collection of WWII naval ships – and, yes, the Lizzie Borden museum and bed and breakfast.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Lizzie Borden, she was the first woman in the nation to be tried for murder. Fall River is infamous for her but boasts a well-known chef named Emeril Lagassee.
Now we come to my favorite part of Fall River – the food! Since a lot of immigrants came to work in the mills, there is a lot of ethnic food in Fall River. Of course, being about 50% Portuguese (hence the nickname “Little Portugal”), you can find chourico, sweet bread and malasadas among other European delights. Speaking of bread and pastry, the bakeries of Fall River are my favorite. Come here for lunch to try Sam’s Lebanese meat pies or Marcucci’s Italian Grinders especially! If you are in the mood for something upscale, try Georgio’s for dinner. The owner is locally renowned for his fine dining restaurants and his cooking school in the city, which, sadly, was recently an unfortunate victim of the mortgage crisis.
For those of you who are afraid you’re going to get mugged or have your stuff stolen, rest easy. The number of violent crimes is not nearly as bad as those in Providence, in whose metro it is. Take it from a cop’s daughter, most of the crimes are domestic. Just use common sense!
And for those of you who don’t want to meet the residents of Fall River because they aren’t white or can’t speak English even if they are, stop being prejudiced! Sure, some green horns can be heard throughout the neighborhood but you’ll never find a harder working set than the Portuguese. Really. Just try to find an old Port-a-gee man who hasn’t renovated his three tenement home by hand, raised his own meat and worked at least two factory jobs.
Fall River is diverse. Yes, you will pass some projects. Yes, you’ll pass three-deckers. You’ll also pass half a million dollar Victorian mansions. You’ll pass pajama-wearing street kids and you’ll pass pass old men in deck shoes. You’ll pass litter and you’ll pass glorious sunset views of the bay.
Fall River may be a little uneducated, but it offers plenty of opportunity. Bristol Community College is the best community college in the region, offering more classes, more times and more qualified professors than the Community College of Rhode Island. I saw ONE six pack ring in the pond.
Also, there ARE some arts – Spindle City Ballet, Fall River Little Theatre and the Narrows Center for the Arts. And at least one good hospital – Charleton Memorial. It is worth a visit.