5. Rookie Murderer’s House, Beacon Hill
Arguably Boston’s most prestigious address, Louisburg Square is a short block with chic Greek Revival-style homes on both sides and a pretty oval park at its center. The block exudes a sense of Victorian propriety; but, Vargo reveals, it was there that one of the city’s spiciest scandals took place.
In the 1960s, the red brick rowhouse of 85 Pinckney Street was the home of Suzanne Clift, child of a prominent Boston family that included television producer Thomas Brooks Clift and film actor Montgomery Clift. Vargo tells the story of Suzanne’s torrid affair with an Italian lover named Pietro. As the story goes, Pietro and Suzanne had been dating for two years, but he was about to end their affair and move to the West Coast to find a job. Before he could leave, he was found dead. Meanwhile, Suzanne had fled the country with her dog Shnipsi, inspiring titillating headlines about the “socialite” who murdered her lover in Beacon Hill. “For a while, it was the most exciting news in Boston: this young woman, a debutante from a posh family, who had killed her boyfriend in a crime of passion.”
Suzanne eventually returned to Boston and confessed to the crime, claiming it was an accident. Hundreds of onlookers came to watch her trial, where defense lawyers revealed that she had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia. And that she was pregnant with Pietro’s child. Suzanne was convicted of manslaughter, but her sentence involved time in a mental health center rather than prison. And so, the tantalizing story of the Rookie Murderer faded into the annals of Boston’s hidden history.
The Debutante Murderer House is now a private residence, but only one of many notable homes on this picturesque city block. Stroll around Louisburg Square to see the homes of some famous residents from history, including writer Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), artist John Singleton Copley (painter of Watson and the Shark) and l architect Charles Bullfinch (designer of the Massachusetts State House).