Summer Challenge: Adams National Historic Park

Early in June I posted an essay about visiting local sites and listed some of the sites that I was going to try and visit this summer.  A couple of them were not so local but I am traveling this summer so I added some out of state sites to the list.

On Friday, July 4, 2014 I visited the Adams National Historic Site in Quincy Massachusetts.  The Site comprises the Birth Places of John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams and the Old House, also known as Peacefield.  Not part of the National Park Service property but well worth a visit is the United First Parish Church (The Church of the Presidents) in the center of Quincy Square that hold the final resting place of John and Abigail Adams as well and John Quincy and his wife Louisa Catherine Adams.

The tour beings at the Visitors Center on Hancock Street where tickets for the tour can be purchased and books and other mementoes of the visit can be purchased.  There is a 30 minute movie, narrated by Laura Linney and Paul Giamati that is well worth the time to view it.  It is best to view it prior to boarding the bus but if you have to leave right away, make sure to leave time at the end of the tour.

John Adams Birthplace (on right) and John Quincy Adams Birthplace (on left) NPS Photo
John Adams Birthplace (on right) and John Quincy Adams Birthplace (on left)
NPS Photo

The first stop is the birth places of both John Adams and John Quincy Adams.  The houses were originally located in Braintree Massachusetts but the name of that section of Braintree was changed to Quincy (pronounced QuinZee).  President John Adams was born in the house on the right in 1725.  Both houses are constructed in the “salt box” style and are very simple.  John Adams lived in the house until he married Abigail Smith of Weymouth.  The newly married couple moved into the farm house next door that has been purchased by the former owner.  The family would live in this home until John and Abigail retuned from Europe.  The houses were operated by the Quincy Historical Society until the late 1970’ when they were turned over to the care of the National Park Service.

The Old House, or Peacefield to John Adams NPS Photo
The Old House, or Peacefield to John Adams
NPS Photo

The second stop is the “old house” or what John Adams called it, Peacefield.  The Adams’ purchased the house while they were still living in England and planned to retire there but shortly after they moved in John Adams was elected Vice President and so they were on the move again.  Adams named his new home Peacefield to remind him, and probably others, of the part the played in the Treaty of Ghent that ended the American Revolutionary War.  The house changed with each generation of Adams’ that lived in the house, 4 generations, until the Adams foundation retained the home and cared for it until 1940 when the National Park Service took possession of the house.

Inside view of the Stone Library NPS Photo
Inside view of the Stone Library
NPS Photo

On the same ground of the “”Old House” is Stone Library holding more than 14,000 books.  Built by the son of John Quincy Adams in 1870 it was considered a Presidential Library until the personal papers of both Adams’ were removed.  They are now in the possession of the Massachusetts Historical Society.  One of the treasures in the Stone Library is the Mendi Bible given to John Quincy Adams by members of the Mendi Tribe after his successful freeing them as slaves.  I am going to write more about the Mendi Bible in another essay.

John & Abigail Adams Tombs
John & Abigail Adams Tombs
United First Parish Church

No Adams tour is complete without a visit to the United First Parish Church of Quincy located across from City Hall on Hancock Street.  This is the Church, although not that particular building, that the Adams family attended and where both Presidents and their wives are buried.  Located in a crypt in the church basement are four large Quincy Granite tombs that hold the remains of the Presidents and First Ladies.  Originally they were buried across the street in the Hancock Cemetery but were moved after construction of the present church.  Each year on the Birthdays of the two presidents, the White House sends flowers and a ceremony is held, open to the public, and the flowers are placed on their tombs.  On the tombs are American flags as they would have looked during the time of their Presidency.

Although it was raining on the day of my visit I did take a trip across the street to the Hancock Cemetery and walked through.  Many Revolutionary War veterans are buried there as well as the Adams children.

I want to that the National Park Service for the care and concern they show to these national treasures and their desire to keep them open to the general public.  If you find yourself in Quincy do take time to visit the Adams National Historical Site you will be pleased.

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