Homes of U.S. Presidents, Part 1.5: John Adams & John Quincy Adams
U.S. Presidential Homes, Birthplaces & Grave Sites
This is Part 1.5 in my on-going chronicle of homes, birthplaces, and grave sites of our U.S. presidents. This article focuses on the Boston-area birthplaces, family homes, and grave sites of our first father-son presidents, John and John Quincy Adams (presidents numbers 2 and 6).
You can learn quite a bit about the different presidents when touring their homes as well as a great deal about how different socio-economic classes of people lived during different time periods. However, you do not need to be a history buff to enjoy the presidential homes. Many, such as the Adams' homes offer interactive demonstrations, beautiful views, special holiday events, and garden shows. The volunteers or National Park employees who work at these sites are truly dedicated, informative people and are happy to answer a myriad of questions.
2. & 6. John Adams / John Quincy Adams
Where: Quincy, Massachusetts (outside of Boston)
Open: April 18-Nov. 11
Pricing: $5 / adult. Under 16 is free
The Adams National Historic Park includes the grounds of the Adams' Old House at Peacefield and the Braintree birthplaces of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. The park is easily accessible from Boston by public transportation or car and is a must for those interested in early American history. A free trolley transports visitors to and from the Birthplace and the Old House.
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The birthplace homes of the presidents--two neighboring New England salt box houses--are located in Braintree, Massachusetts. These homes are wonderful examples of middle-class farmhouses from early Colonial days.
John Adams was born in 1735 to Deacon John Adams and Susanna Boylston Adams in the east room of the house pictured to the far right in the photo of the two birthplaces. The oldest section of the home is the southeast side, which is thought to have been built in 1681 by the original owner, William Needham. A lean-to addition was built before 1720, when Deacon Adams bought the house.
Upon his father's death in 1761, John Adams inherited the house on the left, and his brother Peter inherited the family house. Peter sold the house to John in 1774, who rented it to their mother until her death in 1780. Following Susanna's death, Abigail rented the house to her aging servants. From 1803-1810, John Quincy Adams rented out his father's birthplace to tenants. From 1810-1818, John Quincy's son Thomas Boylston Adams lived in the John Adams birthplace. Thereafter, the home remained in the family but was rented to tenants.
John Quincy Adams and four other children of John and Abigail Adams were born at the house to the left, which was purchased in 1744 by Deacon Adams, who enlarged the home to its current size. John Adams began his law practice at this house, met with Samuel Adams and other Revolutionary leaders here, and wrote the Massachusetts Constitution in this house. He was also an enthusiastic farmer and worked the fields alongside hired hands until the demands of the Revolution and politics pulled him away to Philadelphia, Europe, New York, and eventually the new capital in Washington, D.C.
For most of the time that John was away during the Revolution--in Philadelphia, France, or the Netherlands--his wife Abigail tended to the farm, their children, and John's mother at these Braintree homes. During the British siege on Boston, Abigail famously took her son to the top of Penn's Hill, near their farm, where they watched the fires of Charlestown and heard the cannons roar from the Battle of Bunker Hill.
The JQA birthplace was the residence of John and Abigail until 1783, after which it was rented to tenants. John Quincy Adams lived in the home with his wife Louisa and their growing family from 1805 to 1807. From 1807 to 1885, the JQA birthplace was again rented to tenants. The surrounding farmland was reluctantly sold off in order for the third generation of Adams descendants to overcome financial mismanagement. The family sold the homes to the City of Quincy in 1940, and they are now part of the Adams National Historic Park and managed by the National Park Service.
For Adams history enthusiasts, the ancient farmhouses are must-sees.
Old House at Peacefield
The Old House at Peacefield was home to four generations of the Adams family, starting with John and Abigail Adams, who bought the home in 1788, while John was the U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James (England).
The Old House was built in 1731 in the traditional New England style. Its gothic Stone Library was designed in 1870 and completed in 1873, following orders contained in John Quincy's will to build a fireproof structure to protect and store the 14,000 books that were owned by John and / or John Quincy. This library also contains John Quincy's presidential papers.
Peacefield is where John and Abigail returned after his years of diplomatic service abroad were finally finished. It was here that he heard he had been elected vice president--and it was to Peacefield that John gladly retired after his presidency concluded.
The John Adams household was never dull. Children and grandchildren boomeranged in and out of residence at Peacefield. It served as the primary residence of John Quincy Adams and his family, then Charles Francis Adams and his family, and finally, Henry Adams.
Peacefield is beautifully decorated in the Federalist style. Since the Adams family directly transferred the home to the National Park Service, 99% of the furnishings are original to John Adams and John Quincy Adams, far surpassing all other presidential homes. The only replicas are upholstery, wallpaper, and bedspreads. The members and generations of the Adams family were raised to be aware of their particular place and importance in U.S. history and held onto possessions and furnishings that have disappeared from other presidential families and homes.
Peacefield also displays a wealth of important portraits in American history, including Adams family portraits by artists such as John Singleton Copley, Edward Savage, Jane Stuart, Frederick Vinton, and others.
The Adams Memorial Society, created by Adams family members, passed the Quincy home and the Braintree farm to the National Park Service in 1927, charging the service with the mission to inspire and educate current and future generations of Americans.
All Adams National Historic Park tours begin at the Visitors Center, located at the Galleria at Presidents Place. Parking is available.
Presidential Grave Site
Where:1306 Hancock St, Quincy, MA
When: Monday-Friday, April 9-Nov. 11, Monday-Friday, 11-4; Saturday & Sunday, 12-4
Cost: Donation based
John and Abigail Adams and John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams are buried in tombs in a crypt inside the United First Parish Church in Quincy. The congregation of Universal Unitarians was first established in 1639 and is still active today.
According the church's website, the United First Parish building is one of the best examples of Greek Revival churches in New England and was designed by Alexander Parris, who also designed the Quincy Market in Boston. It was completed in 1828 and is a National Historic Landmark.
Across the street is the Hancock Burying Grounds, which was Quincy's main burying ground until 1854. Because Puritans were very pragmatic about death, burials did not always include a marker. Thus, many more people are buried here than there are markers. The burying ground includes the Adams family tomb that is the final resting place for many members of the family, such as John and Abigail's daughter "Nabby," JQA and Louisa Catherine's sons George and John, and several others.
Learn More about the Complicated Adams
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- Homes of the U.S. Presidents, Part 3: Pre-Civil War
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- Homes of U.S. Presidents, Part I: The Virginians
The homes and grave sites of U.S. presidents George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe are perfect side trips for family vacations in the Viriginia area.
© 2014 Caroline Paulison Andrew
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