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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adams National Historic Park - Quincy, Massachusetts

Since yesterday was Patriot’s Day in Massachusetts (and Maine), let’s have a look at some genuine patriots. We have endured many ersatz self-proclaimed ones of late.

Adams National Historical Park tells the story of four generations of the Adams family (from 1720 to 1927). The park has two main sites: the birthplaces of 2nd U.S. President John Adams and 6th U.S. President John Quincy Adams, and also Peace field, which all together were home to four generations of the Adams family

At the corner of Franklin Street and Presidents Avenue in Quincy, Massachusetts, there stand companionably close together two small salt-box style houses that date from the 1700s. John Adams was born in the older house, the weathered-looking, unpainted structure, in 1735. In the painted newer house, closer to the road, he lived with his wife, Abigail, whom he married in 1764.

That was all before he became President, before these roads were ever named Franklin and Presidents streets, before the town of Quincy came into being. This was still part of Braintree then. Today these two homes on this triangular plot of land form an island in otherwise noisy, hectic sea of 21st century traffic, high tension wires, and convenience stores. Yet, here it is still, believably, the 18th Century.

John Adams wrote in his diary a year after his marriage, on Thursday, December 26th, 1765, “At Home by the Fireside viewing with Pleasure, the falling Snow and the Prospect of a large one.”

It was a peaceful moment in the otherwise dramatic, tumultuous, and history-making life of the farmer-lawyer who rode circuit on his horse through all kinds of weather, snow included. As the years progressed, he would take a leading role in a Revolution, forge ties as a diplomat between Europe’s oldest monarchies and this new American country that was the first democratic republic in the world. He would become its first Vice President, and its second President, and his own son would be the 6th President.

Another house, about a mile away, is the more genteel manor President Adams and his remarkable wife Abigail moved to in 1788. Here they would spend their retirement years, and several generations of their family maintained the property until these three sites were turned over by the Adams descendants to the National Park Service in 1946. This country estate is called Peace field.

The Adams National Historical Park, which comprises these three homes in Quincy is a view not only on American history, but of its culture and artistry, and its ingenuity. There are thousands of artifacts here from the Adams family, including works of art, a library of over 12,000 volumes, furniture, and Abigail’s old bullet mold. She had melted down her pewter spoons to mold into bullets for the Continental Army.

John and Abigail Adams’ dramatic adventures during the Revolution and presidential years were chronicled in historian David McCullough’s “John Adams”, which won the Pultizer Prize and was made into the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries in 2008. In that year, after the miniseries was shown, the Adams National Historical Park was overwhelmed with visitors who had suddenly discovered John Adams through that program and now wanted to re-visit him and Abigail again in the best place that was possible.

Now that the crowds visiting these three homesteads have thinned out, it’s a great time to visit. Also down the street is the United First Parish Church where both President John Adams and President John Quincy Adams, and their ladies, are buried. More on that another time.

For more on the Adams National Historic Park, have a look at this website. For more on the HBO miniseries, have a look here.


John Hayes said...

Very informative post & great photos! My mom grew up in Quincy, but I don't think I ever visited these homes--something for another eastern trip perhaps. Of course I really like your statement: "We have endured many ersatz self-proclaimed ones [patriots] of late."

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Hi, John. The true majesty of patriotism formed of the gut-wrenching struggles of these founding fathers quickly obliterates the legitimacy of the mean and petty thievery of the "Don't Tread On Me" flag and label as patriots by modern-day disgruntled mobs.

History is so important a subject for study that a lack of familiarity of historical events and persons can affect the judgment of future generations. We have so many parks and museums like this one available all over the country, that regular visits should be planned not just by schools, but by parents.

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