City of Presidents – Quincy, MA 8/7/16

Full tour of Adams National Historic Park in Quincy, MA. You start at the Park headquarters in an office building at the center of town – the building also houses the Harvard Vanguard medical office on Hancock St. Here’s the doormat at the headquarters:


There’s a good 20 minute video on the properties and the 4 generations of Adamses who called these sites home.  A trolley drives you from site to site – and Park Rangers meet the trolleys to give visitors the history and tours at each location.

First, on Franklin St., is the birthplace of John Adams, 2nd President of the US, built in 1681.


Right next to it is the house that John & Abigail moved into when John’s older brother inherited this one. It’s where John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the US, was born:


Both houses are “saltbox” style slant-roof homes with a central fireplace. Sorry – no photos inside. Abigail ran the farm, raised the children, ran a school, and a store, reselling items John sent her, and wrote many of those marvelous letters here while John was in Philadelphia working on Independence, and then in Europe to raise funds for the Revolution and sign the Treaty of Paris. In between those travels, John wrote the Massachusetts Constitution in his law office in this home in 1780 – it’s the oldest continually governing Constitution in the world, and the basis of the US Constitution.

With the peace treaty signed, John & Abigail lived in London while John served as the fledgling country’s ambassador. John & Abigail returned to the states, and moved to the larger house and farm Abigail had bought; they dubbed it Peacefield. Doubleclick any photo to enlarge:

Peacefield became home to 4 Adams generations – John & Abigail, John Quincy & Louisa, Charles Francis (Lincoln’s ambassador to Great Britain during the Civil War) & his Abigail, and Henry Adams the historian. Each generation added to the home, expanding it from what Abigail compared to a tiny “wren’s nest.” Again, no photos allowed indoors, but the grounds and gardens are lovely.

This is the ivy-covered Stone Library, built by Charles to house his father John Quincy’s 14,000 book collection:

And a photo of a photo (from the Visitor Center) of the interior of the Library:


That’s John Adam’s presidential portrait above the glass doors. Adams was too busy to sit for the portrait, so the artist copied Washington’s portrait, made it rounder (but not shorter), and stuck Adams’ face on it.

Here’s Abigail’s Yorkist rose tree, “set out by Abigail Adams in 1788:”


And the apple trees, looking back at the old house:


Adams apples!


Forgot to ask about this giant hay mound around a post at the back of Peacefield – it’s at least 8′ tall:


Carriage house on the grounds houses offices and restrooms:

Next site is the Church of the Presidents, just a block’s walk from the Visitor Center:

The Adams Pew is marked with red white and blue flowers and flags:


The church’s basement houses the crypt with the tombs of John, Abigail, John Quincy and Louisa:

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John’s flag has both 15 stars and 15 stripes – the number of states at his death. We learned that the President of the United States sends a wreath to be laid on the tomb of every past president on their birthdays. Navy officers present the wreath in a formal ceremony, open to the public. The slides include the invitation to the John Quincy one on July 11; John’s ceremony is October 30.

In front of the church is this statue of Abigail and young John Quincy. She’s holding paper and quill for writing her now famous letters to John including this March, 1776 one to the Continental Congress requesting that they, “…remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the Ladies we are determined to foment a Rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”


Across from the church is the Hancock cemetery where John was first buried before removal to the crypt. Lots of Adams relatives, including his father Deacon John:

The whole area is under construction to create a public park replacing the road between the church and cemetery. John himself is supervising:


Final stop is Abigail’s Cairn, marking the hilltop where Abigail and 7 year-old John Quincy watch Charlestown burn and heard the gunfire during the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775. Her letter to John in Philadelphia describing the battle reached the Continental Congress 10 days before the official report. Despite 241 years of growth and change, you can see the Boston skyline (which blocks Charlestown) above the houses and trees:


If anyone had suggested an outlandish series of coincidences end to John’s story, it would have been dismissed as trite melodrama. But it is fact.

John Adams died at age 90 on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, in the wing chair still by the window at Peacefield where he watched and waved to the 4th of July parade. His final words “Thomas Jefferson survives,” unaware that Jefferson, his friend, fellow patriot, rival, and friend again, had died a few hours early, also on the 4th of July.

What a country, founded by ordinary farmers of miraculous genius!


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