Quincy, Here We Come!

By Janet Davis

The WWHP’s annual 2012 bus trip was held on Saturday, June 9, and was attended by twenty-nine women. The weather was pleasant and partly sunny, with temperatures in the mid-70s. With driver Franco at the helm, we headed for the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy. On the way, member Holly Nylander told us a story of John Adams’ time as a teacher in Worcester, between 1754 and 1757. He was not well liked by the students, who threw mush-mellon in his face! Upon arrival in Quincy, we drove past the burial place of the Adams family and a statue of Abigail Adams in front of the United First Parish, Unitarian, which was the place of worship for the Adams family. Our first stop was the National Park Visitor’s Center. There is a wonderful display of the Adams Family timeline, a large selection of books for purchase, and a room for viewing the PBS documentary “John & Abigail Adams: Meet the Original Power Couple” (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/adams/). From the visitor’s center, we boarded the bus to head to the birthplaces of John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

The John Adams and John Quincy Adams birth places became part of Adams National Historical Park in 1979. The two saltbox-style homes are adjacent to each other, and were built in 1681 and 1683. The summer kitchen of John’s childhood home was used as an all-purpose town meeting place, including the trial of Lemuel Bryant. Bryant was on trial for advocating the interpretation of the Bible for oneself. This trial had a lasting impression on John, and although he went to Harvard at age 16, he chose not to become a minister, but decided to become a schoolmaster in Worcester. After three years, John decided to become an attorney. In 1764 John and Abigail got married and moved to the beige house, adjacent to his birth home, in which John had a law office. John Quincy was born in this home, and this home was also the place where Abigail made bullets out of tin plates to aid in the Revolutionary War. The home boasts the innovations of the kettle crane and a separate bread oven, to help prevent women from being burned while cooking, and copies of portraits by Benjamin Blythe.

The next destination on the tour was John and Abigail’s second residence, Peacefield, in Quincy. Peacefield, also known as The Old House, was built in 1731 and was purchased by John and Abigail in 1787 while they were still living in Europe.  The original home had 7 rooms and was situated on 80 acres. Wishing the home to have a more European style, Abigail commissioned an addition, bringing the home up to 21 rooms, and called for the lowering of the floor so that the ceilings would be higher, yet the façade would remain the same.  While four generations of the Adams family resided in the home, John and Abigail were the only ones to reside year-round, with the rest using it as a summer residence. Brooks Adams was the last occupant and from 1927 to 1946 the home was maintained as a museum by the family. In 1946 the National Park Service took over running the property with the family stipulation that nothing can be changed without their permission.

Each room boasts pieces from the time periods of all four generations, rather than being set up as separate period rooms, including John and Abigail’s original furnishings as well as pieces belonging to John Quincy’s wife, Louisa Katherine. The grounds of Peacefield are maintained as an English-style garden, with the Lancaster and York roses planted by Abigail still blooming.

Perhaps even more stunning than the residence is the stone library built in 1873 by John Quincy’s son Charles Francis. The separate building was designed to be fireproof, using 20 tons of crushed granite for the foundation, granite and brick inner and outer walls, and an oak middle wall, yet Charles also added a fireplace. The library houses 14,000 books belonging to both John Adams and John Quincy Adams, with the shelves 2-3 books deep.  The library also contains John’s presidential desk, a portrait of the signing of the Treaty of Paris, the Amistad Bible, and an original copy of Don Quixote. The floor is made of Italian tile in an Ohio Star quilt pattern. Anyone who has an appreciation of books would definitely enjoy this building. The Adams National Historical Park is staffed by knowledgeable tour guides and is well worth the visit.

Next, the group enjoyed a pleasant lunch at Cap’n Fishbones in the heart of Marina Bay in Quincy. The meal options included swordfish, chicken, or portobello mushroom burgers. Many enjoyed a scenic walk along the waterfront deck before returning to the bus for our next destination, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is an elegant modern structure, with the entrance foyer overlooking a grand two-story, glass-encased space. The tour of the Museum begins with the viewing of an informational film on the life of JFK in the theater off the main entryway. After the film, patrons exit the theater and descend into the library exhibits. The exhibits are arranged in chronological order, beginning with the 1960 Democratic National Convention. Each “room” of the exhibit is adorned with original materials, artifacts and photographs, as well as period replicas, highlighting the 1960 campaign trail, the Kennedy-Nixon debate, the Peace Corps, Space programs, Robert F. Kennedy’s time as Attorney General, the Oval Office, and the Kennedy family. Of course, of special interest to our group was the exhibit In Her Voice: Jacqueline Kennedy, the White House Years. The exhibit features the audio commentary of Jacqueline Kennedy, as recorded by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. in 1964, alongside the personal effects of the Kennedy family during their time in the White House. This oral history was released in 2011, the 50th anniversary year of the Kennedy Presidency, by daughter Caroline Kennedy. Hearing the words of the former First Lady, in relationship to the clothing, letters, photographs, etc., was quite poignant.    A full and rewarding day was had by all on this 2012 annual bus trip. As members reflected on the day during the drive home, many expressed anticipation towards next year’s trip.  They also had suggestions!

Published Date: 
September 19, 2012