“They're crazy and they're kooky. . .”
No, no, not the Addams Family, but rather, the Adams Family, as in John and John Quincy Adams. One 'd,' not two. Few families in American have had such an impact on our history as the Adams family of Quincy, Massachusetts.
In addition to being the second president of these United States, the patriarch of the family, John Adams, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well. He also served as ambassador to the court of Saint James in London after relations were restored with Great Britain after the American Revolution.
Adams' son, John Quincy, served as president, as well. If that was not enough, he also served as ambassador to the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia and Great Britain and then served as Secretary of State. He also found time to serve as US Senator and, after his presidency, as Congressman. Whew! Busy, busy.
On my trip this past fall to Connecticut and Massachusetts I paid a visit to Quincy in order to tour the houses where the Adams lived. I couldn't just drive up to them and walk in, though. I had to first stop in at the visitor center for the Adams National Historical Park, which is located in the downtown area. The center had no parking lot so I had to park on the street.
After paying a very reasonable $5.00 entrance fee I watched a movie about the Adams and then joined a group of 15 or 16 other tourists for a ride on a trolley that took us to the various houses.
After riding for several blocks we arrived at the parcel of land where the first two houses are. I can understand why the Park Service uses a trolley system for the tours. Suburbia has grown up all around and there just isn't any space to build a parking lot. This was quite a contrast from Mount Vernon, the home of George Washington, which I visited on another trip about a year and a half ago. Although suburbia lies not too far away, Mount Vernon is tucked away in its own hidden corner with a large parking lot dedicated to it. At any moment during the course of a day there are hundreds if not thousands of visitors mulling about the estate, as compared to the much smaller crowds at the Adams' houses.
As we disembarked the trolley a park service guide greeted us and then led us first to the oldest of the two houses. This is the one in which the elder Adams was born on October 30, 1735. According to our guide, there is nothing much original left about the house. It was built by his father, Deacon John Adams, a pious man and community leader, who often led meetings, both spiritual and civic, in the house.
The second house, just 75 feet away, is one in which Adams resided as a young lawyer. It also served as the birthplace of his son, John Quincy. It was also in this house that Adams, his cousin Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin wrote the Massachusetts Constitution, which is the oldest state constitution still in use today.
By the end of the tour of the second house the trolley driver was waiting for us and drove us another mile or two to the last and grandest of the three houses. Since we were a large group, the guides at the last house divided us into two separate groups.
This house, dating from 1731, was purchased by Adams and his wife, Abigail, after he returned from Britain after serving as ambassador. They, as well as subsequent generations of the family, added on to the mansion during the ensuing decades. The house as it now exists has 23 rooms. Most of the furnishings are original to the family.
Four generations of Adams, including ambassador to Britain Charles Francis Adams and historians Henry and Brooks Adams, lived in the mansion from 1788 to 1927.The tour of this house and the separate library building took longer than the tours of the first two houses, lasting about an hour. The library, which has books on two levels, and ladders to get to them, contains over 14,000 volumes. (That's 'thousand' with a 'th.')
After the trolley returned us to the visitor center I proceed on foot a few blocks to the nearby United First Parish Church, in the basement of which the two presidents and their wives are interred. Along the way I passed a Chinese restaurant whose name provided me with quite a chuckle. Its name is Tung Long Garden.
When I arrived at the church, a friendly man, probably a volunteer, took me downstairs to a crypt and invited me to take as many pictures as I wished. He then walked me back upstairs to the sanctuary, where he showed me the pew (#54) that Adams had bought and where he and Abigail sat during services.
The tour guide also told me that the locals pronounce the name of their town with a 'z,' as in 'Quinzy.' I always enjoy it when I get a chance to talk to the locals because they know stuff that the guide books and Wikipedia don't tell you.
After paying my respects at the Adams crypt I left Quincy, which was named after Colonel John Quincy, Abigail's maternal grandfather, and headed south toward my next destination of the day.