Before recent biographies like David McCullough’s classic and the brilliant HBO series based on it, John Adams was often overlooked in the pantheon of America’s founding fathers, maybe not in the top tier alongside Washington, Jefferson, and Franklin. However, his stock has risen, so to speak, and he has assumed his rightful place. While he had no direct role in the fighting of the American Revolution or the actions of the Sons of Liberty leading up to the war, his devotion to the principles of independence was crucial. If that was the whole story, it would be enough of a legacy, but there is much more that makes John Adams so fascinating. His marriage to Abigail is one of the greatest marriages in American history. He is the patriarch of one of America’s most prominent families of scholars, diplomats, and public servants. Unfortunately, he and his son, John Quincy, also share the misfortune of having miserable presidencies that sometimes overshadow their greater non-presidential accomplishments. The Adams family story is one of the greatest stories of American history.
In Quincy Massachusetts, visitors can learn that history. Quincy is a short distance from Boston. On our recent stay in Boston, my wife and I took the convenient commuter train to downtown Quincy. The Adams National Historic Site Visitors Center is a very short walk from the train station. At the Visitor Center, there is a great video and gift shop. It is here that visitors can purchase tour tickets and catch the bus for the visits to the three Adams family homes.
The first stop is the birthplace of John Adams, purchased by his father in 1720. Adams lived there until he married Abigail in 1764.
Just a few yards away is Adams’ second home, built around 1665, the birthplace of John Quincy and the family home during the Revolutionary years.
After an informative tour of both homes, it’s back on the bus for a few minutes’ trip to Peacefield, built in 1731 and purchased by Adams in 1787. The estate was the Adams family home until 1927 and became a national historic site in 1947.
Upon their return to the Visitors’ Center, visitors should walk across the street to the United First Parish Church, built by the Adams family. The family worshipped there, and both sets of presidents and first ladies are entombed in its crypt. The church is not under the control of the National Park Service, but church volunteers conduct tours and answer questions for a small donation.
For lovers of American history, a day in Quincy is a must when visiting Massachusetts.