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More of Don's
photo series.

Presidents' Places:
John Adams and John Quincy Adams

Birthplace of John Adams
Birthplace of John Adams, in Quincy, Massachusetts. And right next door. . .

Birthplace of John Quincy Adams, next door
Birthplace of John Quincy Adams

First of all, let me tell you something I learned the hard way. It's pronounced [quinzy] not [quintsy]. I was told that by two tour guides plus four pedestrians I asked directions from. John Quincy, John Q. Adams' maternal great grandfather, specifically stated in his will that his name was pronounced [quinzy]. And the folks roundabout call the town [quinzy]. So as you are reading this (if you are), say [quinzy], not [quintsy]. Thank you.

These next five photos are from one or both of these houses. The tour guide dragged us through so fast I lost track of which house we were in. I had been assured by the man in the National Park Service area in downtown Quincy that there'd be plenty of time to take pictures on the tour. So at one of the houses I kind of dropped back so I could shoot without getting other tourists in my pictures. I was really irritated when the tour guide kept hurrying the group up. She said, "We don't have time for you to stand there taking pictures!" But I kept my cool (and kept on taking pictures).

Adams' home

Adams' home

Adams' home

You can see that the Adamses were down-to-earth folk. This was before John became world famous as a revolutionary, statesman, and president.

Shoe room

They even made their own shoes, and kept them in repair. John Adams' father, Deacon John, was a shoemaker as well as a farmer.

Beginnings of the Adams Library

The Adams Library had simple beginnings. Just a few books in a cabinet. But it grew, along with the family's status.

Peacefield, the Adams family home

After becoming rich (comparatively) and famous (very), the Adamses bought this house, which they called "Peacefield." Abigail had it enlarged to its present size, and four generations of the Adamses lived in it, each adding to the treasures inside (which I was not allowed to photograph). The Adams family, of which there are presently about a hundred or so, meet here occasionally for family gatherings.

Adams Library

The Adams Library, founded by John himself, is a living institution, offering scholarships for study in the Library and performing other worthwhile functions. This building was built in 1870 by Charles Francis Adams, John Quincy Adams' son. John Adams started the book collection, but most of his books are in the Boston Public Library. The books in this building are mostly John Quincy's and his descendents'.

Downtown in Quincy stands this statue of Abigail Adams, John's wife and John Quincy's mother, and John Q.

Statue of Abigail Adams and her son John Quincy Adams

Abigail is the only woman whose husband and son were legitimately elected president. She was also a power in her own right. She managed the farm while he was off saving the world (from England!). The farm prospered, and Abigail made wise investments. She influenced John politically also, and was a strong advocate of women's rights. She insisted, to no avail, that he include women's freedom, along with other civil rights and liberties, in his documents, letters, and speeches. But alas, she and John neglected their children, except for John Q., and the children suffered greatly throughout their mostly short lives.

First Parish Church (Unitarian) of Quincy Massachusetts also known as The Adams Temple and The Presidents Church

John, Abigail, John Q., and his wife Louisa Catherine, are entombed in this Unitarian Universalist church in Quincy. John Adams was instrumental in the building of this church; he donated a large sum and headed fund-raising for the church. The granite used in its construction came from the Adams property. The official name of the church is First Parish Church (Unitarian), but it is often called The Adams Temple and/or The Presidents Church. It is an active Unitarian Universalist church to this day.

Interior, First Parish Church (Unitarian) Quincy Massachusetts, looking toward the pulpit

Interior, First Parish Church (Unitarian) Quincy Massachusetts, looking toward the rear

It's a beautiful church, as you can see.

Me sitting in John Quincy Adams' seat

So here am I, sitting in the very seat John Quincy Adams sat in during the dedication of the church. John Adams did not live to see the dedication, but his son, who was president by then, did attend. (Photo by the tour guide.)

The Adams Pew in First Parish Church (Unitarian) Quincy Massachusetts

Pulpit donated by John Adams

The pulpit was commissioned and paid for by John Adams himself. It is modeled after one John saw elsewhere, Pine Street Church in Boston, I think.

Burial Vault John Adams

Notice the flag on John Adams' tomb. See anything wrong with it?

That's right, it has too many stripes. Actually, whenever a new state was added to the Union, they added a new star and a new stripe to the flag. It dawned on someone that that was going to look pretty funny, all those narrow stripes. So the they changed the practice to using 13 stripes only, for the original 13 colonies, and just adding a new star for each new state. You probably knew that already. These tombs contain the remains of John and Abigail.

Burial Vault of the Adamses

And these contain the remains of John, Abigail, John Q., and Louisa Catherine.

Louisa Catherine Adams, John Q.'s wife, was quite a lady in her own right. John Q. was minister to Russia, but he got transferred to Paris, leaving Louisa Catherine behind in St. Petersburg. (The Empress of Russia sometimes baby-sat John Q. and Catherine's children!) Anyway, Louisa Catherine didn't want to stay in St. Petersburg by herself, so she set out with her children in the dead of winter, heading for Paris. For parts of the journey there were no roads of any kind. She passed through vast fields of corpses from Napoleon's Retreat. Border crossings always presented grave dangers. When she finally got to France, border guards would not let her through, and were plainly intending to kill her and her children. But -- get this -- she convinced them that she was Napoleon's daughter, and they not only let her through, but provided an escort!

How on earth did a town get the name of Braintree. I couldn't find out, except that Braintree, Massachusetts, was apparently named after Braintree, England. In my school days I always pictured John Adams being born near a tree that had brains on it instead of apples. (Ugly tree.) The part of Braintree that John Adams lived in was absorbed by Quincy, but the town of Braintree still exists.

One thing I do know, from experience, is that Quincyites are impatient and discourteous drivers. I had to switch from the right hand lane over three lanes to the left hand lane in less than a block, during rush hour, in order to make a left turn to head for the freeway. Would anyone let me in? Noooo. So I squeezed in anyway, and got honked at loud and long.

Thanks to Valerie Lyons of Massachusetts for correcting some of my errors.


All photos on this site ©Donald L. Mark 1973-2007   Back to "Presidents' Places" Index