If you’re a teacher planning to visit Boston to learn more about Colonial American History and the Revolution, I highly recommend adding the Adams National Historical Park to your trip’s itinerary. The Adams NHP is located 10 miles south of Boston and can be reached by the MBTA “T” Subway System — take the Red Line Braintree train to the Quincy Center stop. The ride normally takes me just under 25 minutes. When you exit the subway, the National Park Service Visitor Center is located a short distance away in the Galleria at President’s Place at 1250 Hancock Street. Guided tours leave from the Visitor Center on a regular basis and participants are taken by trolley to the presidential birthplace homes of John Adams and John Quincy Adams as well as Peace field — the home and farm purchased by John and Abigail Adams in 1788. The park is open for tours from April 19 to November 10.
The presidential birthplace homes stand in their original locations on Franklin Street, once part of the Old Coast Road (the main route from Boston to Plymouth) in what was then called Braintree. The John Adams Birthplace was built in 1681. John’s father, Deacon John Adams, purchased the saltbox style home with six surrounding acres in 1720 and here the future second president was born on October 30, 1735. In 1744 Deacon John Adams purchased a second saltbox style home, built in 1663, located next door along with a substantial amount of land. On about 188 acres of property, Deacon Adams worked as a farmer in the summer and cordwainer in the winter. His oldest son John and younger boys Peter and Elihu helped their father around the farm, where the main crop was corn. Deacon Adams wanted John to focus on his education instead of farming and John went on to attend Harvard and become a lawyer. When Deacon Adams died in 1761, the home that John was born in was given to his brother Peter and John received the home and land his father had purchased in 1744.
After John Adams married Abigail Smith on October 25, 1764, they moved into the home John had inherited from his father. In this home, John and Abigail Adams raised four children including the future 6th president John Quincy Adams. Today this building is referred to as the John Quincy Adams Birthplace. John Adams ran his law practice here and during the tour of this historic home you will see the room he worked in. In that room he wrote the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In this home, Abigail educated the children, ran the family farm, and did her best to make ends meet while John was away for long periods of time working for the government both in Philadelphia and in Europe. Throughout this time, Abigail wrote letters to John updating him on the latest news from the home front. From this home, on Saturday June 17, 1775, Abigail and the children could hear the guns of Bunker Hill as the battle raged miles away. Abigail took her seven-year-old son John Quincy to the top of nearby Penn’s Hill where they witnessed the bombardment and saw the smoke as the British burned Charlestown. Today the Abigail Adams cairn marks the spot where they stood. The cairn was constructed in 1896; rebuilt from the original stones in 2008; and rededicated on July 11, 2009. It is located at the corner of Franklin Street and Viden Road.
After touring the birthplace homes with a National Park Service ranger, visitors are taken by trolley to Peace field — the home and farm purchased by John and Abigail Adams in 1788. It was here that John Adams learned he had been elected the first Vice President of the United States. Peace field was the home of four generations of the Adams family and during that time it grew from a small home to one with twenty-one rooms. It contains more than 78,000 artifacts, including furniture that belonged to John and Abigail, paintings, china, and John Adams’ personal copy of the Declaration of Independence. After touring the home, you’ll visit the nearby Stone Library built in 1870 — the Presidential Library of John Quincy Adams. Visitors strolling the property can admire a tree planted by John Quincy Adams and marvel at a rose bush planted by his mother Abigail Adams in 1788. She brought the York rose back from England and remarkably it still blooms today.
David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize winning book John Adams published in 2001 and the HBO miniseries John Adams that aired in 2008 elevated interest in the second president and dramatically increased attendance at the Adams NHP.
To learn more about the Adams National Historical Park, view the NPS Adams website. The video below features stunning photos of The Old House at Peace field and the surrounding property.