Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Adams National Historical Site

Exactly one hundred eighty years ago today John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died, July Fourth, 1826. Today I visited the birthplace of John Adams as well as the birthplace of his son, John Quincy Adams, the second and sixth presidents of the United States respectively. Both father and son had limited social graces and were elected to single terms. John Quincy Adams served in the House of Representatives after his presidency, until he died. The wives of both men were infinitely more socially poised, as well as being intelligent and talented. The correspondence between John and Abigail Adams has now been made famous in books and documentaries. The historian James McCullough did much to rehabilitate the reputation of our nation's second president.

Besides the birthplaces which seem very humble by today's standards, the tour also included the house that the John and Abigail purchased in 1788. Abigail had bought it based on a childhood memory of the parlor. The purchase was made when they were living abroad. It was in a terrible state of disrepair when she arrived with beautiful furnishings from Europe with which to decorate. It took fourteen years to fix it up to her liking.

Four generations lived in the house and it was their great grandson who married a very wealthy woman and spent the money to make it look really grand. Realizing that he had no heirs to live there when he died, he convinced relatives to return objects that had originally been in the house so that it could be opened up to the public. Virtually everything in the house is original to the four generations of Adamses who lived there. This is very rare in a historic house.

The guide for the big house did an exceptional job. He started the tour by telling us that his ancestors came to New England in 1650. He knew a lot of detailed information about the house and its inhabitants. I was on the first tour of the day on the Fourth of July and he did convey his enthusiasm and nuanced patriotism. We ended in the first intentional presidential library that held many books of John Quincy Adams as well as some of the remaining books of his father. The last time that I took the tour our guide was not the expert that I had today. What a fun history lesson!


At April 21, 2008, Blogger histfan said...

Today, on Patriots Day, visited the Old House, where four generations of Adamses lived. The ranger led experience was very different from last time but also very good. Again I was on the first tour of the day. Later tours were full, which is not ideal for viewing the houses. Also saw the nearby crypt where two presidents and first ladies are entombed. The volunteer guide gave us a long fascinating history lesson there.


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