“I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematics and Philosophy, Geography, Natural History, Naval Architecture, Navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Music, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”
– John Adams, 1780. 2nd President of the United States
This week we took advantage of some local history by seeking out the John Adams Historical Park in Quincy, MA. Our chilly, fall field-trip did not disappoint as an historical haven – so much to see, so much to learn and all made easy for us – thanks to the knowledgeable National Parks (NPS) tour guides.
Located just south of Boston, the Adams National Historical Park includes the birthplaces of two U.S. Presidents: John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Add to that “Peace Field” (or the Adams’ summer White House), JQA’s Library, and a bounty of U.S. History.
While the area surrounding the historic homes is not terribly dynamic, there are a few casual restaurant options (Jimmy Johns, Five Guys) and coffee shops (Starbucks) nearby. So if you are planning to make a day of it, you can park in the adjacent parking garage (free with NPS validation) and leave your car.
One starts by buying time-sensitive trolley tour tickets in the Visitor’s Center and everything else is smartly orchestrated from there, including a 26-minute video introduction to the Adams family life and history.
During our visit, we were hosted by three different guides who were experts in not only the Adams’ personal family history, but the social, economic, religious, geographical and political history that surrounded them and their time in early America.
Travel-School Fact: a great guide makes all the difference on any tour.
The third of three homes on the tour was John and Abigail Adams’ “Peace Field” estate, which they purchased while living abroad as diplomats. Other than their White House years, the Adams’ lived in this home until their deaths. “Peace Field” has since been passed down from generation to generation in the Adams family until donated to the National Parks Service. Every single article inside the house is original to the family, including Adams’ famous writing desk and the first-ever White House furniture. One can easily imagine the Adams’ living there, though outside it takes some imagination to block out the bustle of modern suburbia.
Gem of the day: The John Quincy Adams library, built in 1870 and home to his 12,000 plus book collection. A stunning library, with each book completely in-tact and preserved.
Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams (our 6th U.S. President), served our country in various posts from 14 to 81 years of age and apparently wrote a journal entry for every one of his days from age 9 to 81. He is likely one of the most educated and experienced public figures in our nation’s history.
The Adams’ Crypt and Hancock Cemetery is a short walk down the road from the Visitors Center. The crypt is located beneath a church, which is not part of the NPS, but provides an excellent tour. Our guide was impressive, as she was well-rehearsed on her history. While I am no expert, I am a history-tour-super-nerd. I always try to notice something inaccurate in a presentation, and was foiled during each of the talks.
The crypts were a bonus – we were not expecting to see these!
Both John (with wife Abigail Adams), and John Quincy (with wife Louisa Catherine Adams), are laid to rest beneath the United First Parish Church (Unitarian) After an illuminating tour of the church, we descended to the basement level. It was awe-inspiring to visit the thick granite vaults, knowing so much about the men and women inside.
“The Adams family’s devotion to the public interest runs like a scarlet thread throughout the tapestry of American history.” – John F. Kennedy
Travel-school details: We combined this field trip with recent history lessons from “A Young People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn and colorful review chapters in “Everything You Need to Ace U.S. History.” We also watched together, the HBO Mini-series called “John Adams” based on his biography by David McCullough. To assist in our discussions, Tony and I both read McCullough’s book and Zinn’s original People’s History of the United States.
Blending resources in text, art, film and field-trips work together to paint a complete and understandable picture of any time in our history.
Sofia and Oliver on John and Abigail Adams’ perfectly preserved (actual – not replica) front porch.
It is days like these which remind us why we love our “Travel School.” Thanks to the Adams’ Family and the U.S. National Park Service, we experienced a wonderful day talking, laughing, adventuring, learning… together.
National Park website: https://www.nps.gov/adam/index.htm
David McCullough book review: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2203.John_Adams
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn: Can be found here.
For more on, Everything you Need to Ace American History in One Big Fat Notebook by Lily Rothman: Click here (*works great as a supplement to US History lessons, though not a substitute.)
The Adams Crypt and Hancock Cemetery: https://www.discoverquincy.com/listing/adams-crypt-united-first-parish-church