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An easy, rewarding, and often-overlooked Freedom Trail side-trip is to the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy. The park includes the homes of American presidents John Adams (the famous Patriot and 2nd US President), his son, John Quincy Adams (the 6th president), and their descendants from 1720 to 1927. The park is right off of the MBTA Red line and is a simple, quick, and inexpensive trip from Boston. The park is open from mid-April until mid-November. Check their website here or call 617-770-1175.
A visit starts at the NPS visitor center – access to the homes is only permitted via ranger-led tours. Tours run two hours and cost $5 for adults; children under 16 and holders of a National Park Passes are free. Before leaving the visitor center, view the excellent short film, “Enduring Legacy,” that overviews the Adams’ lives and accomplishments.
The first stop is at the presidents’ birthplaces. To start, you will visit the wonderful, sparse, “saltbox” house (c. 1681) where John was born in 1735. Only 75 feet away is the house where John and Abigail gave birth to John Quincy in 1767. That house also holds the law office where John drafted the Massachusetts Constitution, which later served as the model for the US Constitution.
The next stop is at the “Old House.” Built in 1731, it was purchased by John and Abigail as a more suitable residence after their return from John’s diplomatic posting to London in 1788. The Adams family expanded the home from its original seven rooms to what you visit today. It was also home to John Quincy, his son Charles Francis (ambassador to Great Britain during the Civil War) and their descendants. It served as a summer White House and is full of original family artifacts and art that helps tell the Adams’ story – a real treasure to visit.
Next door to the Old House, set in a beautiful garden, is the Stone Library, built in 1873. This serves as the John Quincy Adams presidential library and holds over 14,000 books, artifacts and family paintings.
Across the street from the visitor center, but not part of the National Park, is the United First Parish Church. The Church contains the tombs of John, Abigail, John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams, website here. Founded in 1636 as a branch of the Puritan church in Boston, this is the fourth Church building erected on this site. Designed by Alexander Paris (also designer of Quincy Market), it was completed in 1828, with granite and funding from John Adams. If you have time, take the brief tour of the church and the crypt; a small donation is requested. Tours are available on the same schedule as the National Historical Park, from mid-April through mid-November.