We heard lots of stories about how narrow the streets are in Boston and how bad the traffic is in the city. Parking for the day runs around $35 in the parking garages. So with all that in mind, we knew we decided to take the subway into the city. We drove to Alewife, the closest station to our campground, which in good traffic is an hour away from Boston. But with traffic it could take 90+ minutes each way just to get to the subway station. Nothing in big cities is ever easy.
On Wednesday we drove to Alewife which with backups took a little less than two hours to get to the subway station. We rode the subway from Alewife to the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Columbia Point just outside of Boston. We were pleasantly surprised to see the Boston subway system is clean and easy to navigate. When we arrived at our stop we rode a free shuttle bus to the Library. The Library is in a beautiful location over-looking the water which Kennedy loved so much. His favorite boat, Victura, was on display outside. The Library was dedicated in 1979 and is the only Presidential Library in New England. President Kennedy was our 35th President of the United States of America.
Much like other Presidential Libraries, this one focused on Kennedy’s early years, his schooling and rise in politics, the 1960 election, and his accomplishments and challenges during his presidency. During his presidency he would give dignitaries a replica of George Washington’s sword. Kennedy’s PT 109 boat during WWII was destroyed and he inscribed a note on a coconut that summoned help for the eleven survivors. Later the preserved coconut was returned to him and he kept it on his desk in the Oval Office throughout his presidency.
Downstairs was a special Ernest Hemingway exhibit. When Hemingway died in Idaho in 1961, a large portion of his literary and personal estate was in Cuba. Despite a ban on U. S. citizens’ travel to Cuba during the Cold War, President Kennedy facilitated the travel of Hemingway’s widow to Cuba to retrieve his belongings. She shipped crates of Hemingway’s papers and artwork on a shrimp boat back to the U.S. Hemingway’s widow decided to offer the collections to the Kennedy Presidential Library since President Kennedy was instrumental in recovering the possessions. This made the Kennedy Library the world’s principal center for research on the life and work of Ernest Hemingway.
We grabbed a quick and expensive lunch at the café inside the Library and then hopped back on the bus back to the subway for the ride to the town of Quincy, “the City of Presidents”. Here we would discover the town where John Adams (2nd President) and John Quincy Adams (6th President) grew up and lived.
We arrived in Quincy and first went to the small National Park Service Visitors Center conveniently located across the street from the subway station. We watched a movie about the lives of four generations of Adams. We could have taken a two hour guided tour of the inside of several homes but it was very hot and we decided to spend our time exploring the town rather than looking at furnishings in homes.
Everything we wanted to see was within walking distance of the subway system. We walked down to “Peace Field”, The Summer White House, home to four generations of the Adams family from 1788 to 1927, including John and John Quincy. Along the way to the house we passed a bust of John Hancock.
We really wanted to see the grave sites of John and John Quincy because it is the only place where two presidents are buried together. They are buried, along with their wives, in a basement crypt at the United First Parish Church (completed in 1828), known as The Church of the Presidents. Outside of the church we passed statues of First Lady Abigail Adams and a young John Quincy. Across the street was a statue of John Adams which was hard to photograph because of construction in the area.
In order to view the crypt we were required to first listen to a tour guide talk about the history of the church and make a small donation to the church. It was dreadfully hot inside the church and we didn’t really want to listen to the guide, but we followed the elderly guide inside where we were seated in the Adams pew, where a bronze marker said it was the pew the Adams family owned and sat in. The guide did a nice job, explaining how in early times your pew position showed your wealth and importance. At that time you bought your pew in the church and even had to pay taxes on it. John Adams and John Hancock were both baptized in the original church by Reverend Hancock, father of John Hancock.
The tour guide then took us down a steep flight of stairs to the cool basement where we entered a small crypt with four tombs, John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams. A wreath lay on the tomb of John Quincy, recently placed in honor of his birthday. The guide told us the federal government pays to have wreaths put on the graves of every President on their birthday. He also told us that John and Abigail had originally been buried in graves at the Hancock Cemetery nearby and it was John Quincy who requested they all be buried in a crypt, possibly thinking the graves would be safer from vandalism or theft. Between the small room and the heat, the flowers gave off a heavy scent reminding me of a funeral home. I think I was expecting something a little more presidential in appearance and instead it all seemed a little creepy in the small room of the church basement. During John Adam’s presidency, there were fifteen states so there were fifteen stripes and fifteen stars on the U.S. flag. You can see this on the flag on his tomb. At some point it was decided to change to thirteen stripes because it wouldn’t work to add a stripe for every additional state. They settled on thirteen stripes for the original thirteen colonies. The flag on the tomb of John Quincy Adams has thirteen stripes.
As you probably already know, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were bitter enemies for many years, in part because Adams lost his presidential reelection to Thomas Jefferson. After many years, and at the suggestion of a friend, Adams wrote Jefferson and a friendship began again between the two men. Amazingly, both men died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Adams last words were, “Jefferson lives”, not knowing that Jefferson had died hours earlier.
By this time the heat was really getting to us and we were anxious to catch the subway back to the Alewife station and hopefully beat the traffic home. No such luck as we were caught in stop and go traffic and the drive home took over 90 minutes.
Tomorrow we are really looking forward to visiting downtown Boston!