A trip to the Adams Homestead first requires a stop at the National Park Visitors Center where you board a trolley that takes you to the birthplace houses and then continues on to Peacefield. This past weekend was a "Fee-Free Weekend" offered by the National Park Service, a nice little perk they offer about three times each summer that gives you a chance to enjoy some of the best the National Park Service has to offer us for free!
Inside the Visitors Center in Quincy there are models of the houses and the United First Parish Church, where both Presidents and their First Ladies are entombed. The church itself isn't part of the National Park but is owned by the active congregation of Unitarian Universalists which has used its own resources, including its endowments, to preserve the building. Established as the parish church of Quincy in 1639, the current building was constructed in 1828 from designs by the American architect Alexander Parris; the building was designated a National Historic Landmark on December 30th, 1970. In the picture above Amanda is pretending to be Godzilla just in case you were wondering!
First stop on our tour is the birthplace of the man who became our second President of the United States, John Adams. Born October 30th, 1735, John Adams was more than just our second President but also a very important figure in the American Revolution and the events leading up to it. If you've not read David McCullough's book John Adams, on which the award-winning HBO mini-series was based, I suggest you do as it will give you a pretty good idea of just what our forefathers went through to get this great nation of ours started. If you're not up to the book, I hear the mini-series is fantastic though I've yet to see it myself.
Across the yard is the home where our sixth President, John Quincy Adams, was born on July 11th, 1767. It was in this house that young John Adams and his bride Abigail started their family and the future President launched his career in politics and law. John Adams maintained his law office in the house and it was here that he, Samuel Adams and James Bowdoin wrote the Massachusetts Constitution.
Both houses are quite small and tourists are not allowed up to the second floors due to safety reasons nor are pictures allowed inside (though if you watch the video below you may find one or two snuck in). This was actually the second time I had been to the houses and I was quite thankful that there were no stupid questions like "where was the bathroom?" and "how did they do the dishes if there was no sink?" that were asked by the two other women on the tour we took. Of course, back when I went the first time with my cousin Amy there were very few people taking the tours whereas the popularity of the mini-series has really increased the number of people wishing to visit the oldest preserved birthplace of a United States President.
From the birthplace houses it's back on the trolley and a short ride over to Peacefield, which was the home where both Abigail and John died. The residence of the Adams family for four generations from 1788 to 1927, it was home to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; First Ladies Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams; Civil War Minister to Great Britain Charles Francis Adams; and literary historians Henry and Brooks Adams. Adjacent to the house is the medieval style Stone Library, built in 1873, which contains more than 14,000 books that belonged to the Adamses and which is considered to be the very first Presidential Library.
After touring all of the houses, we climbed back onto the trolley and made our way back to the Visitors Center. From there the idea was to drive up to Cambridge and tour the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Home which was also part of the Fee-Free Weekend but Amy's GPS kept wanting to take us to Logan Airport instead. For the most part I don't mind driving pretty much anywhere but Boston is one of the few places that I truly despise driving in so after getting lost a couple of times I said to hecks with it and we headed north on Route 93. After stopping for lunch at a Friendly's in Shoreham we got back on the turnpike and next thing I knew we were in New Hampshire!
At that point Amy told me that she had never been further north than Concord, New Hampshire and even though it was late afternoon, we made a snap decision to continue up towards the White Mountains. By California and Colorado standards the White Mountains aren't much but they're the best we've got here in New England and I do so like the mountains so off we went!
We drove up through Franconia Notch, where the Old Man of the Mountain used to hang out on the side of a granite mountain, and then drove down to Lincoln and took the Kancamagus Highway over to Conway. The Kancamagus is 35 miles of beautiful scenery through the White Mountain National Forest; the last time I had traversed it was just about 18 years ago today while I was on my honeymoon in Franconcia. Trust me, this was simply circumstantial and was not by any means planned!
Unfortunately it was pretty hazy on Saturday - probably due to the heat we've been having here in New England - so the vistas weren't very scenic but it was a nice ride all the same and Amy really enjoyed it and hopes to go back again in the fall when the foliage changes. Amanda, though, didn't quite grasp the whole concept of a ride to nowhere and was probably ready to expire from boredom in the back seat!
Our day started at 8:00 a.m. when we left the house and ended at 11:30 p.m. when I pulled back into the driveway, a little over 500 miles later! It certainly wasn't planned that way but sometimes that's half the fun of going someplace - not knowing where you're going to end up!