Peter and I went to Virginia in March to visit the homes of three great American presidents, inspired by the class we took on Thomas Jefferson last fall. As people who have been lucky enough to travel in many countries, a trip to Virginia was not a big deal.
What is a big deal is that we live a 30-minute subway ride away from the birthplace of our second and sixth presidents, John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and had never been there. To remedy that, we found a clear day on our calendars and penciled in a subway trip to Quincy, Massachusetts.
The birthplaces of the two presidents are just 75 feet apart and less than a mile from the ocean. They are old, by any standards, the first built around 1650.
We have come to expect excellent guides from the National Park Service, and we were not disappointed. After a quick visit to the original homes, we were “trolleyed” to the home that John and Abigail Adams purchased in 1788 after his years abroad as a diplomat.
Peace Field, set on 75 acres of former farmland is a “very Genteel Dwelling House”. Everything in the home is original, including John Adams’ standup desk, and his library of 10,000 books. The living room chairs that Adams bought for the White House and took with him when he returned to Massachusetts prompted a question from a visitor. “Why are some of the seat cushions so tall and others “normal”? Turns out, according to our guide, Krystal, that the thick-cushioned chairs were for the women. The taller pillows prevented the arms of their chairs from lifting their full skirts and revealing anything immodest.
It is pretty embarrassing to admit that we have lived in Massachusetts for over fifty years and had never visited the Adamses’ homes. But when, a woman from Texas on our tour admitted that she’d never visited the Alamo, I felt better.