In My Footsteps: Quincy, Massachusetts

from Cape Cod Today, June 25, 2010, by Christopher:

Called the ‘City of Presidents,’ and the ‘City of Legends,’ Quincy is a city that lives up to that lofty praise.  Located only eleven miles south of Boston the seventh largest city in the state is a lot like the capital in places while also maintaining a separate identity.  Being the birthplace of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as John Hancock, it is apparent that history is a major attraction of Quincy.  The area was first settled by a party led by Captain Wollaston in 1625.  The settlement was located near the south shore of Quincy Bay and was named Mount Wollaston in his honor.  He left the area for Virginia shortly after the town was settled.  It was not until 1792 when the town got its name in honor of famed local politician John Quincy.  His granddaughter Abigail Adams named her son John Quincy Adams in his honor as well.

It is therefore only natural to begin any trip to Quincy with a visit to the Adams National Historic Park.  It is here on Adams Street where you will find the birthplaces of both John Adams and John Quincy Adams, as well as the Peacefield home that saw four generations of the Adams family live within its walls.  Also known as the ‘Old House,’ Peacefield was originally built in 1731, it was acquired by John and Abigail Adams in 1787 when the owners at the time abandoned it as they remained loyal to the British throne after the Revolution.

            Next to Peacefield is perhaps the first ever Presidential library built in 1870 in a Gothic style.  Inside it houses 14,000 volumes.  With vines crawling up the façade of the stone walls it adds to the haunting beauty of this library.  The location around these structures is nothing short of magnificent with wild flowers scattered across the green grass and an ankle-high hedge maze carved into the side yard of Peacefield.  The actual birthplaces of Adams and Quincy Adams are a five-minute drive away on the corner of Franklin Street and Presidents Avenue.

John Adams’ birthplace is a classic ‘saltbox’ home where he was born in 1735.

John Adams’ birthplace is a classic ‘saltbox’ home where he was born in 1735.  His son’s birthplace is literally only a few feet away.  The Adams’ and their wives are buried beneath the floor of the United First Parish Church on Hancock Street.  Built in 1828, and funded by John Adams himself, the church is made from Quincy granite and stands alone on an island surrounded by roads.  It is a can’t miss destination, as all of these locations are as they are important pieces of our beginnings as an independent nation.

The third USS Salem (CA-139) is one of three Des Moines-class heavy cruisers completed for the United States Navy shortly after World War II. Commissioned in 1949, she was the world’s last heavy cruiser to enter service and the only one still in existence.

USS Salem (CA-139) Staff Photo by Mike Adaskaveg.

Despite being called the ‘City of Presidents’ there is a lot more to see in Quincy.  One such place is the site of the U.S.S. Salem battleship.  Commissioned in 1947 the Salem was a fleet flagship that was sent on seven missions to the Mediterranean Sea during the 1950’s.  After being decommissioned in 1959 the Salem began a long journey and finally returned to its proper home in Quincy where it sits as a museum near Kings Cove very close to Route 3A.  The ship is purported to be haunted and the museum owners play up this notion very well with a painted up hearse along side the ship.  There is also a miniature golf course on the grounds as well and the USS Salem houses the USS Newport News museum as well.

For those looking to enjoy some natural beauty, Quincy has that as well.  First there is a smaller park area called Moswetuset Hummock(left) located along Quincy Bay on the north end of Wollaston Beach.  This area was a summer gathering spot for the Massachusett Native Americans back in the 17th century.  It also contains a spot known as Arrowhead Hill which was the base maintained by Chickatawbut, the sachem, or chief, of the Massachusett tribe.  Chickatawbut met with Myles Standish and Squanto, shortly after the Pilgrims arrival in Plymouth, in 1621.

Chickatawbut’s legacy in Quincy goes further than Moswetuset Hummock.  It extends to another spectacular conservation and recreation area known as Blue Hills.  Stretching more than 7,000 acres into neighboring Dedham, Milton, and Randolph, Blue Hills has more than 125 miles of trails and peaks of up to 635 feet on Great Blue Hill.  This area got the name ‘blue hills’ from the settling Europeans who noticed a bluish hue on the slopes when they were viewed from a distance.

As for Massachusett sachem Chickatawbut his name is all over Blue Hills.  One of the Blue Hills Reservation Parkways is named Chickatawbut Road, and the highest point in Quincy, at 517 feet, is named Chickatawbut Hill.  It is hard not to associate this Native American legend with the city of Quincy and its heritage.

A ‘City of Presidents’ and so much more, Quincy is a city surrounded by natural beauty and history.  The birthplaces of John and Abigail Adams as well as their son John Quincy Adams are must sees, as is Peacefield.  Don’t forget the purportedly haunted U.S.S. Salem.  Beyond the history there is the natural beauty of Blue Hills and Moswetuset Hummock as well.  There is so much to see in Quincy and with it being so close by there is no reason not to get out and enjoy it.  Have fun and happy traveling!

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