This weekend I made an unplanned but very exciting visit to one of the most historic places in America, and it happens to be right in my town.
Somewhat unassuming on the outside, The United First Parish Church in Quincy, Massachusetts, houses a crypt with the tombs of two former U.S. presidents. John Adams (1735-1826) was the 2nd President and his son John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) the 6th President. Their wives Abigail and Louisa Catherine are also buried there.
On the day of my visit (7/15), the tomb of John Quincy was covered by a large wreath. That is because in accordance a 50-year-old tradition, each year on their birthday anniversaries, the sitting President of the United States sends a wreath to be placed on the tomb of a deceased president. John Quincy’s 251st birthday was July 11.
Up at the street level, the church itself is relatively austere, with whitewashed walls covered by memorial plaques, including those dedicated to the Adamses. But it is spacious, with galleries supported on thin columns running along its perimeter, and it is full of light from its large windows. It is still in use today—home of Quincy’s Unitarian Universalist Congregation—its pews lined with red velvet cushions. Among them is pew number 54, which was purchased by John Quincy Adams in 1828 for use by his family.
Across from the church is the Hancock Cemetery, the original resting place of both Adams Presidents. This colonial cemetery still holds the original presidential graves, as well as those of veterans of the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.
Quincy has more historic landmarks related to the Quincy and Hancock families. A short drive from the presidential crypts is the Dorothy Quincy Homestead, the childhood home of Dorothy Quincy Hanckock, wife of John Hancock (1736-1793), a patriot of the American Revolution and owner of the largest signature on the Declaration of Independence. This mansion combining Colonial, Georgian, and Victorian design was home to four generations of Quincys, before becoming a historic museum.