What is today Quincy was settled in 1625 as the northern part of the town of Braintree. It was not until 1792 - by which time early residents such as the Adamses and Hancocks and Quincys had brought great distinction to the town - that it was incorporated as a separate town. The new town took the name of Colonel John Quincy, grandfather of soon-to-be First Lady Abigail Adams.
For its first 200 years Quincy was a farming community. In 1752 King’s Chapel in Boston was constructed of Quincy granite and the quality of the stone became widely known, forcing local authorities to pass laws against its outside use to keep the stone from running out. But in 1825 Quincy granite was selected to build the Bunker Hill Monument and the race for the fine-grained stone was on. The first commercial railroad in the country was constructed so horse-drawn wagons could convey the granite to the wharf on the Neponset River. At one point more than 20 granite quarries were operating in the city and its largest industry attracted immigrants from all over Europe. The last quarry did not close until the 1960s.
By that time the City had developed a second signature industry - naval shipbuilding. During World War I, thirty-six destroyers were built in the drydocks of the Fore River Shipyard and it blossomed into one of the world’s great shipyards during World War II. Shipbuilding lasted until the 1980s.
It is not just heavy industry where Quincy had made a mark on American culture - it is also the birthplace of Howard Johnson’s, where a young cigar-shop owner went into hock to buy a run-down drug store near the train station in 1925, and Dunkin’ Donuts, after William Rosenberg changed the name of his Quincy doughnut shop from “The Open Kettle” in 1950.
We won’t see any Hojos or Dunkin’ Donuts on our walking tour but we will see alot of the Adams family. We’ll see family homes and buildings they helped construct and buildings they owned. So we will start at the Visitor Center for Adams National Historical Park in the heart of Quincy Center. It isn’t a historical site itself but is a good place to get our bearings...
WALKING OUT OF THE NATIONAL PARK SERVICE VISITOR CENTER (PRESIDENT’S PLACE AT 1250 HANCOCK STREET), TURN RIGHT AND WALK NORTH ON HANCOCK STREET. BEAR LEFT AT ADAMS STREET.
Adams Academy Building/Quincy Historical Society
8 Adams Street
The home of the Quincy Historical Society has been churning out history for the better part of three hundred years. John Hancock was born in a house on this site on January 23, 1737. After his father Reverend John Hancock died in 1744 Josiah Quincy moved into the house which burned in 1760. The property came to John Adams who deeded it to the Town of Quincy in 1822 for the express purpose of building a college preparatory school for boys on the distinguished site. It would be a half-century before grandson Charles Francis Adams opened the Adams Academy. Boston architects William Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt used red brick and contrasting Quincy granite to craft the Gothic style schoolhouse. The Adams name attracted a distinguished faculty but the school closed in 1908. After serving many masters over the coming decades the building became the home of the historical society that Charles Francis Adams, Jr. helped to found in 1893. The bronze statue out front of a World War I “doughboy” remembers the local men who served in the first global war.
CONTINUE ON ADAMS STREET AS IT BENDS LEFT AND CROSSES THE BURGIN PARKWAY.
135 Adams Street
Leonard Vassall, a sugar-planter from Jamaica, built the beginnings of this house in 1731. It was abandoned by loyalist owners following the American Revolution and John and Abigail Adams bought it in 1787 in anticipation of Adams’ retirement from the business of launching a new nation. At the time the house consisted of only two low-ceilinged rooms on the ground floor, two bedrooms, and an attic. Instead, Adams would be away for 12 more years serving as Vice-President and President and Abigail handles the expansion and refurbishing herself. John Adams returned to the house he called Peacefield in 1801 to live his final 25 years as a gentleman farmer. Peacefield would stay in the Adams family for four generations, until 1927. It was also home to President John Quincy Adams and his wife Louisa Catherine Adams, their son Charles Francis Adams who was ambassador to England during the Civil War, and historians Henry Adams and Brooks Adams. The Gothic Revival Stone Library next to the house is a fireproof 1870 addition, constructed for the papers and books of John Quincy Adams. The grounds are open to the public and include a typical 18th century garden and an heirloom orchard.
RETRACE YOUR STEPS ON ADAMS STREET AND TURN LEFT ONTO BRIDGE STREET, IMMEDIATELY AFTER RE-CROSSING THE BURGIN PARKWAY. CONTINUE TO HANCOCK STREET AND TURN RIGHT.
Dorothy Quincy Homestead
34 Butler Road at the corner of Hancock Street
This land was acquired by Edmund Quincy for his family’s farm in the 1630s. Descendants of the five generations of Quincys who lived here would include such luminaries as John Quincy Adams an Oliver Wendell Holmes. Dorothy Quincy Hancock, wife of John and the first First Lady of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, was raised here. The core of the present impressive house, dates to 1686. It evolved through two hundred years of enlargements to display a Georgian facade under a gambrel roof. Now a National Historic Landmark, the Quincy Homestead is open to the public through the Colonial Dames of Massachusetts.
Quincy Masonic Lodge
1170 Hancock Street
The architectural firm of J. Williams Beal Sons of Boston had been shaping the look of Hancock Street since the 1880s when they took the commission for this monumental limestone lodge. The Classical Revival building with Beaux Arts embellishments is dominated by a quartet of giant Ionic columns. Look for Masonic symbols crafted into the architrave above the colonnade.
Quincy Massachusetts Lodge No. 943 B. P. O. E. Building
1218-1222 Hancock Street
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) came relatively late to Quincy; the first organizational meeting in the city was held in 1904, almost 40 years after the fraternal brotherhood was formed. By 1924, however, the Elks could afford $150,000 to build this elegantly proportioned Colonial Revival lodge house. J. William Beals Sons of Boston designed the three-story brick building with limestone trim around a central Palladian window. A parade of stone balustrades march across the front of the flat roof.
1227-1249 Hancock Street
In the 1800s this land was part of the real estate empire of Henry Harwick Faxon that included extensive holdings throughout Quincy and Boston as well. His interest in this property did not, however, involve dollar signs but bottles of booze. Since the 1830s the Hancock House had stood here, doing a brisk business with the City Hall trade and Faxon, described as a fanatic in the cause of temperance, bought it in 1873 to shut down the tavern. Part of the site became Constitution Common and McIntyre Mall and in 1929 Boston architects George F. Shepard and Frederick Baldwin Stearns, favorites of the Faxon family, brought this brick Georgian Revival business block - complete with stone swag decorations - to the Quincy streetscape. Construction cost was $250,000, it was the second of two planned multi-use downtown buildings. The Dimmock Building a block to the north was the first, finished a year earlier in 1928.
City Hall Plaza, 1305 Hancock Street
This life-size bronze of the second President was executed by Newton resident Lloyd Lillie, a sculptor of many historical figures. It was dedicated in 2001.
Hancock Street, north side of City Hall
One of America’s oldest, the cemetery was founded in 1640 and for more than 200 years the leading citizens of Quincy were buried here, including many of the Quincy and Adams families. Interments stopped in 1854. Colonel John Quincy, who gave his name to the town, is here and Josiah Quincy. Henry Adams, who established the family in Braintree when he arrived in 1638, is here. Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were also buried here before they were moved to the crypts beneath the church across the street now known as United First Parish Church.
Quincy City Hall
1305 Hancock Street
About 200 years after settlement and 50 years after incorporating as a town, the residents finally voted to build a townhouse in 1841. The two-story Greek Revival government building, with its gable facing onto the street, was completed in 1844. Architect Solomon Willard naturally used native blue-grey granite in its construction. Willard had designed the Bunker Hill Monument two decades earlier and it was his decision to use hefty blocks of Quincy granite that triggered the stone quarrying boom around town. Willard provided the new town hall with exacting granite details, including an entry through fluted Ionic pilasters. Perhaps because its citizens waited so long for a town hall when a more expansive City Hall was required just 40 years later rather than tear down the building - as was the general practice around the country - it was retained and altered. Mclntyre Mall, adjacent to City Hall, was constructed in 1981 and named in honor of police Captain William F. McIntyre, father of James R. McIntyre, who was Mayor of the City of Quincy from 1965 to 1971. On November 3, 1985, City Hall was designated the James R. McIntyre Government Center.
United First Parish Church
1306 Hancock Street
The congregation was established in 1636 to become the anchor of the newly minted town of Braintree. John Hancock was pastor here from 1726 to 1744 and baptized his son John, destined to become a rabble-rousing patriot, in the church. John Adams, a lifelong church member like most of his family, donated the granite for the construction of the current building that replaced the wooden Hancock Meeting House on the site. Adams would not live to see completion of the Doric-Colonnaded Greek Revival structure, designed by Alexander Parris, in 1828. But he and his son, sixth President John Quincy Adams, and First Ladies Abigail Adams and Louisa Catherine Adams, rest within a family crypt here. For that reason United First is known as the “Church of the Presidents.”
1342-1368 Hancock Street
This three-story building curving around a prominent intersection in Quincy Center helped usher in the age of large commercial blocks in the 1880s. It was actually built in two stages, first beginning in 1880 fronting Hancock Street. The architecture with a heavy emphasis on half-timbering is considered Jacobean, in a revival of English Elizabethan style. The design for the Adams family, which owned the property until 1952, came from J. William Beal, a go-to architect for important buildings around Plymouth County. In the style of the day, the first floor contained stores, the second floor offices and the upper floors community rooms and living quarters.
Granite Trust Building (Bank of America)
1400 Hancock Street
In 1929 J. Williams Beal Sons capped a half-century of work along Hancock Street with this exclamation point of a ten-story skyscraper at the southern boundary of Quincy Center. It was constructed as a banking headquarters for the Granite Trust Company, whose roots ran directly back to the Stone Bank that provided Quincy’s first banking services in 1836. Their previous work in Quincy had demonstrated their facility with the Tudor Revival, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival and Gothic Revival styles. Here they delivered a modern Art Deco creation of granite and limestone that emphasizes clean, vertical lines.
TURN AND WALK A FEW STEPS BACK TO TEMPLE STREET. TURN RIGHT.
Quincy Patriot Ledger Building
13-19 Temple Street
On January 7, 1837 John Adams Green and Edmund Butler Osborne put out the first edition of the Quincy Patriot, the first hometown newspaper published in town. In 1852 George Washington Prescott, a descendant of Colonel William Prescott, who won fame at the Revolutionary War Battle of Bunker Hill with his order, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes,” showed up at the Patriot offices to work hawking papers. He would later buy the paper and it would remain in the Prescott family until 1997. In 1899, Prescott started The Quincy Daily Ledger, continuing The Patriot as a weekly. In 1916, the weekly and daily were merged into The Quincy Patriot Ledger. Through the name changes and machinations the newspaper always operated out of second floor office at 1424 Hancock Street. In 1924 the Patriot Ledger got its first home in this Colonial Revival building behind a facade of four large pilasters and arched windows and doors. Printing and circulation operations moved to South Quincy in 1961 and in 1988 the editorial and business offices finally followed.
WHEN YOU REACH WASHINGTON STREET, CROSS OVER ONTO THE GROUNDS OF CRANE MEMORIAL LIBRARY.
Crane Memorial Library
40 Washington Street
Harpers Weekly Magazine called this building “the best Village library in the United States.” It has been voted as one of “America’s 150 favorite works of architecture.” The man who designed it in 1882, America’s first celebrity architect Henry Hobson Richardson, considered it among his most successful works. Thomas Crane moved to Quincy with his family from Georges Island in Boston Harbor in 1810 when he was seven years old. As a young man he trained as a stone cutter and went to New York City as a partner in a stone yard. When much of the city was consumed by fire in the 1830s the market for Crane’s Quincy granite exploded and he parlayed his good fortune into vast real estate wealth. Crane died in 1875 and his son Albert used a $20,000 bequest to build the town a public library in memory of his father. Crane found the nation’s best architect in his back yard. Richardson would design five libraries in his lifetime and this one is his simplest in plan, the better to emphasize his trademark design details - broad Romanesque arches, window groups, conical tower and signature rough-faced Milford granite trimmed in red Longmeadow sandstone. Over the years the Crane Library has picked up three careful additions and a recent $16 million restoration.
CONTINUE CROSSING THE GROUNDS UNTIL YOU REACH SPEAR STREET. TURN LEFT.
Bethany Congregational Church
18 Spear Street
This is the third sanctuary for the congregation that first organized in 1832 with 21 members. Another work of J. Williams Beals Sons in 1928, the firm turned to the Gothic Revival style that had been a favorite for ecclesiastical architecture for almost a century. The gabled facade is set off by a fine square tower festooned with finials and gargoyles.
34 Coddington Street at Spear Street
Charles Brigham was nearing the end of a long and distinguished career when he won the commission for this academic building in 1909 at the age of 68. In an era of great school building in Quincy, Brigham delivered one of the best, a design that would influence many that followed. The longitudinal mass of the building is relieved by a slight projection of the facade and the third floor lunette windows bring new life to the traditional rectangular windows below. In the same spirit, Brigham used granite window lintels and string courses to break up the red brick massing.
TURN LEFT ON CODDINGTON STREET AND FOLLOW IT DOWN TO HANCOCK STREET. TURN RIGHT TO RETURN TO THE TOUR STARTING POINT.