BWW Blog: James Beaman of Cape Playhouse's 1776 - Where John Adams Began
My retracing of the steps of founding father John Adams took me this time all the way back to his beginnings, with a trip to the Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, MA. Quincy was, in the 18th century, part of Braintree, the community where John Adams was born and raised, on a farm where four generations of Adamses had lived before him. Today the house where he was born and the house next door, where he and Abigail raised their family-and where they lived during the action of 1776-are preserved by the National Park Service, and on a rainy day in May I made a pilgrimage there to see inside these humble homes.
The Park Service doesn't allow photography of any kind inside the houses, which presented a problem for me and my video blog project! And the weather was so nasty that day that it was hard to shoot much on the grounds of the homes as well. I wish I could share with you the cozy, simple interiors of these old houses, and the rooms where Adams sat at the knee of his father Deacon John on winter nights, as he conducted town business... the hearth where Abigail melted her pewter spoons to make musket balls during the war... the little parlor where John ran his local law practice. The lives of these great Americans were not easy, and the conditions under which they lived were often dangerous and brutal. It made a lot of things real for me, this visit to Qunicy. The saddest part was to see that the acres of farmland which Adams loved so much and which were the lifeblood of his family are now gone, giving way to residential neighborhoods and strip malls.
The tour ended at the Old House at Peacefield, a charming and stately home in stark contrast to the humble farmhouses of Adams's early life. This was the house that he and Abigail took after the revolution, following a long sojourn in the French court, and it was the home where they lived out their days after Adams's one term as second President of the United States. Seeing the bed where this loving couple slept (and where Adams refused to sleep after Abigail died), and the study where Adams passed away on the 4th of July, 1826... these were very touching. The day ended with a little interview for the Patriot-Ledger, the local newspaper, about my quest to get closer to the most famous son of Quincy, on the grounds of Peacefield. While I wish I could share more of these historic homes, I have to say this was a very valuable piece of my research that helped me reach across the centuries a little bit to John Adams's real life. Valuable texture to bring to my portrayal!