Famous Bostonians: John F. Kennedy
And this is good old Boston
The home of the bean and the cod
Where the Cabots speak only to Lowells
And the Lowells speak only to God
With this post, the Boston Auto Tour introduces a new category: Famous Bostonians.
Here will be listed the important locations from the lives of famous Bostonians — one’s that ideally can be seen from a car.
There seems no more fitting an individual to begin with than the most famous of all Bostonians, the 35th President of the United States: John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
When the above toast was famously delivered in 1910, Boston was still under the firm tutelage of the old Brahmin families that began building more stately mansions along Beacon Hill throughout the nineteenth century. Described by Oliver Wendell Holmes as a "harmless, inoffensive, untitled aristocracy," the Brahmins held sway over Boston culture and society until their hegemony was finally challenged by immigrant upstarts like the Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys. But in 1916, this “harmless aristocracy” was still very much in control, with Henry Cabot Lodge thumping former Boston mayor John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald in the U.S. Senate race. But the Irish got their sweet honey revenge a generation later, when Fitzgerald’s grandson, John F. Kennedy, won the presidency in 1960, defeating the Republican ticket of Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., Senator Lodge’s grandson.
While few people today are clamoring to visit the ancestral sites of the Cabots and the Lowells, the Kennedy mystique still draws thousands of admirers in search of Camelot. For 52 years, from John Kennedy’s first election to Congress in 1946, until the 2009 passing of his younger brother, Senator Edward Kennedy, the Kennedys were a leading dynasty in American politics.
Boston was formerly the town of the Kennedys. Although the younger Kennedy generation has since risen to take several seats in Congress, Boston has now become a town of Millennials and startups. In fact, many Millennials, which make up roughly 1/3 of the population of the city’s population, likely have little understanding of how influential the Kennedy family has been in our area over the last 100 years.
It is for this reason that the Boston Auto Tour features JFK as its first entry in the category of Famous Bostonians.
In 2017, John Kennedy would have turned 100 years old.
A retrospective pictorial was published in the Boston Globe on the 50th anniversary of JFK death marking a number of famous spots that he frequented. A similar piece was done by WCVB to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth featuring interviews with staff at Omni Parker Hotel, Union Oyster House, and Harvard University.
“Then and Now: John F. Kennedy In and Around Boston,” Boston Globe, November 23, 2013
“JFK 100: City Hangouts,” WCVB Chronicle, 2017
Here are the key JFK stops on the Boston Auto Tour.
1. Birthplace: 83 Beals Street, Brookline, MA
Born here in 1917, the future President lived in this house until 1920, when he was three. He was born at three o’clock in the afternoon, attended by Dr. Goode, who delivered all nine of the Kennedy children. Kennedy’s father Joseph Kennedy, then a local bank president, bought the house in 1914 for $6,500, five years after it was built. After a succession of other owners, the house was reacquired by the Kennedy family in 1966 and is now part of a national park system, with regularly scheduled tours. No photographs apparently survive of the home’s interior when the Kennedys lived there. About 20 percent of the artifacts date from the Kennedy residency, including JFK’s bassinet and porringer.
2017 marked the 100th anniversary of John Kennedy’s birth.
2. Second Childhood Home: 51 Abbottsford Road, Brookline, MA
The Kennedy family moved here in 1920. Eunice and Patricia were born here, as was the future Attorney General and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, in 1925. It was while living here that Joseph Kennedy struck it rich with his own investment business during the economic boom of the Roaring Twenties. The house is today in private hands and is not open for tours.
3. Baptism: St. Aidans Church, 201 Freeman Street, Brookline, MA
JFK was baptized in this Tudor-style parish church in 1917. The church was designed by Maginnis and Walsh, which built many ecclesiastical buildings in the area, as well as the campus of Boston College, the chancel at Trinity Church in Copley Square, and the high altar of St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Charles McGinnis, the firm’s cofounder, had been a parishioner at St Aidans, as were the Kennedys. The church was closed by the Boston Archdiocese in 2003 and later became part of a housing complex.
Schools in Brookline and Dedham
By the time he was 10, the young John F Kennedy had been enrolled in three exclusive private schools in the greater Boston area:
4. Edward Devotion School, 345 Harvard St., Brookline, MA
Built in 1892 on land owned by the Devotion family, this public elementary school today has a student body that is one-third nonwhite or multiracial. In 2018, the name of the school was changed to the Coolidge Corner School, since Edward Devotion had been a slaveowner in the 18th century.
5. Noble and Greenough School, 10 Campus Drive, Dedham, MA
Noble was founded in 1866 by George Washington Copp Noble, the school was renamed Noble and Greenough in 1892 when it relocated to Back Bay. It moved to its current location in Dedham in 1922, not long before the young John F Kennedy was enrolled here.
6. Dexter School, 20 Newton Street, Brookline, MA
Now known as the Dexter Southfield School, Dexter School opened in 1926 as a successor to the Noble and Greenough lower school, which was discontinued when Noble moved to Dedham.
7. COLLEGE: Weld Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Weld Hall was built in 1871-72. JFK lived in Suite 32 in 1936 while a freshman at Harvard.
8. COLLEGE: Winthrop House, Harvard University, Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA
Winthrop House was created in 1931 with the merger of Gore and Standish houses, both built in 1912. It was one of the first dormitories at Harvard to welcome Catholic and Jewish students. Kennedy lived here while an upperclassman at Harvard (he graduated in 1940). It was here that he wrote his celebrated senior thesis Why England Slept. Now called the Kennedy Suite, his old rooms are used to accommodate guests of the Kennedy School of Government.
9. SPEE CLUB: 76 Mt. Auburn St., Cambridge, MA
JFK was a member of this “final” club and was supposedly the first Catholic to be admitted. The club also was the first at Harvard to admit African-American members.
Spee Club, Wikipedia
10. OTHER HARVARD - JFK Links
“4 things you might not know about John F. Kennedy’s years at Harvard,” boston.com, 2017
“JFK: Take a look at a surprising report card and his application to Harvard,” Washington Post, 2017
“Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at Harvard University on Thursday, June 14, 1956,” John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
“JFK’s Harvard,” Exhibit, Harvard.edu, (closed)
11. MILITARY SERVICE: PT Boat Training Center, Melville (Portsmouth), Rhode Island
Kennedy’s military training took place at various locations. Locally, he trained for PT Boat service in Portsmouth, Rhode Island in 1943.
Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, USNR, U.S. Navy
Portsmouth Places: Melville and PT Boats, Portsmouth History Notes, February 14, 2018
Melville, Rhode Island 1943 Stock Footage and images, criticalpast.com
12. CONGRESSMAN: Bellevue Hotel, 21 Beacon Street & 122 Bowdoin Street, Apartment 36, Boston, MA
An apartment on the third floor of 122 Bowdoin served as John F. Kennedy’s official voting address from his first Congressional campaign in 1946 through his presidential term. The building’s entrance is the green door at center. The Kennedy family reportedly kept renting the apartment into the 1970s. Senator Ted Kennedy’s funeral cortege passed this building in 2009. JFK initially lived at the old Bellevue Hotel, an adjacent building where his grandfather, John F. Fitzgerald, former Boston Mayor and U.S. Congressmen, was living during his retirement years.
Electoral History of John F. Kennedy, Wikipedia
John F. Kennedy: Public Perception and Campaign Strategy in 1946, Historical Journal of Massachusetts, Summer 2013
13. FIRST CONGRESSIONAL HQ: 18 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
JFK ran his first congressional campaign in 1946 on the 2nd floor of this office building which was located near the State House and his private residence.
14. Senate Campaign Headquarters: 10 Kilby Street, Boston, MA
At 10 Kilby Street near Post Office Square, JFK established his 1952 Senate campaign headquarters. The campaign was run by his brother Robert F. Kennedy and it was said to be the first statewide campaign with local offices throughout the entire Commonwealth. Kennedy defeated Republican Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., who he would defeat again in 1960 when Cabot ran as the Vice Presidential alongside Richard Nixon.
15. WEDDING: ST. MARY’S CHURCH, 12 WILLIAM STREET, NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
John Kennedy and Jacqueline Bouvier were married at the St. Mary’s Church in Newport, Rhode Island, September 12, 1953. “Bouvier was born in Southampton, New York to Wall Street stockbroker John Vernou Bouvier III and his wife, Janet Lee Bouvier, in 1929. In 1951, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from George Washington University and went on to work for the Washington Times-Herald as an inquiring photographer. In 1952, she met then-Congressman John F. Kennedy at a dinner party in Washington.” (Source: Wikipedia). The reception was held at nearby Hammersmith Farm, Jackie’s family home.
Re-Live Jackie & JFK’s Newport Wedding at St. Mary’s Church, whatsupnewp.com, 2017
Presentation of JFK’s Wedding a Popular Attraction at Historic Newport Church, Providence Journal, July 11, 2017
Wedding of Jacqueline Bouvier and John F. Kennedy, Newport, Rhode Island, September 12, 1953, John F. Kennedy Museum
16. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HQ: 260 Tremont Street, Boston, MA
Built in 1925 as the Biewend Building, this 14-story structure housed the headquarters of JFK’s 1960 presidential campaign. It now houses many medical offices for the Tufts University system. It is adjacent to the Boch Center / Wang Theater at 270 Tremont Street.
17. OMNI PARKER HOUSE HOTEL, 60 School Street, Boston, MA
The Omni Parker House hotel was built In 1927 and substantially renovated in the 1960s. The original hostelry was built in 1855, fortifying its claim to be the oldest continuously operated hotel in the country. JFK launched his congressional campaign here in 1946, and chose the hotel for his bachelor party in 1953, just before his marriage to Jacqueline Bouvier. It is alleged that he proposed to her at Table 40 in the hotel’s restaurant. However, according to the Washington Post, there are numerous locations that make this claim and a restaurant in Washington even has a plaque proclaiming it happened there.
JFK’s Proposal To Jackie At Martin’s Tavern Is ‘Legend’ No More, Washington Post, June 23, 2015
18. FIRST PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN STOP, 229 Main Street, Nashua, NH
A bronze bust marks the launching of John F Kennedy’s presidential campaign on January 25, 1960 on the steps of City Hall in Nashua, New Hampshire. He entered and won the legendary New Hampshire primary as well as six other primaries that year.
1. “In Nashua, Remembering The Day John F. Kennedy Launched His Campaign,” November 22, 2013, nhpr.org
19. LAST CAMPAIGN STOP, Faneuil Hall, One Faneuil Hall Square, Boston
On the eve of Election Day, 1960, candidate Kennedy delivered his final campaign address here, in a Revolution-era landmark where many orators had urged the colonies to declare their independence from Britain. It was, sadly, also the site of many slave auctions during the colonial period.
In the above photo “[Kennedy] was introduced by the candidate for vice president, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson, and began his speech at 11 p.m. He ended his remarks by saying, "We are here tonight because in other great periods of crisis we have chosen to go forward. And I am confident tomorrow in 1960, November 8, this country will once again choose progress, this country will once again choose to go forward, this country will once again choose to go to work to build a strong society here and to build a peaceful and productive world."
20. VOTING: Old West Church, 130 Cambridge St., Boston, MA
On November 8, 1960, Senator Kennedy and his wife voted in the basement of the church which served as the West End Branch of the Boston Public Library.
21. “CITY UPON A HILL” FAREWELL SPEECH: Massachusetts State House, 24 Beacon St., Boston, MA
John F Kennedy delivered his “farewell address” to Massachusetts in an address to the legislature here on January 9, 1961, nearly two weeks before his inauguration as the 35th US President. He told the assembled legislators:
“For 43 years, whether I was in London, or in Washington, or in the South Pacific, or elsewhere — this has been my home. And, God willing, wherever I serve, this shall remain my home."
The event has since been named the “City Upon A Hill” speech.
Remembering JFK’s Farewell Speech to Massachusetts,” Patriot Ledger, 1/9/2011.
22. UNION OYSTER HOUSE: 41 Union St., Boston, MA
The Union Oyster House is the oldest continuously operated restaurant in the United States. It was a favorite spot for Kennedy before and during his presidency. Booth 18 is known as the "Kennedy Booth" because it is where he was known to enjoy his lobster stew. It is kept empty on November 22, as a solemn remembrance to the day of his death.
23. KENNEDY COMPOUND: HYANNISPORT
24. JFK HYANNIS MUSEUM
25. HAMMERSMITH, SUMMER WHITE HOUSE
26. JFK PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY AND MUSEUM
27. JFK MEMORIAL PARK
28. JFK SCHOOL OF GOVERNMENT
29. JFK STATUE ON THE STATE HOUSE LAWN
Designed by I. M. Pei and dedicated in 1979, this modernist structure houses Kennedy’s archives. Located over an old landfill in the Dorchester section of Boston, the structure was built here after an earlier site in Cambridge proved problematic.