This story was created for the Google Expeditions project by ePublishing Partners, now available on Google Arts & Culture
Join this Expedition to explore the homes of 5 of the country’s most celebrated presidents.
John Adams – Franklin Street Houses
John Adams was a descendent of the Puritans who founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony and, as a delegate to the First Continental Congress, one of the United States’ founding fathers.
Adams served under George Washington as the 1st vice president and succeeded Washington to become the 2nd president. In that role, he and his wife Abigail were the first residents of the White House. Remarkably, Adams’ childhood home and the first house he owned as an adult are still standing.
John Adams Birthplace 1
John Adams was born on October 30, 1735, in this house in what is now Quincy, Massachusetts. Built in 1681, it is the oldest existing presidential birthplace. Adams’ father, also John, was a farmer, a part-time shoemaker, and a church deacon.
John Adams Birthplace 2
Originally, the wood frame house had 2 downstairs and 2 upstairs rooms built around the large chimney. It was altered and extended while Adams was growing up, perhaps in part to accommodate a growing family—Adams had 2 younger brothers.
Birthplace of John Quincy Adams
When his father died, John Adams inherited the house next door to his birth home. He moved his wife Abigail in when they married in 1764. Their second child and America’s 6th president, John Quincy Adams, was born here in 1767.
The houses originally sat on the edge of about 180 acres, on which Adams’ father raised grains. In later life, Adams said he would have preferred the life of a farmer, but his education at Harvard set him on a different course.
John Adams – The Old House
Between 1764, when they married, and 1788, when they first moved into the Old House, a lot changed in John and Abigail Adams’ lives. Abigail gave birth to 6 children and lost 2 of them while John’s law practice took off.
He served in the Continental Congress and in a series of diplomatic posts before becoming vice president and then president. In fact, it was not until his term as president ended in 1801 that he and Abigail took up full-time residence here.
Peacefield, or the Old House
Just 2 miles from Adams’ birthplace, Peacefield, or the Old House as it was commonly called, was built in 1731. Abigail had many improvements made to the house. An 1800 addition doubled its size. Between 1788 and 1927, 4 generations of Adamses lived here.
The Stone Library
John Adams’ grandson Charles Francis Adams had the medieval-style Stone Library built in 1870, following a directive in his father John Quincy Adams’ will. Most of the library’s 12,000 books were amassed by John Quincy.
Orchard and Gardens
During the years that Charles Francis Adams oversaw the Old House, he transformed it from a farm into a gentleman's country estate. Today, visitors to the house can stroll through the historic orchard and a formal garden containing thousands of annual and perennial flowers.
Thomas Jefferson - Tuckahoe Plantation
In 1745, Peter and Jane Randolph Jefferson of Shadwell, Virginia, became guardians to the 3 children of Jane’s cousin William Randolph and his wife Maria. Maria had died in 1742, and William followed 3 years later.
The Jeffersons and their 4 children took up residence in the Randolph family seat, Tuckahoe Plantation, in Richmond. One of those children was the then 2-year-old Thomas, who in later life would become a founding father of the United States and its 3rd president.
A Full House
During the 7 years the Jeffersons lived at Tuckahoe, they had a 5th child, bringing the total number of children in the house to 8. Thomas Jefferson and his 2nd cousin Thomas Mann Randolph established a friendship that lasted throughout their lives.
The Randolph and Jefferson children had lessons in this one-room schoolhouse. Jefferson described the instruction as “English school”—the focus was on English grammar and composition. Jefferson’s education in Latin and Greek began when he left Tuckahoe at the age of 9.
Tuckahoe was a working tobacco plantation, and it ran on slave labor. The outbuildings along “Plantation Street” include 3 slave quarters. The irony that Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence, was himself a slave owner is often noted.
Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Home in Springfield 1
Famously, Abraham Lincoln grew up in a log cabin in Indiana and ended his days in the White House. There were other homes in between. In 1831, the Lincoln family moved to Illinois.
Abe soon struck out on his own, and by 1837, after a stint in the militia and law school, he was boarding with friends in the Illinois state capitol, Springfield. In 1842, he married Mary Todd. After renting for 2 years, the couple bought a house at Eighth and Jackson Streets.
The black-upholstered furniture in the front and rear parlor may strike you as somber, but it reflects the tastes of the time. These rooms were used for entertaining, and Lincoln met with clients here.
The books found throughout the house reflect the importance the Lincolns placed on education. The terrestrial and celestial globes that flank the low sofa also testify to an interest in understanding the world.
And More Books
The rear parlor served as an office for Abe and a reading room for the couple. This bookcase with fold-out desk held law books, volumes of poetry, Shakespeare’s plays, and novels, including works by Charles Dickens.
The base of this candle holder shows a scene from a French novel, Paul et Virginie, that was popular in the 1800s. Mary Todd Lincoln read French and had a lifelong interest in poetry and literature.
Abraham Lincoln – Lincoln Home in Springfield
Between 1843 and 1853, Mary Lincoln gave birth to 4 boys: Robert, Edward (who died very young), Willie, and Thomas (Tad). Abraham Lincoln’s friends and biographers describe him as being very fond of children.
Mary was a popular hostess and enjoyed organizing big birthday parties for the boys. By all accounts, the Lincolns were not strict parents, and the boys were rowdy, fun-loving, and popular with their peers. The sitting room in the Springfield house was their domain.
The 2 rocking chairs are based on an original owned by the Lincolns and now at the Tuskegee Institute. Most furniture, including these chairs, didn’t accommodate the 6-foot-4-inch Abe Lincoln comfortably, and in this room, he often just sat on the floor.
There are gaps in this stereoscope’s provenance, but it almost certainly belonged to the Lincoln boys. Like a modern View-Master, the box holds special cards with images that appear in 3-D when viewed through the eyeholes on one side.
The Dining Room
Originally, the dining room and kitchen beyond were one large room. Mary had the room split up against the advice of her sisters. She believed that eating in a proper dining room would help her sons learn proper manners.
The Lincolns employed domestic help, who sometimes lived in—the second floor includes a maid’s room. The hired help acted as laundress, cleaning woman, governess, and seamstress. She also cooked, although Mary Lincoln often made the evening meal herself.
Theodore Roosevelt – Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, NY
Born in 1858, Theodore Roosevelt grew up in a wealthy Manhattan family. Young Teddy travelled widely, developed a love of physical activity, and eventually enrolled at Harvard.
He married Alice Lee in 1880 and began planning a house in Oyster Bay, New York, his summer home as a boy. Alice died 2 days after giving birth to a daughter in 1884. In 1886, Roosevelt remarried and soon moved with his wife Edith and daughter Alice into the completed house in Oyster Bay.
The Summer White House
During his term in office, Sagamore Hill was Roosevelt’s “Summer White House”. The 26th president conducted affairs of state in this library. Russian and Japanese delegates ironed out their conflicts here in a successful summit that earned Roosevelt the Nobel Peace Prize.
A portrait of Edith Roosevelt sits on the desk. As first lady, Edith oversaw renovations to the White House that created the West Wing and expanded the family living quarters. She was active on her husband’s behalf while guarding the privacy of her children.
American Western Bronzes
Following the death of Alice Roosevelt, Teddy left his infant daughter with his sister and went to the Dakota Badlands. There, he developed a deep love of the American West. Later, he collected paintings and sculptures depicting aspects of frontier life.
Hunting trophies like this can be found throughout Sagamore Hill. Roosevelt was passionate about hunting. Following his presidency, he spent close to a year in Africa, big game hunting and collecting specimens for the Smithsonian’s new natural history museum.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Springwood, Hyde Park, NY
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in 1882 at his family’s home, Springwood, in Hyde Park, New York. His father James had bought the estate in 1866. When he died in 1900, he left it to his wife Sara, who lived in the house until her death in 1941.
By then, FDR had graduated from Harvard and Columbia Law School, served in the New York Senate and as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and was finishing up his second term as president.
Isaac Roosevelt was FDR’s great-great-grandfather. He made a fortune in sugar and married into a prominent Hudson River Valley family. He supported the American Revolution, and although a Federalist, he acted as a compromiser, helping to ratify the Constitution.
In 1921, at the age of 39, Roosevelt contracted polio. By then, he was a father of 5 with a political career well underway. The illness left him without the use of his legs, but he persevered in all things.
FDR was a great collector. His personal library contained over 14,000 books. Many of the naval paintings and prints he accumulated can be seen in this room. He also had collections of stamps and coins, which he worked on at this desk.
A discussion about FDR must include mention of his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt. She didn’t like living under her mother-in-law’s thumb and built her own house elsewhere on the estate. But perhaps one of the more than 25 books she wrote is somewhere on these shelves.