Two U.S. presidents and their wives are buried in a Unitarian Universalist church in Quincy, Massachusetts.
A small group places a wreath sent by President Barack Obama on the tomb of President John Quincy Adams in the crypt of United First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Quincy, Massachusetts, July 11, 2016. (© Larry Stritof)
Tucked away in a small, unassuming stone room beneath the 1828 Greek revival home of United First Parish in Quincy, Massachusetts, is something you won’t find in any other UU church: two U.S. presidents and first ladies. Nicknamed “the Church of the Presidents,” the National Historic Landmark is the final resting place of John Adams, Abigail Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Louisa Catherine Adams.
The Adamses were active members of the congregation, and John Adams donated granite from his quarry to construct the church’s fourth and current home, though he did not live to see it built. John and Abigail were originally interred in nearby Hancock Cemetery, but John Quincy Adams requested that a space be set aside in the new building for his parents. When he and his wife died, the crypt was enlarged to accommodate them. The crypt intentionally lacks ostentation, says Danielle Cournoyer, fellow at the church’s History and Visitors Program, because the family was concerned about looking flashy.
Today, the congregation takes its link with history very seriously and works hard to balance its stewardship of this heritage with its role as an active congregation, says the Rev. Rebecca Froom. She says it is important to examine the complexity of historical figures because, “if we have an honest conversation about the past, it helps us have an honest conversation about the present.”
The church offers daily tours April 19–November 11, and last year more than 7,000 people from all fifty states and thirty countries visited. They also hold public ceremonies on the presidents’ birthdays. The U.S. president sends a wreath, which representatives from the Navy, local government, the congregation, and the Adams family lay on the tomb (see above). The congregation has also started an annual “Remember the Ladies” ceremony, which honors the first ladies.
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Sonja L. Cohen is deputy managing editor of UU World and a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.
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