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THE PRESIDENTS of the United States
Survey of
Historic Sites and Buildings

National Park Service Kennedy National Historic Site
Kennedy National Historic Site
Kennedy National Historic Site

Norfolk County, 83 Beals Street, Brookline.

This national historic site preserves the birthplace and early boyhood home of President John F. Kennedy.

In 1914 young banker Joseph P. Kennedy purchased this modest, 2-1/2-story residence in the Boston suburbs; moved into it with his bride, the former Rose Fitzgerald; began to raise a family; and soon achieved remarkable business success. These years were quiet ones and typical of young couples. The father went to work each day, and dined at home practically every evening. His wife oversaw the growing household, attended concerts and club meetings with other young women who shared her interests, and cared for her children. The Kennedys took their youngsters sledding in winter, entertained at small dinners, and took part in church activities.

Joseph, Jr., was born in Hull, Mass., but the other three of the couple's first four children (John, Rosemary, and Kathleen) were born in this house. Within a few years, the Kennedys outgrew the residence. In 1921, when John was only 4 years old, they moved to a larger residence only a few blocks away, at the corner of Naples and Abbottsford Roads.

Kennedy National Historic Site
Kennedy National Historic Site. (National Park Service, Frear, 1974.)

Since that time, the birthplace home has had various owners. In 1961 the town of Brookline marked it with a commemorative plaque; 4 years later it was designated as a National Historic Landmark; and, the next year, the Kennedy family purchased it for preservation as a historic site. The President's mother supervised restoration and refurnishing of the first two floors to their 1917 appearance, and in 1967 the family donated the residence to the Federal Government.

A nine-room, clapboarded structure dating from 1907, the house has a gabled and dormered roof and a small front porch. The first floor contains a hall, living room, dining room, and kitchen; the second floor, a hall, study, guestroom, nursery, master bedroom (where John and the two other children were born), and bath. The furnishings of these two floors are either original or other Kennedy family items, period pieces, or reproductions. The recorded voice of the President's mother describes the significance of each room. The third floor, originally a servants' quarters, contains an administrative office and is not open to the public.

Mrs. Rose F. Kennedy
Mrs. Rose F. Kennedy speaks at the dedication of the Kennedy National Historic Site. Her son Edward is seated on the porch. (National Park Service, Stoughton, 1969.)

A few other structures associated with the Kennedys are within easy walking distance of the national historic site. Outstanding among them, at the northeast corner of Naples and Abbottsford Roads, is their residence from 1921 until 1927, when they moved to Riverdale, a New York City suburb. Now privately owned, it is not open to the public. In this house, Mrs. Kennedy bore three more children (Eunice, Patricia, and Robert) and John spent his years from 4 to 10, during which time he first went to school, learned to love sports, and established a lifelong reading habit. Jean and Edward were born after the family moved to New York.

While they lived in Brookline, the Kennedys attended St. Aidan's Catholic Church, on Freeman Street, which has since been extensively altered. Joseph, Jr., and John were baptized there and served as altar boys. They also attended nearby Dexter School, a private, nonsectarian institution also on Freeman Street, but the school has moved to a new campus and the building in which they went to class no longer stands. Finally, on Harvard Avenue, is the public Edward Devotion School, which they attended for a short time before transferring to the Dexter School. In front of the former is the Edward Devotion House, a historic structure dating from the early 1700's. The Brookline Historical Society operates it as a museum.

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004