Sunday, May 26, 2013


May 26, 2013


Brookline, Massachusetts (JFK+50) The house at 83 Beals Street here in the Boston suburb of Brookline where President John F. Kennedy was born was proclaimed a National Historic Site 46 years ago today, May 26, 1967, by the National Park Service.

              JFK Birthplace, 83 Beals Street
                 Brookline, Massachusetts
            National Park Foundation Photo

The house, previously designated a National Historic Landmark in May 1965, was described 18 years later as...

"an unassuming, two-story house with green shingles and a yellow porch with columns...distinguished from the other houses around it only by an American flag flying outside."

              National Park Service Photo

The Birthplace was opened to the public on May 29, 1969, the 52nd anniversary of President Kennedy's birth.

It was in this house at 83 Beals Street the future 35th President of the United States was delivered by Kennedy family physician, Dr. Frederick Good*.  It was 3 o'clock in the afternoon on May 29, 1917.

*Dr. Good delivered every one of the children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy.

The birth took place in the upstairs bedroom (at the far right in the photo above) so that, in Rose Kennedy's words, the doctor would have a good light.

This was the Kennedys' master bedroom where visitors today can see it much as it was when JFK was born.  According to a JFK Birthplace brochure, "the beds, dresser, mirror and night table were in the house originally."

JFK was raised in this house along with his older brother, Joe Jr., until the age of 4.   The nursery** on the 2nd floor can be traced back to Joe Jr.'s birth in 1915.

**When I visited the home in 1986, I was particularly impressed with the story Rose Kennedy told (on the 18 minute recording visitors listen to on the tour) of the picture book about a goat named "Billy Whiskers" which JFK loved.  The adventure book apparently stirred Jack Kennedy's interest in world travel. 

According to Collectibles Illustrated, however, it was not the master bedroom nor the nursery that were considered the most important rooms in the house...

"The dining room downstairs was perhaps the most important room.  The table, buffet...and Limoges porcelain are all original, as are the silver napkins rings...used by the President and which carry his monogram."

            Dining Room at 83 Beals Street
                         JFK NHS Image

Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., who bought the house in 1914, sold it the wife of close friend and business partner Edward Moore in 1921.

The Kennedy family, which by then included daughters Rosemary and Kathleen, moved to a larger home just a few blocks away.

That home was on the corner of Abbottsford and Naples Road where the family lived until their move to Riverdale, New York in 1927.

Over the years, the house at 83 Beals Street had several different owners, but was repurchased by the Kennedy family in 1966. 

             National Park Service Photo

Rose Kennedy was responsible for both supervising "the restoration and refinishing of the house to its appearance in 1917."

She consulted with Robert Luddington of Jordan Marsh and Company who helped her "replace items that were no longer in the family."

A commemorative plaque, which had been installed in front of the house in 1961, remained in place.

Hugh Howard writes in his excellent book "Houses of the Presidents"...

"The Kennedy home on Beals Street remains a unique and important historic site both as a place of pilgrimage and...because of...what it reveals. 

What is on display is but a part of the story and is to be regarded as an invitation to learn more about the president and his times."

Today admission is FREE to the JFK Historic Site at 83 Beals Street in Brookline, Massachusetts.

From November through May tours are by appointment only, but from June through October the site is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30 to 5:00. Reservations are required for groups of 9 or more.


"Houses of the Presidents," by Hugh Howard with original photography by Roger Straus III, Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2012.

"John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site/Massachusetts," National Park Service Brochure, 1986.

"John Fitzgerald Kennedy NHS/Massachusetts,

"The Kennedys of Beals Street," by Tony Fusco, Collectibles Illustrated, November/December 1983.