John Fitzgerald Kennedy
On May 29, 1917, John F. Kennedy was born in the master bedroom of this modest home in Brookline, Mass. The great grandson of Irish immigrants, and the second son of Joseph P. and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, this bright, spirited boy was filled with promise.
Kennedy is remembered as the man who led the United States to a New Frontier: the youngest individual and first Catholic elected to the American Presidency, he molded a sweeping Civil Rights Bill, launched the Peace Corps, promoted the space race, and negotiated a Nuclear Test Ban treaty during the hottest years of the Cold War. Also memorable were his successes in promoting arts and education, confronting corporate power, and expanding health insurance and public welfare legislation.
As the witty and energetic "media President," Kennedy inspired the nation with his eloquent speeches and endless drive. His wife, Jacqueline, embodied elegance and verve. Together they captured the heart and imagination of a new generation. When he challenged Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country," they responded with enthusiasm and activism.
Behind that public career, behind the romance and mythology of what came to be known as "Camelot," lay Jack Kennedy the private man. It was no coincidence that this son of a powerful, politically minded father, surrounded by bright and talented siblings, became an ambitious man, with a sense of family loyalty and commitment to public service. Nor was it surprising that his attentive, highly educated mother developed in Jack a quest for knowledge, an appreciation of history and the arts, and the willingness to accept the consequences of his deeds. Clearly, the character behind Kennedy's public actions was influenced by his childhood in Brookline.
Though his life ended tragically on November 22, 1963, leaving the man and the vision in midstream, John F. Kennedy left an enduring legacy: "A11 this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . . nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin. In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course."
The Brookline Years
In 1914, when Rose and Joseph Kennedy moved into their first home at 83 Beals Street in Brookline, they were breakingand makingtradition. Both members of this newly wedded couple were grandchildren of immigrants and children of politically prominent fathers who had risen through the ranks of Irish Catholic Boston.
While many young couples of their era settled into their parents' home or a rented apartment, Joseph Kennedy insisted on owning a house in the largely middle class, street-car suburb of Brookline. Mrs. Kennedy later explained that her husband "had a strong need for privacy, for independence, for being able to choose the people he wanted to be with in close association." She herself valued a healthful environment in which to raise her family, and recalled "a sense of openness in the neighborhood, with a vacant lot on one side of us and another across the street, and fine big shade trees lining the sidewalks." Both Kennedys appreciated that the Beals Street home, where they lived from 1914 to 1920, was close to playgrounds, a Catholic church, good schools, Coolidge Corner retail stores, and trolleys to Boston. When they outgrew the Beals Street house, the family moved just two blocks away to Abbottsford Road, where they lived until 1927.
Jack enjoyed many privileges while growing up in Brookline, but he also faced many challenges which helped to shape him. From his parents he learned loyalty to family, love of knowledge and reading, pride in his Irish Catholic heritage, and a desire for social acceptance and position. Witnessing the frustrations experienced by his mentally retarded sister, Rosemary, and grappling with his own childhood illnesses taught him the value of perseverance, determination, and compassion for others. And his older brother Joebright, competitive, and willfulchallenged Jack to develop, master, and have confidence in his own strengths and talents.
Though he left Boston on his road to the White House, Kennedy fondly recalled his family's ties to Massachusetts. "There is within each man a very special affection for the place of his birth," he wrote. Later he said, "The enduring qualities of Massachusetts . . . are an indelible part of my life, my convictions, my view of the past, and my hopes for the future."
1914 World War I begins
Joseph P. Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald marry and move to Brookline, Mass.
1917 John Fitzgerald Kennedy born at 83 Beals Street
1927 The Kennedys move to New York
1938 Joseph P. Kennedy becomes ambassador to Great Britain
1939 World War II begins
1940 John F. Kennedy graduates from Harvard College
1943 Japanese destroyer sinks PT109, patrol boat commanded by JFK
1946 JFK elected to Congress
1952 JFK elected to Senate
1953 JFK marries Jacqueline Lee Bouvier
1957 JFK's Profiles in Courage awarded Pulitzer Prize
1960 JFK elected 35th President
1961 JFK signs bill establishing Peace Corps
1962 JFK urges U.S. to put a man on the moon
Cuban Missile Crisis
1963 JFK proposes sweeping Civil Rights Bill
JFK signs Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
JFK assassinated in Dallas, Texas
1969 Rose Kennedy dedicates John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site
Neighborhood Walking Tour
Rose and Joseph Kennedy began their life together in Brookline, Mass., where they joined their early hopes and ambitions to the promise of this vibrant and growing community. For 10 years these neighborhood streets linked the daily life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy to those of neighbors, friends, and schoolmates. Much of the Kennedy-era streetscape is preserved; the accompanying tour will guide you in the footsteps of a young boy whose future course encompassed the world. Most sites are not open to the public; please be considerate of property and privacy.
John F. Kennedy National Historic Site
Here the Kennedy children enjoyed family sing-alongs at the parlor piano, instructive discussions in the dining room, and nighttime book readings.
51 Abbottsford Road
Saint Aidan's Roman Catholic Church
Dexter School Site/Noble and Greenough Lower School
At Dexter, Joe Jr. excelled in academics. Though Jack did well in history and English, his strengths were sports and leadership; by age nine, he was quarterback and captain of the Dexter football team, on which Joe also played. When the Kennedy boys were hassled for being Irish or Catholic, Joe often responded with fists, while Jack stayed on the sidelines, quietly betting marbles that his brother would win the fight.
Edward Devotion School
About Your Visit
Gift to the American People
The Kennedy family donated the house to the National Park Service as a "gift. . . to the American people," and the site was opened to the public in l969.
The site is open seasonally, Wednesday through Sunday, May to October. Call or visit the park website for hours of operation. Park rangers present guided tours of the house and neighborhood. While tours are free, space is limited; tickets are available first-come, first-served. Tickets and publications are available in the basement-level Visitor Center.
How to Reach the Site
By car: From Exit 18 (eastbound) or Exit 20 (westbound) on I-90/Massachusetts Turnpike, follow the Allston/Brighton exit ramp, merge onto Cambridge Street, and proceed one mile. At the fourth traffic light, turn left onto Harvard Street and proceed for about one mile. Turn left onto Beals Street and continue to #83.
John F. Kennedy library and Museum
Source: NPS Brochure (2011)
Brochures ◆ Site Bulletins ◆ Trading Cards
Historic Furnishings Assessment, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site (Janice Hodson, April 2005)
John F. Kennedy's Birthplace: A Presidential Home in History and Memory, A Historic Resource Study, John F. Kennedy National Historic Site (Alexander von Hoffman, August 2004)
National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form
John F. Kennedy Home (May 7, 1964)
Handbooks ◆ Books
Last Updated: 02-Dec-2021