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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 1


This foot note contained in document ADMS-01-01-02-0004-0001-0002
1. On this sentimental stroll JA and Hannah Quincy walked past her father’s house (on the site of the old Adams Academy building in present Quincy Square) and then down past the house and into the farm that were later to become JA ’s own homestead upon his return from Europe twenty-nine years later.
“Mr. Borland” was John Borland (1728–1775), who in 1750 had married { 75 } Anna, daughter of the late Leonard Vassall, a wealthy sugar-planter from the West Indies. Vassall had settled in Boston and built, probably in 1731, a summer home in the northern part of Braintree on the “old coast road” that ran from Boston to Plymouth. His daughter inherited the property, but the Borlands lived here only occasionally, their principal residence being in Cambridge. At the very beginning of the siege of Boston John Borland died. “He lost his life by a fall in attempting to get upon the top of his house [in Boston] to see an expedition to Hog Island” (Jonathan Sewall to Thomas Robie, 7 June 1775, MHS, Procs. , 2d ser., 10 [1895–1896]:412). This circumstance aided his widow, who in 1776 fled with other loyalists to England, to recover her Braintree property at the close of the Revolution; she promptly sold it to her son Leonard Vassall Borland; and in 1787, while still in England, JA bought it through agents in Boston. Thereafter Adamses were to occupy it, expanding the house and dependencies and improving the grounds in each generation, until 1927, when BA , its last occupant, died. In 1946 the family, which had formed the Adams Memorial Association to care for it, presented the homestead, long simply known as “the Old House,” to the United States, and it is now the Adams National Historic Site, 135 Adams Street, Quincy.
On the Vassalls and Borlands see NEHGR , 17 (1863):56–61, 113–128; Lucius R. Paige, History of Cambridge, Boston, 1877, p. 493, 674–675; Jones, Loyalists of Mass. , p. 41–42. A profusely illustrated historical and descriptive sketch of the Old House was published by HA2 , “The Adams Mansion,” Old-Time New England, 19:3–17 (July 1928); an enlarged reprint was issued by the Adams Memorial Association, Quincy, 1935. Also available is an eight-page leaflet, Adams National Historic Site, issued by the National Park Service. There is no substitute, however, for a visit to the homestead itself. No other house in America has been the home of so many successive generations of political and intellectual leaders, and no restored structures and sites can quite compare with originals that have been altered only by time and are still furnished with the possessions of those who lived there.