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Adams, USA: The family name endures

The Patriot Ledger

QUINCY - If you want to take the back roads from Quincy to Boston, you can follow Adams Street past the Adams National Historical Park to East Milton Square, over the hill to Lower Mills and all the way to Gallivan Boulevard in Dorchester.

You can spend a night at the Best Western Adams Inn, buy or sell a house through the Abigail Adams real estate agency - perhaps in the Adams Shore neighborhood - and watch a baseball game at Adams Field in Merrymount Park.

The descendants of the nation’s second president and his equally famous wife haven’t lived in their ancestral city for a century, but the family name is literally all over the map - a daily reminder of their legacy in the “City of Presidents.”

Adams Park officials say the family’s local contributions will be celebrated along with four generations of national public service Tuesday, when the U.S. Mint launches a new John Adams dollar coin in ceremonies here.

Events that day will begin with a 9 a.m. exchange of the coin for paper bills at the McIntyre Mall plaza outside city hall on Hancock Street.

Banks and retail businesses will also be participating throughout the day and in the ensuing weeks.

The Adams name can be found on a variety of businesses and facilities, from the Abigail’s Crossing gift shop, Abigail’s Roses and Adams Shore Supermarket to the John Adams Continuing Care Center in South Quincy.

The family’s influence can also be seen in the nickname for Quincy High School’s sports teams - they’re the Presidents.

While such uses may not carry the seriousness of streets, parks and public buildings, Quincy Historical Society director Ed Fitzgerald said there’s nothing surprising about the practice of slapping an Adams name on everything from flowers to groceries. It’s also popular in other presidential hometowns across the country.

“It would be odd if it wasn’t this way, given how prominent they were,”Fitzgerald said. As active as the family was for so long,“their influence never really went away.”

The city is named in honor of Col. John Quincy, a Revolutionary War veteran and Abigail’s grandfather.

Fitzgerald said the family presence would be even more prominent, had they let the town name an 1885 donation of land Adams Park instead of Merrymount. Charles Francis Adams Jr. asked the city to keep the traditional name.

Earlier this month the family showed it can still wield that old influence: When the city said it wanted to build a running track in the park, the Adams Memorial Society objected, saying it was supposed to be open space. The descendants’group now supports the plan, but with conditions.

Names began in 1850s

For the Adamses, such remembrances extend to Braintree - which once included what is now Quincy - to Weymouth, where Abigail Smith Adams was born.

Presidential namesakes

Quincy isn’t the only presidential hometown where namesakes are easy to find.

Visitors to Calvin Coolidge’s hometown of Plymouth, Vt., can camp at Coolidge State Park. There’s a Roosevelt Inn in Hyde Park, N.Y., the birthplace of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and a Jefferson Theater and Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville, Va., where Thomas Jefferson lived at Monticello.

But no presidential place appears to boast as many namesake sites, schools and businesses as Springfield, Ill., the home of Abraham Lincoln.

The state’s capital features the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel and Convention Center (located on East Adams Street), Lincoln Land Community College, Lincoln Land Baptist Church, and a Lincoln Magnet School.

There’s a Lincoln Land Answering Service, Lincoln Yellow Cab, Lincoln Council of the Boy Scouts, and a Land of Lincoln Barbershop Chorus.

Springfield is also home to the Abe Lincoln Gun Club - not the sort of group you’d expect among the namesakes of an assassinated president.

Lane Lambert

There’s an Adams Street and Adams Field in Braintree. Weymouth has the Abigail Adams Middle School, Abigail Adams Garden House and Florist, and Abigail Adams Circle, a street adjacent to her birthplace.

Some of those who’ve taken the Adams names for commercial purposes feel they’re honoring the family’s legacy, too.

At the Century 21 Abigail Adams Agency, owner Jayne Magown said her mother, Virginia Prasinos, adopted the name when she started the venture in the 1970s because“she always had respect for notable women in history.”

The John Adams Continuing Care Center makes a similar nod, according to director Brad Shuford - the facility takes it name from being close to the Franklin Street birthplaces of Adams and his son John Quincy Adams, the sixth U.S. president.

Fitzgerald says Quincy appears to have become an official Adams place starting in the 1850s, when selectmen designated a stretch of a turnpike road as Adams Street and built an Adams Elementary School. That was three decades after John Adams died, in 1826, and a decade after John Quincy Adams died.

Adams Street had previously been the Quincy Turnpike, originally part of an early colonial road from Boston to Plymouth. The first Adams School opened in 1855 - a year after Weymouth built its first Adams School near Abigail’s birthplace.

Quincy rebuilt its Adams School on Abigail Avenue in South Quincy in 1913. The school was closed in 1981 as part of municipal cutbacks forced by the passage of the Proposition 21/2 property tax limits. The building was later converted to condominiums.

The 19th-century Adams Academy still stands, too, but the former private school has long been occupied by the historical society.

Adams Shore on Sea Street got its start and name from an 1890s-era real estate development project on tracts of the family’s land. The Tudor-style Adams Building in Quincy Center has an even more direct provenance - it was built in the late 1880s by brothers Charles Francis Adams Jr. and John Quincy Adams II as a commercial venture.

A century later, in 1995, the new owners of the Quincy Bay Inn renamed it the Adams Inn as part of a major makeover.

While businesses make their plans for next week’s Adams dollar launch, so are the staff and residents at the Adams Continuing Care Center. They’ll be holding a scavenger hunt soon,“and the prizes will have the coin,”Shuford said.

Lane Lambert may be reached at