To Do Today: 35th President’s Birthplace a Stone’s Throw Away

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Tour Brookline house where JFK was born

Looking for something to do during a long lunch break? Consider taking the T to Brookline to tour the house where President John F. Kennedy was born, on May 29, 1917.

The Kennedy family lived in the three-story home at 83 Beals Street from 1914 to 1920. The president’s parents, Joseph and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, moved into the wood-frame house as newlyweds, and by the time they left six years later, four of their nine children had been born—Joseph, Jr., JFK, Rosemary, and Kathleen.

The Kennedy family bought back the Beals Street house in 1966, three years after President Kennedy’s assassination. In 1969, after a restoration supervised by Rose Kennedy, the property was given to the National Park Service, which continues to operate the National Historic site today. The third smallest national park in the country, it recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of being open to the public.

Guests are greeted by a park ranger, who gives a brief history of the Kennedy family, with photographs. The house is comfortable, but far from palatial, with just three rooms on the ground floor. Only 20 percent of the furniture now in the house belonged to the Kennedys when they lived there; the rest are antiques provided by the family or bought during the refurbishing in the late 1960s. In the living room, visitors can see the baby grand piano that was given to Rose Kennedy as a wedding gift and played by a young JFK. Under the front window in the dining room—the room with the most pieces of original furniture—are a small children’s table and two chairs, where JFK and his older brother, Joe, Jr., ate their meals as toddlers. Two small silver porringers, each engraved with their initials, sit atop the table.

Upstairs, visitors can peek into the master bedroom, where JFK was born 102 years ago. All of the clocks in the house are set to 3 pm—the time he was born. Across the hall is the small bedroom shared by JFK and Joe, Jr. The bassinet and christening gown used by all the Kennedy children are on display here, as well as several children’s books that belonged to the future president. Often sick as a child, he became an avid reader at a young age.

The tour concludes in the kitchen, on the first floor, with a recording of Rose Kennedy reminiscing about busy days mothering her young children.

The John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, 83 Beals St., Brookline, Mass., is open from 9:30 am to 5 pm Wednesdays through Sundays from May through October. The house is shown by guided tour every half hour starting at 10 am. The last tour departs at 3:30 pm; guided tours last about 30 minutes. From noon to 1 pm and 4 to 5 pm visitors may take a self-guided tour via cell phone, narrated by the president’s mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy. Admission is free. More information is available here. Find directions here.