John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site | KENNEDY’S BEALS STREET HOUSE TOUR

Ranger conducts a tour of the Kennedy House on Beals Street

Ranger conducts a tour of the Kennedy House on Beals Street

OPERATING HOURS

  • June 1st through October 31st
  • Thursday – Sunday
  • 10 AM to 5 PM

While John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site is closed the rest of the year, you can still schedule a tour of Kennedy’s Beals Street house on weekdays by calling (617) 566-7937 at least two weeks in advance. Tours are subject to staff availability and can be cancelled due to bad weather.

Times can always change, so before making travel plans be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s official Operating Hours and Seasons web page for the park.

TOUR INFORMATION

Thirty-minute guided tours of the Kennedy Family’s Beals Street house are conducted every half hour from 10 AM to 11:30 AM and from 1 PM to 3:30 PM. There is a limit of nine people per tour, and spots are taken on a first come, first served basis. There is no charge, but you do need to get a ticket. When you arrive at the house, walk around to the backyard to the basement entrance. The basement serves as the park’s Visitor Center, complete with National Park Service information desk and a book and souvenir store. Pick up your ticket here. If you have a group of five or more people who all want to get on the same tour, call the park in advance to make a reservation:  (617) 566-7937.

Keep in mind that tour schedules can always change, so be sure to get the current schedule on the National Park Service’s official Guided Tours web page for John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site.

Visitor Center  at John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Visitor Center at John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

For those unable to visit the house when tours are offered, there is an option to take a self-guided tour between 12 PM and 1 PM and 4 PM and 5 PM. For information, there is a free cell phone audio tour that you can use and a free audio tour narrated by Rose Kennedy (get the audio device at the Visitor Center). The Rose Kennedy tour is available in English, Spanish, Japanese, German, and French. My suggestion is to take a guided tour if at all possible.

Accessing all levels of the house requires walking down stairs, so those in wheelchairs or who have trouble climbing stairs will not be able to tour the house. Rangers will be happy to give a lecture and show photographs of the house in the backyard for those who cannot walk. If interested, please call ahead to make arrangements: (617) 566-7937.

When I visited on a Saturday in early August, I got on a tour immediately, but there was a one-hour wait shortly thereafter (not bad for a Saturday at the home of one of the more popular presidents). With tours limited to nine people, large groups may have a longer wait than individuals or couples. If you can’t wait until the next opening, perhaps a self-guided tour may work better.

While waiting for a tour to begin, you can shop for books and souvenirs in the basement gift store or watch a 20-minute documentary about the Kennedy family that is narrated by Ted Kennedy. The film usually starts every half hour, but if enough people are milling around, it will show continuously (which is usually the case). There is no objectionable material, so the film is suitable for all ages.

The Beals Street house was built in 1909 as part of a budding suburban community that sprung up after trolley service came to Beacon Street in 1899. The trolley bus still stops on Beacon Street (Coolidge Corner Station), and it is only a half-mile walk to John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site. When you get off the train, walk along Harvard Street towards what looks like a castle turret with a clock on it.

Harvard Street near the Coolidge Corner trolley station in Brookline, Massachusetts

Harvard Street near the Coolidge Corner trolley station in Brookline, Massachusetts

Street parking is available on Beals Street, but limited to two hours. If there is a wait for the house tour, you may be pushing the time limit. There are no meters, and when I asked how you would know when two hours were up, I was told that you’d know when you got a ticket.

Beals Street near the Kennedy House in Brookline, Massachusetts

Beals Street near the Kennedy House in Brookline, Massachusetts

HOUSE HISTORY

When the newly married Joseph and Rose Kennedy purchased the house at 83 Beals Street in 1914, it was the last house on the street. It had been built in 1909, and most of the existing houses on the street were also from that time period. It wasn’t until 1899 that street car service came to Brookline, making a life in the suburbs of Boston practical for those working in the city.

The Kennedy’s first son, Joseph Jr. (1915-1944), lived in the house, but he was actually born at the family’s summer home in Hull. John (1917-1963), Rose Marie (1918-2005), and Kathleen (1920-1948) were all born—literally—in the house. Kathleen’s birth was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as the 2,000-square-foot Beals Street house was concerned, so the Kennedys moved a few blocks away to a 5,000-square-foot house on Abbottsford Road (Eunice, Patricia, and Robert were born there). The family lived on Abbottsford Road until 1927, then moved to New York. Joseph Kennedy Sr. was by then a stock broker, plus he claimed there was too much prejudice against Catholics in Boston.

When John became president in 1961, the town of Brookline asked the current owner of the Beals Street house, Martha Pollack, if a plaque could be placed in front of the house to commemorate the new president. Pollack agreed, and this plaque still sits in the front yard.

Plaque in front of the Kennedy's Beals Street house honoring Brookline native President John F. Kennedy

Plaque in front of the Kennedy’s Beals Street house honoring Brookline native President John F. Kennedy

When John was assassinated in 1963, the house had been out of the family for over forty years. However, in 1965 the Kennedys were able to repurchase it from Martha Pollack. Rose Kennedy then hired decorator Robert Luddington, and together they created a memorial to John and furnished the house as it was in 1917 (to the best of Rose’s memory). The renovation took three years, and when done, the house was donated to the National Park Service. It opened to the public in 1969.

HOUSE TOUR

The guided tour of the Beals Street house focuses on all members of the Kennedy family who lived in the house, not just John. The tour covers the first and second floors. The top floor is where two servants lived, but this area is now used as office space for the National Park Service and is closed to the pubic.

The first room entered is the parlor where guests were greeted and entertained. Most of the furniture and decorations did not belong to the Kennedys but are representative of what they would have owned. The Japanese vases on the mantel, one of the Persian rugs, and the piano are Kennedy items and were in the room when they lived in the house. The piano was a wedding present to Joseph and Rose.

Parlor of the Kennedy home on Beals Street, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Parlor of the Kennedy home on Beals Street, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

The dining room has the most original furniture of all rooms in the house. Roughly ninety percent of the items belonged to the Kennedys. The china and silverware are wedding presents, so these were certainly in the house in 1917.

Dining room table in the Kennedy's Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Dining room table in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

The bowls on the children’s table are inscribed with J. P. C. Jr. (Joseph Jr.) and JFK. The JFK bowl (smaller of the two) is the only item in the house that personally belonged to John.

Children's table in the Kennedy's Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Children’s table in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Of the four children who lived in the house, John, Rose Marie, and Kathleen were born in the master bedroom on the second floor. It was not typical for people to be born in hospitals in the early 1900s, so home births were nothing out of the ordinary. The bed on the far side of the room is the actual bed on which John was born in 1917. (Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital (1924)).

Master bedroom in the Kennedy's Beals Street house where John Kennedy was born, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Master bedroom in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house where John Kennedy was born, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Bathroom in the Kennedy's Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Bathroom in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

The bassinet with the blue ribbon in the nursery was used by all nine of the Kennedy children, as well as John’s daughter Caroline. The christening gown and bonnet were also used by all of the children.

Children's room in the Kennedy's Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Children’s room in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

The third bedroom on the second floor was a guest room in 1917, and that’s how it is decorated. When the two girls were born, this became their room.

Guest room in the Kennedy's Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Guest room in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Rose Kennedy kept a small office on the floor.

Rose Kennedy's office in the Kennedy's Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Rose Kennedy’s office in the Kennedy’s Beals Street house, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

The final stop on the tour is the kitchen. The appliances are all antiques, for the originals were thrown away as they became obsolete.

Kennedy house kitchen, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

Kennedy house kitchen, John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site

When done with the house tour, you are invited to take a walking tour of the Brookline neighborhood. The park brochure that is available in the Visitor Center has the route. The tour takes you past the Abbottsford Road house, as well as four other areas that were important in John’s life when he was young.

At 2:15 PM each day that the John Fitzgerald Kennedy National Historic Site is open, a Ranger leads a 45-minute tour to of the neighborhood that leads to Abbottsford house. The house is now privately owned and can only be viewed from the outside. See the Neighborhood Walking Tour web page here on National Park Planner for more information.

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Last updated on May 28, 2024
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