J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Latest on the Adams Academy

Last August I wrote about John Adams’s bequest to the town of Quincy intended to create a school, which would become owner of his extensive library, and a church.

As I reported then, it took decades for the Adams Academy to be built, and it never actually housed Adams’s books. Those books were sent to the new Boston Public Library in 1893, an act widely reported as a “gift” from the city of Quincy.

After the academy closed, other organizations used its stone building, most recently the Quincy Historical Society. The Adams Temple and School Fund remained, eventually charged with benefiting a nearby school. The city’s management of those assets became a subject of litigation in this century, and eventually the courts told Quincy to pay the school $2 million.

What prompted my posts was a proposal by Quincy mayor Thomas Koch to turn the Adams Academy building into a John Adams Presidential Library. Not the type of presidential library that houses a former President’s papers, since those are at the Massachusetts Historical Society, but Mayor Koch did ask the Boston Public Library to send back Adams’s books.

My South Shore friend Patrick Flaherty just sent me a Quincy Patriot Ledger article reporting the latest developments in this story. In December the Massachusetts court system ruled that the Adams Academy is the property of the Adams Temple and School Fund, not the city of Quincy. That fund’s trustee thus had the legal right to sell the building and land for the benefit of the surviving school.

Mayor Koch then announced that Quincy would exercise its power of eminent domain, buying the Adams Academy and two nearby properties for a “fair market price.” The city’s most recent assessments of the three buildings total to almost $4.1 million. However, since the neighboring properties were going to be redeveloped into larger buildings containing more than sixty residences, that could well affect their market value.

The Quincy city council’s finance committee just approved a plan, already approved by the Community Preservation Commission, to spend $9 million from the Community Preservation Act to settle the lawsuit, buy the three properties, and presumably pay legal fees. The immediate goal appears to be preventing that development around the academy building. What will become of the building is still up in the air.

The city’s current plan, which still needs a full council vote, doesn’t cover the creation of a presidential library. Not all the councilors who approved spending the $9 million are on board for spending more on that idea. For his part, the mayor told the newspaper, “I don’t expect to build that with city money.” 

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