Playing “I Spy” at the JFK National Historic Site in Brookline, MA

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There are several places throughout Massachusetts that honor the legacy of America’s 35th President, John F. Kennedy. A great place to learn about the Kennedy family and JFK’s early childhood is Kennedy’s childhood home in Brookline, Massachusetts, just a couple of miles from downtown Boston. 

The JFK National Historic Site, birthplace of John F. Kennedy

Designated a National Historic Site in 1967 and overseen by the National Park Service, the five year old home was purchased by Joseph and Rose Kennedy in 1914, shortly after their wedding. Joe Jr., John, (born on May 29th, 1917), Rosemary, and Kathleen (four of the Kennedys’ nine children) and were all born in the upstairs main bedroom. The family lived in the 83 Beals Street house, along with two servants, until 1920 until they moved to a larger home on Abbottsford Road, where they lived until 1927. The Beals Street home received a commemorative plaque from the town of Brookline in 1961, and the home, which had been owned by other families, was repurchased by the Kennedy family in 1966. 

Commemorative Plague at the JFK National Historic Site

The home opened to the public in 1969 as a National Historic Site, and underwent a renovation and upgrade from 2019 through the fall of 2023. About a quarter of all the items and furnishings inside the home are original to the Kennedy family, and positioned and decorated exactly as Rose Kennedy remembers, and the rest of the furnishings are period or replica pieces. Rose Kennedy helped to recreate the home she built with her husband in the early twentieth century. 

Travel Tips:

  • The house is open from June 1st through the end of October from Thursdays through Sundays and is free to tour and visit; check here for up to date information on hours.
  • Thirty minute ranger guided tours of the house are available throughout the day; visitors are also able to tour the home independently. Rangers also lead neighborhood tours in the afternoon; check here for the full schedule.
  • Free, two hour street parking is available on Beals Street. Info on getting to the site here.
  • The house is handicap accessible via an elevator ramp in the back of the house; the second floor of the house is not handicap accessible.
  • Restrooms and a small gift kiosk are located in the lower level near the admission desk- make sure kids pick up a Junior Ranger booklet to earn a badge and don’t forget to stamp your National Passport book.
  • No dining facilities on site- a good index of local restaurants here and here.
  • Plan on 45 minutes for a guided tour and viewing the short film near the admissions desk.
gift store of the JFK National Historic Site

Playing I Spy in the Kennedy home:

  1. The piano (that Rose Kennedy played!), given as a family wedding gift, in the Parlor.
  2. The kids’ table in the Dining Room, where John and Joe Jr. sat during meals.
  3. The unique salt and pepper containers on the Dining Room table. The entire table is set with the wedding china of Joe and Rose Kennedy. 
  4. The telephone in the Hallway, a sign of their upper middle class status as most families didn’t have a phone in the 1910s.
  5. The separate beds in the Main Bedroom, typical of married couples until the 1960s. John, Joe Jr., Rosemary, and Kathleen were all born in this room.
  6. The infant portraits of Joe Jr., John, Rosemary, and Kathleen on the wall in the Main Bedroom.
  7. The bassinet used by all four children in the Nursery.
  8. John’s favorite books (“Billy Whiskers” and “King Arthur”) in the Nursery.
  9. The hair brush set used by Rose Kennedy in the Dressing Room.
  10. The modern day (for 1917) toaster and tea kettle in the kitchen (Be sure to listen to Rose’s account of daily life in the home). 

Looking for other important Kennedy spots? Check out the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, the JFK Hyannis Museum in Hyannis (on Cape Cod) Massachusetts, and the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas. Check out the index of our presidential sites on the blog here and our index of nearby Boston attractions here.

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5 Comments

  1. What a fun idea for a game! I loved your thorough tips on accessibility, gift shop etc, at the location as well, a very thoughtful touch.

  2. I love Brookline, what a lovely neighborhood. I haven’t visited the JFK National Historic site — it’s on my list now!

  3. Thanks for the great information! I am all set to go! I love the iSpy list for kids! I want to see the unique salt and pepper shakers! 😀

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