Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of JFK’s Assassination
President’s birthplace in Brookline to hold special weekend events
In one of his first acts in office after being sworn in as president following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation making November 25, 1963, a national day of mourning throughout the United States. Johnson urged people “to assemble on that day in their respective places of divine worship, there to bow down in submission to the will of Almighty God, and to pay their homage of love and reverence to the memory of a great and good man.” The day of mourning was planned for the day of President Kennedy’s funeral and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
At 2 p.m. that day, a throng of 2,000 men, women, and children assembled outside the three-story house at 83 Beals St., Brookline, Mass., where JFK was born, for a special service led by local religious leaders representing Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant congregations. A local high school teacher played “Taps.” The cantor from nearby Temple Kehillath Israel, which had just concluded a special service of its own, led the hushed crowd in the singing of “America the Beautiful.” The ceremony concluded with a 21-gun salute.
The Kennedy family called 83 Beals St. home from 1914, when Joseph and Rose Kennedy, the president’s parents, moved into the house as newlyweds, until 1920, when they moved to a larger home in Brookline to accommodate their growing family. (JFK, the third of their nine children, was born in 1917.) At the time of the president’s death, the house was occupied by a widow, Martha Pollack. In 1966, the Kennedy family bought back the house, and after an extensive restoration, gave it to the National Park Service. Since then, the house has been open to the public from mid-May through October.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination and the subsequent National Day of Mourning, the National Park Service is opening the house to the public this weekend for tours and a special ceremony.
“JFK’s legacy is everlasting; it’s enduring,” says Jim Roberts, supervisory park ranger at the JFK National Historic Site. “For a man who served in office for such a short amount of time—1,000 days—he had an enduring impact on America.” Roberts says there’s been tremendous interest in the site this year because of all the media attention surrounding the anniversary of the assassination.
On Saturday and Sunday, the house will be open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ranger-guided house tours will be available Saturday, self-guided tours on Sunday. Visitors will be able to see the baby grand piano that was given to Rose Kennedy as a wedding gift and played by a young JFK, as well as the small children’s table and two chairs in the dining room 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 96 years ago. All of the clocks in the house are set to 3 p.m.—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 nine Kennedy children are on display here, as well as several children’s books that belonged to the future president.
On Sunday, the National Park Service will hold a brief ceremony at 2 p.m. to commemorate the anniversary of the National Day of Mourning. The ceremony will mirror the one that took place on Beals Street that November day in 1963. There will be a wreath-laying, reflections by local religious leaders, and a performance of “America the Beautiful,” this time sung by students from Brookline’s Edward Devotion School. The ceremony will also include a reading of President Johnson’s National Day of Mourning Proclamation. All events are free and open to the public.
The John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, 83 Beals St., Brookline, Mass., will be open to the public tomorrow, Saturday, November 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., for ranger-guided tours, and on Sunday, November 24, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., for self-guided tours. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, a brief ceremony commemorating the 50th anniversary of the National Day of Mourning for President Kennedy will be held at the site. Admission is free. By public transportation, take an MBTA Green Line C trolley to Coolidge Corner, walk four blocks north on Harvard Street, and turn right on Beals Street, or take a Green Line B trolley to Babcock Street, walk four blocks south, turn right onto Manchester Street and left onto Steadman Street, and take the right fork onto Beals Street.2 Comments