Massachusetts

John F. Kennedy Born In Brookline, May 29, 1917

Rose Kennedy and her children, circa 1922. L-R: Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy (seated in foreground), John F. Kennedy, and Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Bachrach Studios photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.
Rose Kennedy and her children, circa 1922. L-R: Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy (seated in foreground), John F. Kennedy, and Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Bachrach Studios photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Rose Kennedy and her children, circa 1922. L-R: Rose Kennedy, Eunice Kennedy, Kathleen Kennedy, Rosemary Kennedy (seated in foreground), John F. Kennedy, and Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Bachrach Studios photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

John F. Kennedy was born in a bed by a window in a three-story frame house at 83 Beals St. in Brookline, Mass., on the afternoon of May 29, 1917.

John F. Kennedy birthplace

John F. Kennedy birthplace

His mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, said the bed was next to the window so the doctor could have good light.

His father, Joseph P. Kennedy, bought the house in 1914 before he married Rose. He was an up-and-coming businessman who chose the house because it had plenty of space for kids to play in, and it was close to good schools, shops at Coolidge Corner and a trolley. Joe Kennedy didn’t own a car when he bought the house.

By the time Jack was born, his 28-year-old father owned a Model T and drove it to his job as assistant general manager of the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Mass. It was at the shipyard that he met Franklin D. Roosevelt, assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy. Roosevelt later appointed Joe Kennedy as chair of the SEC and as U.S. ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

Rose Kennedy was a 26-year-old housewife, the daughter of former Boston Mayor John Francis ‘Honey Fitz’ Fitzgerald. In 1917, Honey Fitz had been out of the mayor’s office for three years, but he would serve briefly in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1919. Later he ran unsuccessfully for the U. S. Senate and for governor of Massachusetts.

John F. Kennedy and sister Eunice, about 1925. Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

John F. Kennedy and sister Eunice, about 1925. Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

Rose Kennedy recorded details about her children -- their births, illnesses and shoe sizes -- on notecards she kept in a wooden box. When her second son was born, she wrote,

John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Born Brookline, Mass. (83 Beals Street) May 29, 1917

Soon nicknamed Jack, he shared a room with his older brother Joseph, Jr., during the years the family lived in the 83 Beals St. house. He was often ill, hospitalized with scarlet fever – then a life-threatening illness – when he was three.

John F. Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy, 1919. Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

John F. Kennedy and Joseph P. Kennedy, 1919. Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

Before he was 11 years old he suffered from scarlet fever, chicken pox, mumps, whooping cough, German measles and chronic bronchitis. His family joked a mosquito took a risk by biting Jack -- with his blood, the mosquito was sure to die.

Joe Kenned, stung by anti-Irish prejudice, had vowed he'd make a million dollars by the time he was 35. He did.

When Jack Kennedy was three, the Kennedys moved to a larger house in Brookline  a few blocks away to accommodate the growing family. Eventually there would be nine Kennedy children, five girls and four boys.

The Kennedy family spent summers at Hyannis Port on Cape Cod. The children were encouraged to compete with each other swimming, sailing and playing touch football. Years later, Jack brought his girlfriend, Jacqueline Bouvier, to Hyannis Port to meet the family. She was horrified. So were his sisters who, unlike Jackie, raced around the compound in old tennis clothes and sneakers. Jackie compared her reception to a sorority hazing, called the sisters 'the rah-rah girls' and told her own sister 'they fall over each other like a pack of gorillas.'

The Kennedy Children, 1928  (L-R) Jean, Bobby, Patricia, Eunice, Kathleen, Rosemary, Jack, Joe Jr. Hyannisport, 1928. Photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

The Kennedy Children, 1928 (L-R) Jean, Bobby, Patricia, Eunice, Kathleen, Rosemary, Jack, Joe Jr. Hyannisport, 1928. Photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

John F. Kennedy grew up to become president of the United States. The Kennedy family repurchased his birthplace in 1966 and donated it to the National Park Service. It is open during warm months for free tours, either self-guided or by a park ranger.

This story was updated from the 2014 version. 

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Bobo Leach

    Bobo Leach

    May 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    The family lived in East Boston before that, across the street from my grandfather and uncle.

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