In Boston, where John Kennedy became JFK

There are things in Beacon Hill, Boston, State of Massachusetts, which are truly incredible. At least for an American city. Gas street lights, charming streets covered with bad cobblestones. Opulent, impenetrable and drowsy houses, well sheltered behind their sash windows. And over this piece of the Old Continent lost on the East Coast of the United States, the golden dome of the Capitol, seat of the Massachusetts state parliament.

It was there that, on January 9, 1961, a few days before taking the oath that would make him the 35th President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy made a speech that would become famous under the name: “A city upon a hill “, A town on top of a hill. Before drawing the broad outlines of his presidency, he paid a strong homage to his city: “For forty-three years, whether I am in London, Washington, in the South Pacific or elsewhere, Boston has been my home and if God want it, wherever I am, it will remain my house. This is where my grandparents were born, and it is there, I hope, that my grandchildren will be born. ” The city accepted the compliment.

Then she watched her prodigal son return to Washington. Old cities like to think of themselves as the center of the world: from the top of Beacon Hill, the life of John Fitzgerald Kennedy looks like a series of back and forth between Boston and the rest of the universe. It was suddenly interrupted fifty years ago, on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, under the bullets of Lee Harvey Oswald, far from the bad cobblestones of New England.

On the beach at Hyannis Port, the vacation home built by JFK’s father, this is where Kennedy learned of his election as president. Photo credit / Stanislas Fautré. STAN FAUTRE

For the Kennedy family, it was on the Boston docks that it all started, on April 22, 1849. That day, fleeing the famine that was raging in Ireland, Patrick Kennedy, the great-grandfather, disembarked from his boat. He would die a few years later from cholera, also on November 22: 105 years to the day before his illustrious descendant. He had had time to lay the foundations of a dynasty of which we know the mind-boggling destiny. First there was Patrick Joseph, who began the climb to the summits. Then Joseph “Big Joe” Kennedy, the businessman with teeth to eat this brand new continent. He would marry Rose Fitzgerald, daughter of the mayor of Boston, Catholic and Irish like him. There were nine children from this union. On May 29, 1917, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, their second child, was born.

He was born at 83 Beals Street, a modest Brookline home on the outskirts of Boston. At the time, it was a modern district, where the emerging middle class built “homes” between vacant lots, planted plane trees in front of the lawns. The plane trees have grown: Brookline has become a wealthy neighborhood and the old houses of the middle class are selling at high prices. The one at 83 Beals Street was transformed by Rose Kennedy into a museum in memory of the family. There are memories of the great man’s childhood: his silver cup, a piano, his mother’s desk. They are guarded by three uniformed rangers because the place, despite its modest dimensions, is managed by the National Park Service. In the days following JFK’s death, thousands of people gathered between the plane trees and the house to mourn the assassinated president.

The Harvad University campus in Cambridge, where JFK studied. The future president was passionate about history. Photo credit / Stanislas Fautré. STAN FAUTRE

A few years after John’s birth, the family moved three blocks away at 51 Abbotsford Road. Big Joe was not yet very wealthy, but he was already riding in Rolls-Royce … And John, who knows why, was already nicknamed Jack. Another magnetic pole was soon to appear on his world map: Hyannis Port, on Cape Cod. The dunes and long beaches of the peninsula were already the favorite vacation spot for Bostonians. His father bought a beautiful house by the sea there. John Kennedy was going to love the sea very much. The John Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston, a museum dedicated to the memory of the late president, also exhibits Victura, a pretty boat from wood at the helm of which he was often photographed while sailing off Cape Cod.

Jack left Boston for the benches of the very elitist Choate in Connecticut. Then he returned to Boston to study at Harvard: the prestigious American university is four stations from the Massachusetts State Capitol. Then Jack left Harvard for the London School of Economics. He visited Europe, he studied at Stanford, not far from San Francisco. There was war. Jack became a hero in the Pacific, and his brother died over England. The family was reunited at Hyannis Port when they heard about it, it was a beautiful Sunday in August and that day, it seems that Jack refused to race.

Big Joe Kennedy transferred the political hopes he had placed in the missing son to the surviving son. At not even 30 years old, John Kennedy was already famous in the United States. He was to become a politician, and his first campaign would take place in Boston in 1946. The victory was brilliant, and John, elected to the House of Representatives in Washington, became “congressman”. It was only the first step in a flash ascent to the presidency. We can trace its traces by walking the sidewalks of Boston alongside David O’Donnell, a young historian passionate about the adventure of JFK, and who rode a John Kennedy Tour.

A stone’s throw from Hyannis Port, the charming island of Martha’s Vineyard, where JFK, a great boat lover, often went sailing. Photo credit / Stanislas Fautré. STAN FAUTRE

With him we stop in front of 10 Kilby Street, where was the HQ of the campaign which opened the doors of the Senate to him, in 1952. We eat a clam chowder, a thick soup of clams, at Union Oyster House, where the Kennedy family had their habits. Upstairs, table 18 is named after the family. A little further, we swoon in front of another table, n ° 40 at Parker’s Restaurant, where, in 1953, Jack asked for Jackie’s hand… Then we separate in front of Faneuil Hall, where Jack gave his last speech as a candidate to the presidency in 1960.

When the President of the United States came to spend a weekend at Hyannis Port, he disembarked from Marine One, the official White House helicopter, on the lawn of the Kennedy Compound, a large house, also white. Some residents of Hyannis Port remember this. They also remember the presidential yacht sailing along the coast. In the modest museum that the city dedicates to the deceased president, Americans on vacation come to revise their ranges on television screens: John Fitzgerald Kennedy holding his daughter Caroline by the shoulder, bathing, driving a golf car overflowing with funny brats . The President in sunglasses and white polo shirt: John Fitzgerald Kennedy eternally young and smiling, like the stars suddenly extinguished.

The travel diary

Martha’s Vineyard, in the blue house, the friendly Lobsterville restaurant invites you to contemplate the sea. Photo credit / Stanilas Fautré. STAN FAUTRE

Before leaving

The Massachusetts Tourist Board website: (

Travel agency

The House of the United States ( ; offers a journey in the footsteps of the Kennedys of ten days, eight nights. On the program: Boston, Cape Cod, Newport and the lovely island of Martha’s Vineyard. From € 2,090 per person, including flight, hotels and a rental car.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the I have a dream speech, the agency is organizing an exhibition that explores the links between Martin Luther King and JFK. Free entry.

The plane

Air France (36.54; Paris-Boston: direct flights, daily, all year round. Round trip from € 814.


In Boston

The Charles (001.617.864.1200 ; More comfortable than charming, this hotel is a short walk from the famous Harvard University. From 195 €.

The Colonnade (001.617.424.70.00 ; The Colonnade is located in the chic Back Bay district: the famous Newbury Street is a stone’s throw away. From € 157.

At Martha’s Vineyard

Mansion House Inn (001.508.693.2200 ; Beautiful wooden building overlooking the charming village of Vineyard Haven. One downside: the breakfasts are very disappointing. From 135 €.

Hob Knob (001.508.627.95.10 ; This luxurious boutique hotel welcomed Senator John F. Kennedy while racing between the continent and the island. From 188 €.


In Boston

Omni Parker House ( Ask for table No. 40. It was there, in the restaurant of this venerable hotel that John F. Kennedy asked for the hand of Jacqueline Lee Bouvier, in 1953. Around € 60 per person.

Union Oyster House ( The Kenney family had their habits there. Oysters and clam chowder. Around 40 €.

Grill 23 ( An excellent steak house unlike anywhere else in the United States. Around 60 €.

At Martha’s Vineyard

Moxie ( Excellent restaurant serving fresh, healthy and tasty food. At Vineyard Heaven. Around 45 €.

Lobsterville (001.508.696.00.99). Seated upstairs, on the balcony of this small restaurant nestled in a wooden house, on the quays of Oaks Bluff, we watch the boats. In the evening, a bar is open on the ground floor. Sympathetic. Around 30 €.

In the footsteps of JFK

In Boston

The Kennedy Tour ( € 9.

Kennedy’s birth house: 83 Beals street, Brookline. Free.

JFK Presidential Library and Museum ( € 9.

At Hyannis Port

JFK Museum at Hyannis Port ( € 6.

In your library

In preparation for the fiftieth anniversary of JFK’s death, a few books have been published recently.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, at Editions Perrin, by Frédéric Martinez: a detailed, subjective and breathless biography, 350 p.22 €.

Kennedy, by Vincent Michelot, collection “Folio”, a political biography.

More fun, The Kennedy, Editions Milan, in the collection “History Notebooks”, include in a few files the great myths of the family, 120 p., € 7.90.

Beautiful book: Kennedy, chronicle of a destiny. Unpublished photos of Jacques Lowe, personal photographer of JFK, at Editions Gallimard, 250 p., € 29.90.


Le Routard, United States Northeast, € 14.95.

Boston, Cartoville, Gallimard, € 8.90.


The Kennedy’s refuge, from Rhode Island to Boston

On November 22, 1963, John Fitzgerald Kennedy was killed in Dallas. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his death, a nostalgic stroll in the footsteps of a mythical clan, along the coasts of New England.

Newport, Rhode Island. White sailboats embark for a two-hour trip at sunset. We toast to champagne while parade, on this ultrachic coast of New England, delirious villas disguised as Trianon or Buckingham Palace. First stopover in Kennedy’s country is this idyllic city, where John and Jackie got married. Because they were both, long before Washington and the misfortune of Dallas, two children of the coast: Jackie spent all her summers in Rhode Island; John, his people on the shores very close to Cape Cod. Today as yesterday, these 200 kilometers of sand and almost wild bays remain the ultimate in chic haunt.

>>> To read also: What would become of the authors without the JFK myth?

In Newport, the coastal path leads to Hammersmith Farm, Jackie’s legendary family home. The half-timbered manor house is perched on a hill, incognito, between dry stone walls and lawns today deserted. The voices of the thousand and a few wedding guests fell silent. And, like that famous day in September 1953, let’s walk down the road to St. Mary’s Church. The neo-Gothic red building where the American couple with the most media coverage of the 20th century said “yes, I do” has since been classified as a historic monument and can be visited at mass time.

The JFK Museum in Hyannis.

The JFK Museum in Hyannis.

Charlie Mahoney

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A few kilometers from Jackie’s childhood, the port of Hyannis is home to the Kennedy Compound, renamed “Summer White House” during the two brief presidential years. No barrier in sight, but a discreet security guard bars the way to the white shingled houses decorated with hydrangeas and the lawns that slide towards the Atlantic, still occupied by Maria Shriver and other members of the clan. You will be able to observe this stronghold at leisure in the small museum of Hyannis, on the photos where John poses at all times of his life. There is a bit of Brittany, like an English nursery rhyme Dinard in excessively white polo shirts, the tan emphasizing the sparkling teeth, the sporty look of the nine offspring of Joe Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald. A short film runs in a loop, to the glory of the icon, that we observe, hypnotized, playing tennis barefoot or setting sail with a Hollywood nonchalance. In 1961, JFK had the blond beaches of Cape Cod located east of Hyannis classified as a coastal national park, thus preserving these wild shores from any real estate development.

>>> Also read: 50 years after his assassination, what happened to JFK’s major projects?

“Kennedy remains very popular. Many people, especially those over 70, have a portrait of him hanging on the wall in their homes. For all descendants of Irish immigrants, his family is a symbol of success,” sums up a resident of Martha’s Vineyard. Unlike Clinton and Obama, Kennedy did not spend his vacation there, but a local legend has it that he landed there on a stormy or racing day, then in his twenties. Framed in the lobby of the Hob Knob Hotel in Edgartown, an article in the Vineyard Gazette describes the arrival of this hunched, thin and lonely boy. The streets of the village have hardly changed since. No modern house spoils the alignment of white houses, once built by whale fishermen. And still no Starbucks or Gap – the local government stands in the way of all mass consumption. This morning, the gardens wake up in the hands of gardeners who prune the beds and replace the grass before the owners return next summer. Between the facades decorated with dahlias appear paintings of wooden pontoons and small boats on blue water. Welcome outside of the world, to Swiss perfection, which seems to rule out any possibility of poverty, war or hurricane, and promises an endless whirlwind of regattas and happy tea parties.

The port of Hyannis, lined with sumptuous villas very

The port of Hyannis, lined with sumptuous villas very “New England”.

Charlie Mahoney

After the big game fishing competition held this morning, and rewarding the winner of an elegant speedboat, the best option on this sunny day is to survey the west of the island towards Aquinnah, a repertoire of moors and deserted beaches, where some 300 inhabitants nestle out of sight. Jackie Kennedy, now Onassis, had bought a large estate here, off which the plane piloted by her son John John crashed in 1999. Last May, her sister Caroline, the only one of the four children still alive, shocked the local establishment by listing two-thirds of the property for $ 45 million. The saga continues. On our way to Boston, let’s go back in time. The pilgrimage begins at 83 Beals Street, the bucolic street in the Brookline neighborhood where JFK was born. After the assassination of her son, in Dallas, Rose Kennedy bought it back to reconstitute the museum of the great man’s childhood – neither her silver cup nor the copy of her beloved book, The Knights are missing. of the Round Table. Everywhere in the city, the “kennedymania” is omnipresent.

“The Kennedy, these are our kings and queens. America has a lot of very wealthy people, but none have their class, “summed up an unlikely taxi driver, sporting multiple piercings and smoking with all windows open. On Beacon Hill, the Kennedy Tour, led by David O ‘ Donnell, a cultivated and prolific young historian, took up the thread of history in 1946. John, a war hero, returned to the country to campaign. There was the old Bellevue Hotel, where his maternal grandfather welcomed him. to warm his old senator’s chair. There is the Union Oyster House lobster bisque, which JFK used to come to a discreet corner upstairs – now duly commemorated with a copper plaque. Faneuil Hall – where the last speech before the presidential election was recorded – and the seat of government of Massachusetts, where the youngest president of the United States seems to want to rise from his bronze statue. Then finish in style under the golds skates of the Omni Parker House Hotel. It’s here, in the downstairs restaurant, at table 40, that America’s most glamorous and runny bachelor asked Jackie for his hand. Perhaps the story should have ended there, like in fairy tales.

Hawaii is hoping for tourists through gay marriage

Honolulu – The signature of Governor Neil Abercrombie sealed it: Hawaii legalizes gay marriage. The parliament of the US state had passed the law beforehand to the cheers of the audience. From December 2nd, same-sex couples will be allowed to marry here, and they will then also be legally equal to heterosexual spouses.

“I have always been proud to be born in Hawaii, and the decision today makes me even more proud,” said US President Barack Obama, according to the newspaper “The Washington Times”. Hawaii is the 15th US state to take this step. The decision was preceded by a bitter debate. Under the leadership of Republican Bob McDermott, a group of opponents had tried to the last to prevent the law.

Gay tourism

Hawaii is now hoping for a boom in lesbian and gay vacationers on its islands: Scientists from the University of Hawaii expect income from those willing to marry and honeymooners to rise by $ 217 million over the next three years.

The travel industry around the world is increasingly targeting gays and lesbians. They are often so-called dinks: Double income, no kids (double income, no children) – and have an above-average amount of money and time to travel. More and more organizers, hotels and airlines are advertising by saying they are “gay-friendly”. According to the Gay European Tourism Association (GETA), homosexual couples from Europe alone spend a total of 50 billion euros per year on travel.

Like Hawaii, vacation destinations themselves attract gay travelers. The region around the Australian capital Canberra, which also decided on gay marriage last month, is hoping for increased influx. Cities like Buenos Aires, Cape Town and Tel Aviv position themselves as particularly “gay friendly”.

Icon: The mirror