Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. was born in Hull, 100 years ago, July 25, 1915.By John Galluzzo
Boston’s 34th mayor, John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, sang his way into office in 1906, plastering the walls of the 24 wards with posters promising a “Bigger, Better, Busier Boston,” and crooning “Sweet Adeline” at each stop on his whirlwind tour of the city’s soapboxes. Choosing to summer in Hull, he bought a stately Tudor-style mansion at the base of Allerton Hill, complete with separate servants’ quarters across the street. Young Rose Fitzgerald spent many of her early summers there, avoiding the amorous advances of men such as Sir Thomas Lipton, a tea mogul and yachting enthusiast. Her one true love would instead be the son of Patrick J. Kennedy, one of Honey Fitz’s Board of Strategy members.
Although Fitzgerald railed at the idea of their union—going as far as to send his daughter to a Prussian convent to keep her from a relationship with him—Rose married Joe Kennedy anyway, hoping the young Harvard-educated banker would keep to his promise to make his first million before the age of 35. They exchanged vows on October 14, 1914, in the private chapel of Cardinal William O’Connell. The couple honeymooned at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia and bought a house on Beals Street in Brookline. The following spring, it became quite evident that the newlyweds were expecting the arrival of their first child. Although Fitzgerald had by now raised the ire of Hull Selectman John Smith’s “Old Ring” by blasting their political machinations at a public meeting (so badly that the town’s superintendent of streets sent a work crew to dig a ditch, five feet wide by seven feet deep, around Fitzgerald’s Allerton Hill home, only ordering it filled after the summer season had ended), Joe and Rose opted to stay in Hull until the birth of their child.
“He seemed to have come directly out of Ireland, strong and glowingly handsome with his dark-blue eyes and his sturdy frame, filled with vitality, health and energy.”
The couple leased a square, gray house at 201 Beach Avenue (the corner of “C” Street and Beach), and settled down to enjoy the coming summer of 1915, secure in the knowledge that their obstetrician, Dr. Frederick Goode, had also labeled Hull as his seasonal resort of choice.
“They were not bored,” said Hank Searles in the book “The Lost Prince.” “There was the clean breeze-cooled sand by day, and in the evenings there were always the great resort hotels a few blocks south…Nantasket in 1915 was a blend of Monte Carlo and Coney Island. In the paneled game rooms of the Atlantic House, where rooms were $20 a day at a time when boat fare from New York to Boston was $2.50, dice rattled. The beach had the only liquor licenses from Boston to Provincetown.”
“Joe Kennedy seldom gambled, except when he could dictate the odds; he almost never drank. But he and Rose listened to John McCormack and George M. Cohan in the magnificent wooden Pacific House Hotel, watched the parade of sweeping skirts and straw boaters drift past the wide front porch of the Villa Napoli. Joe, in plus fours, played the local courses.” The day drew nearer, and finally around 10 a.m. on July 25, 1915, in an upstairs room at 201 Beach Avenue, Rose gave birth to the first of the soon-to-be-star-crossed Kennedy children.
Fitzgerald, for the first time a grandfather, sprinted into the house from the beach where he had been spending time with his son Fred to see his grandson. Calling the Boston papers immediately, he laid out the boy’s future. “Is he going into politics? Well…he is going to be President of the United States…”
Joe and Rose delayed naming the baby boy, eventually surprising the Boston press by not attaching the name of Rose’s father to him, but instead naming him for his own father. He had the Fitzgerald face, but the Kennedy body and soul. “To all appearances, young Joe was a child gifted by the gods,” wrote Doris Kearns Goodwin. “He seemed to have come directly out of Ireland, strong and glowingly handsome with his dark-blue eyes and his sturdy frame, filled with vitality, health and energy.”
The Kennedys, now a family of three, remained in Hull for eight weeks more, christening Joseph Patrick, Jr. at the recently finished St. Ann’s Catholic church a few blocks south, which had just been dedicated the day the child was born. In the early fall, they rumbled out of town in a new Model-T Ford to their Brookline home.