The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum will be celebrating its 40-year anniversary this year. Considered to be one of the Boston waterfront’s prime attractions, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum has a long and proud history in the city of Boston.
Creating an Icon
Officially dedicated on October 20, 1979, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum was designed by I.M Pei with the goal of serving as a repository of things related to the 35th president. Plans for the library began when JFK, who was a Brookline native, was still in office. At the time of its original conception, Kennedy wanted the building to serve as a scholarly hub for research rather than as a monument to himself. Plans were modified for the space, however, when Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.
Originally meant to be located in Cambridge at a site on the Banks of the Charles River near Harvard College, plans were ultimately changed amid local opposition. Surrounding neighborhoods were afraid the library would attract tourist, which would then bring in more cars, fast food restaurants and souvenir shops to an already congested area. As a result, plans were changed to construct the library in Dorchester, which was a relatively remote area at the time.
After altering the plans to build the library in Dorchester, construction finally began in June 1977. The process took just over two years to complete, with the original building measuring in at 115,000 square feet. Thanks to two additions, the library now measures 164,000 feet. The first of these additions was the Stephen E. Smith Center, which was constructed in 1991 and named after the Kennedy in-law who spearheaded the creation of the complex. The second addition, which serves as an archive-storage section, was created in 2012.
Despite the additions, Pei’s original design is what remains the most striking. The most recognizable of the library’s features, for example, is the nine-story, white precast concrete tower that stretches 125 feet into the air. This tower is connected to a glass-enclosed pavilion, which itself measures 115 feet tall.
Leaving an Ongoing Impression
As part of the 1991 expansion, the museum-library was rededicated in October 1993 by President Bill Clinton. With an entire generation of Americans having no living memory of JFK by that time, the rededication was meant to help refocus the purpose of the library-museum while also serving as a celebration of Kennedy’s life and legacy.
Today, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum serves as the premiere center for research into JFK’s life as well as his family. Interesting, it also serves as the premiere center for research into the life of author Ernest Hemingway as well. This is largely due to the fact that the author’s wife, Mary Welsh, donated about 90 percent of his known manuscript materials to the library-museum. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum is open every day of the week from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, with the final introductory film beginning at 3:55.