QUINCY — The cliche “gone, but not forgotten” is wrong, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough said during the Saturday morning dedication of the Hancock-Adams Common in Quincy.
“I think the saying should be, ‘if they’re not forgotten, they’re not gone,’ ” McCullough told the hundreds of visitors to the new park, which stitches together some of the city’s most iconic historical landmarks — the United First Parish Church, Historic Quincy City Hall, and the Hancock Cemetery.
And history was alive and thriving Saturday as Colonial reenactors, including a traditional fife and drum band, marched through the park, where families, history buffs, and politicians gathered for the park’s opening.
Named after two Quincy sons, John Hancock and John Adams, the Hancock-Adams Common features statues of both men, a fountain with 5-foot geysers, and plenty of benches and green grass.
Adams, one of the Founding Fathers and the second US president, and Hancock, the first and third governor of Massachusetts, were among the original signers of the Declaration of Independence.
According to event organizers, the area of the park was once a militia training field before it was turned into a four-lane road on a portion of Hancock Street.
American flags from various periods festooned the square where Governor Charlie Baker, Quincy Mayor Thomas P. Koch, Congressman Stephen F. Lynch, and McCullough gave remarks, each highlighting Quincy’s special place in American history.
“It’s hard, pretty hard for me to imagine how the United States of America happens without John Hancock,” said Baker, who recalled the patriot’s path from businessman to revolutionary to politician.
“He gave up more than most to fight for the birth of this nation, and while he was not a military hero, he was a Founding Father for sure,” Baker said after praising Hancock as a “great man.”
Referring to John Trumbull’s painting of the Declaration of Independence, which is hung in the US Capitol rotunda, McCullough pointed out that Adams is the only figure in the painting who is depicted head to toe.
Adams’s courage, determination, and “ferocity in argument, ferocity in speaking for a cause,” were driving elements in the birth of this country, McCullough said, stressing Adams’s principles.
“He was the pillar of the Declaration of Independence,” said McCullough, whose extensive work includes a 2001 biography of Adams that was later turned into an HBO miniseries. “He continued to be that way for the rest of his life.”
Speaking to the Globe after the event, McCullough
said events like the park dedication have “never meant more than in the current political climate.”
“The message that [Adams’s] political and public life continues to provide for us has never been more relevant and needed and understood than right now,” he said.
If Adams were alive today, McCullough said, he’d be advocating everyone to vote to “stop this bad turn in the wrong direction.”
“We’re so lucky that there’s so much history right here in Quincy,” said Sara Stephany, who was standing near the fountain with her 16-month-old son, Will, and her coworker Tanya Chakmakian.
“Bringing the community together and sharing the history of this amazing city and opening up this public access for all is very special,” Chakmakian said.
After the official ceremony concluded in the afternoon, guests tucked into a giant cake (in the shape of the park) and enjoyed the park before the planned evening fireworks over Quincy Bay.
Sitting off on benches off to the side, Marie Stamos and her husband, Jim, who have lived in Quincy since 1974, said history brought them to the ceremony this weekend.
“Quincy is the most remarkable city,” Stamos said. “When you think of how it’s grown, and how it welcomes everyone, everyone, here — it speaks for what its origins were.”