Court rejects Quincy's claim on property taken in 2021. How much will it cost the city? (2024)

Peter BlandinoThe Patriot Ledger

QUINCY ‒ A trust John Adams established in 1822 is still being sorted out − more than 200 years later. And it could cost Quincy more money on top of the $4.2 million it paid 8 years ago.

The city may have to pay for the land under a building, the former Adams Academy, that it took by eminent domain in 2021.

The city paid the Adams Fund just under $1.8 million in October 2021 when it took the building and two other adjacent properties not owned by the trust by eminent domain. The city wants to build the Adams Presidential Center on the adjacent land.

Quincy claimed it always owned the land beneath Adams Academy and only the building ever belonged to the Adams Fund.

But the Massachusetts Court of Appeals recently decided against the city.

The court ruled that a probate judge in a previous case already determined that the Adams Academy property, land included, was an asset of the fund, a ruling which Quincy didn't appeal at the time.

Because of that ruling, Quincy is barred from disputing ownership of the property, according to the newest court opinion.

The Adams Fund's sole beneficiary is The Woodward School for Girls.

The decision could force the city to pay the fund further compensation for its 2021 taking of 8 Adams St., the site of the historic Adams Academy building.

How much is the 8 Adams St. land worth?

It is unclear what would be fair value for the 1.3 acres of land at 8 Adams St. in downtown Quincy. In 2021, Quincy paid Hanco*ck Place LLC about $6.7 million for two smaller adjacent plots totaling .73 acres of land at 24-26 Adams St., according to city records.

Municipal Finance Director Eric Mason said that Adams Academy's historic value might depress its market value. The birthplace of John Hanco*ck, the site is a registered historical landmark, and potential buyers would face use restrictions, Mason said.

Stephanie Perini-Hegarty, the chair of Woodward's Board of Trustees and a Woodward alumna, said the school is grateful for the court's decision.

"The Woodward School is proud of its historic ties to the Adams family and the city of Quincy and looks forward to final resolution of this matter, to use the words of the Appeals Court, 'with the public-spiritedness that (President John Adams) long exemplified,'" Perini-Hegarty said.

'One can only imagine how chagrined President Adams might be'

In his opinion, Appeals Court Judge James Milkey lamented how Adams' generosity has given rise to endless litigation.

"One can only imagine how chagrined President Adams might be that the legal dispute over his gifts continues unabated," he wrote.

The city paid the fund just under $1.8 million in October 2021 when it took the building by eminent domain.

Quincy also took the two adjacent parcels at 24 and 26 Adams St., which did not belong to the fund, paying Hanco*ck Place LLC just under $6.7 million combined for the two properties.

In an interview with The Patriot Ledger, Mayor Thomas Koch voiced his frustration with the case, calling it a "money grab" on the part of The Woodward School.

What is the Adams Temple and School Fund

In June 1822, four years before his death, Adams gave the city land in trust to fund the building of a church and boys school, Milkey wrote in his historical outline of the case. The United First Parish Church, whose basem*nt houses the crypts of Adams and President John Quincy Adams, his son, was built through the fund in 1928.

The Adams Academy was built in 1870 over the cellar of John Hanco*ck's birthplace, across the street from where The Woodward School stands today.

Instruction at the academy specializing in Greek, Latin and Hebrew was short lived. It closed as a school in 1907, though it still stands as a designated national historic landmark and home of the Quincy Historical Society. With the church completed and the school defunct, the Adams Fund was left without a beneficiary.

In 1918, a justice of the state's Supreme Judicial Court authorized the city to use income from the fund for its public high school and public library. It served this purpose until 1953.

How did Woodward get involved?

Woodward, which opened in 1894, was founded by Adams' cousin Ebenezer Woodward. As Adams provided for the future education of boys, Woodward left property in trust to the city to generate income for the establishment of a school for girls, Milkey wrote in his opinion.

Koch told The Patriot Ledger that income from the fund did not make much of an impact on the city's large school budget. So, in 1953, the city designated The Woodward School as the fund's beneficiary. Koch said Woodward was in danger of closing at the time.

How long has this court battle been going on?

In 2007, Woodward sued the city for breaching its fiduciary duty as trustee of the fund, according to Milkey's opinion.

In 1972, the city granted the Quincy Historical Society a 50-year lease of the Adams Academy Building for a monthly rent of $100, Milkey wrote. Now that Quincy owns the building, the Historical Society, which the city provides with $40,000 in annual funding, does not paid any rent, according to city officials.

The lease was granted at the request of the Adams family, Koch said, which was founded by Charles Francis Adams Jr., the great-grandson of John Quincy Adams.

But Woodward eventually came to believe that it was not receiving its full due as sole beneficiary of the fund, whose most valuable asset − the Adams Academy − was serving the historical society.

From 1995 through 2004, the fund was giving The Woodward School between $12,000 and $18,000 per year, according to a 2019 Patriot Ledger report, far less than the $111,345 the trust granted Woodward in 2022, according to the fund's most recent 990 filings with the IRS.

After a 13-day trial, a probate court judge decided in Woodward's favor, citing the 50-year lease as one of multiple breaches on the city's part. The judge ordered a renegotiation of the lease and the city was removed as trustee.

In June 2016, Quincy paid Woodward $4.2 million in damages, according to city records.

In 2019, when the new trustee sought court approval to sell the Adams Academy, Quincy intervened and for the first time claimed it owned title to the the land, while only the building belonged to the fund, Milkey wrote. While this claim was being litigated, the city took the the property by eminent domain, along with the two adjacent properties, in 2021.

After the takings, the city's ownership of both land and building was no longer in question. However, Quincy paid the fund $1.8 million for the building but nothing for the land, which it claimed was never a fund asset. The latest ruling rejects that claim, raising the question of how much the city owes in compensation for the land.

Peter Blandino covers Quincy for The Patriot Ledger. Contact him at

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Court rejects Quincy's claim on property taken in 2021. How much will it cost the city? (2024)


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