“We’re wanting to do it in the safest possible way,” said Marianne Peak, superintendent of Adams National Historical Park in Quincy, whose reopening is slated for Aug. 4. “We are responsible for the safety of the public and the safety of the employee.”
Other historical sites — including the Old North Church, Concord’s Old Manse, and Chesterwood in Stockbridge — have curtailed their hours because of the seasonal labor shortage this summer.
The childhood home of President John F. Kennedy in Brookline also remains closed this summer, for renovations delayed by the pandemic.
The closures and abbreviated schedules have left some tourists disappointed. Kami Ott, 45, who came from Redford, Mich., with her two sons last week, said the volume of sites that were closed, had limited hours, or only accepted online reservations meant they weren’t able to cross historical sites such as the USS Constitution off their list.
“We got out here and a lot of the things that we wanted to see… we couldn’t because it was all booked up,” Ott said near the Bunker Hill Monument this month. “I didn’t really pre-plan.”
The National Parks Service has yet to resume its Freedom Trail tour because it travels through congested areas along Tremont and School streets, said Liza Stearns, director of visitor engagement, education, and the arts for Boston National Historical Park. (The Black Heritage Trail tour, which sticks to mostly residential areas of Beacon Hill, returned on July 14.) Stearns said the parks service is waiting for coronavirus cases to drop.
Park Street Church and King’s Chapel, two other stops along the famous 2.5-mile history walk through Boston, also remain closed, disappointing tour operators and visitors alike.
Scott and Kerri Williams, 52, of Henrietta, Texas, who were among scores of visitors at the King’s Chapel Burying Ground Friday morning, said they enjoyed strolling through the shady graveyard, but the closure of King’s Chapel and Park Street Church was something of a letdown.
“It’d be nice to be able to go in,” Scott Williams said, gazing at the exterior of the stone building next to him.
The closures frustrate tour operators, too.
“When things on the Freedom Trail are closed, people skip Boston,” said Tim Maguire, managing partner at The Histrionic Academy, a company that runs Freedom Trail Tours.
Hotels in Boston and Cambridge will have just above 50 percent occupancy rates from now until the fall, substantially lower than the 90 percent rate in the summer of 2019, according to projections by Pinnacle Advisory Group and the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The landscape for tourism, though, remains uncertain amid the resurgence in cases sparked by the Delta variant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising vaccinated people to wear masks in areas with high transmission rates.
But Nat Sheidley, president and chief executive officer of Revolutionary Spaces, which manages the Old State House and the Old South Meeting House, said historic tourism seemed relatively robust nevertheless.
“We have been surprised at how strong admissions rates have been,” he said.
So have the administrators of the Old North Church and Historic Site, which reopened April 10.
“We’re not back to a normal summer yet, but we’re much further ahead than we thought we’d be,” said Nikki Stewart, the executive director.
And further west, Old Sturbridge Village is on pace to have a busier July than it did in 2019, said Jim Donahue, president and chief executive officer.
Some historical sites that are open on a more limited basis are struggling to meet demand. In addition to the Freedom Trail, the Williamses also planned to visit the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, but couldn’t get a time slot; the center is open only on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Alan Price, director of the library, said that the site chose to cautiously reopen “rather than open the floodgates, and risk having to shut it all down.”
“Unfortunately,” he said, “we can’t accommodate everybody.”
The House of the Seven Gables in Salem, which previously trimmed its hours because of a staffing shortage, has 17 part-time tour guides compared to 40 in a normal year, said Julie Arrison-Bishop, community engagement director.
“We’re just hoping no one calls in sick,” Arrison-Bishop said.
The Massachusetts Historical Society, headquartered in Back Bay, is still closed to the public, though researchers can now use its facilities if they show proof of vaccination and wear a mask. Catherine Allgor, the society’s president, said her staff feels uncomfortable taking public transit to work.
“It’s still kind of a brave new world,” she said.
State Representative Carole Fiola, House chair for the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, expressed confidence in the judgment of administrators.
“Every one of these sites is unique,” the Democrat from Fall River said. “Every one is going to make decisions based on what is right for them.”
But Dr. David Hamer, an infectious disease doctor at Boston Medical Center and professor of global health at Boston University, said that historical sites should be able to welcome visitors.
“There’s no reason why they can’t be open with at least some basic, precautionary measures,” Hamer said.
With the rise of infections in Massachusetts and around the country, some sensible precautions might include asking all visitors, even vaccinated ones, to wear a mask, Hamer said. But the chance to get out and experience historic sites in person could boost individual mental health, which is another public health consideration.
“To some extent, we’re just going to need to learn to live with this virus,” Hamer said.
Park administrators said last week they’re hoping to open the Bunker Hill Monument this season once they finish “conducting risk assessments and mitigations.” Louisa May Alcott’s Orchard House in Concord plans to open in August, according to its website.
And Allgor said the Massachusetts Historical Society is eyeing a September reopening date.
“100 percent we do want our building open,” she said. “There is something magical about the environment here.”
Jack Lyons can be reached at [email protected]