Saturday, August 29, 2009

A "Compound" Problem--Kennedy Estate in Hyannisport May Become a Museum

I have my own thoughts on this but would like to hear yours--do you think the compound should be made into a museum or should it remain private homes for the family's use?
From "The Boston Globe":

Photo of Kennedy Compound--Senator Ted Kennedy home in forefront; Ethel Kennedy's next door; former President Kennedy's home, sold to Senator Kennedy by Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg, behind main house

HYANNIS PORT - For three generations, the Kennedy family has spent countless hours here tossing footballs on the beach, sailing near their collection of cottages, and producing iconic photos fit for Life magazine. They have mourned losses of loved ones in the most public fashion, and they have celebrated marriages, births, and political victories. But the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who for decades has been the glue that held the family together, closes a chapter of a storybook Camelot tale that has flourished at the end of Marchant Avenue.

Much of the Kennedy compound will probably be turned over to a national nonprofit group, possibly to be opened up as a museum or retreat center.
“My understanding is the senator wants that property to go to the public,’’ said someone close to the Kennedy family, who asked for anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “He wants it to be a historic property, similar to Franklin Roosevelt’s home in Hyde Park.’’

The property, long seen as a holy site of Democratic politics, is located in a small village that has captivating views of Nantucket Sound. It is a place where bikes lie in front yards, where bougainvillea and rose bushes flutter against white picket fences, where the ocean breeze carries a salty mist.

It is where political campaigns and raceboat victories were hatched, where Senator Kennedy tossed tennis balls to his Portuguese water dogs, Sonny and Splash, where he set sail on his wooden schooner, Mya.

“It’s a place where he always gained strength,’’ said Paul G. Kirk Jr., a former Kennedy aide who is chairman of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation. “If you want to use a naval analogy, that’s his anchor.’’

Joseph P. Kennedy began renting the house, with its wide veranda and ocean views, in 1926. He bought it three years later and enlarged it to fit the large family. Two of his sons, John and Robert, purchased their own homes next door when they got older, and for 80 years the rambling white houses by the sea have been the scene of numerous moments fit for the history books.

It was in Robert’s cottage that President Kennedy and his aides watched the returns on election night. The next morning he rode in a white Lincoln to give his victory speech from the Hyannis Armory. That afternoon, they played touch football on the lawn. (Bobby’s team beat Jack’s by a single touchdown.)

The family gathered here to grieve on Thanksgiving Day in 1963, days after President Kennedy was assassinated. Senator Kennedy returned to the compound in 1969 after the funeral of Mary Jo Kopechne, emotionally shattered and prepared to resign his Senate seat and give up politics.

It was during a walk on the beach that his most trusted aide, David Burke, persuaded him to remain in the Senate and try to put the Chappaquiddick incident behind him.

When John F. Kennedy Jr.’s plane crashed into the ocean off Martha’s Vineyard, three priests celebrated Mass under a white tent that had been installed on the lawn for the wedding of Bobby Kennedy’s youngest child, Rory. It was Senator Kennedy who held a chalice of Communion wine while one of the priests distributed Eucharistic wafers.

“You would go to the house to drop him off, and he would be in this big rambling home, essentially by himself,’’ said one former Kennedy aide. “There were all these pictures on the walls of his dead relatives, who died too early.

The aide added: “He’s lived variously in an apartment in the Ritz; he’s got a house in Marlborough Street [in the Back Bay in Boston]; he’s got the house in Washington. But this is clearly home.’’

Because of all that history, the place is half museum and half home. In the living room, there is a couch where Rose installed a plaque to note that Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli once sat on it; he later became Pope Pius XII.

“It’s absolutely the home base for all the Kennedy family, and I think it’s been enormously significant to them and to the country,’’ said Philip W. Johnston, a longtime friend of the Kennedys. “We all think of it in a historical context, but they think of it as simply home.’’
Every year at Thanksgiving - rain or shine, warm or cold - the family goes out to sail. A group of close family friends is invited over for a meal, often accompanied by a Christmas singalong.
“The Kennedys know how to have a good party,’’ Johnston said, “which is why everybody always go back.’’

Every year, tourists make the pilgrimage to Hyannis, hoping for a glimpse of the Kennedys, a taste of their way of life. They sail into the harbor for a better look at the home.
They stop by St. Francis Xavier Church and view the pew where a plaque marks where the president sat for Mass, at the end of the row, if a quick getaway was needed.
Before the stockade fence went up years ago, people would rip shingles off the sides of the houses. Visitors would grab dirt and grass.

“It just has this mystique,’’ said Paul Traub, a 58-year-old economist from Michigan who was visiting the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum, which showcases the family’s ties to Cape Cod. “Hyannis just sticks out in your mind, because of the family and the compound.’’
The guestbook at the JFK Museum along Main Street includes entries from Italy to Iowa, from Brazil to Boston. “You almost feel like you’re looking over the fence, to see these people and how they’re living,’’ said Jeff Cohen, a 47-year-old investment banker from Albany, N.Y. “It’s a living dynasty.’’

But with the death of the last son of Rose and Joe Kennedy, a piece of that dynasty ends. Ethel Kennedy, the wife of the late Robert F. Kennedy, still lives in a home on the compound. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and his wife, Maria Shriver, own a home about a block away, as does her brother Robert.
But without Teddy - the freckle-faced little brother who became the patriarch known as the Grand Fromage (French for “the big cheese’’) - something will be missing.
“Obviously it will be a significant change for the family, because the family’s love for him is as much an attraction to a physical place as to the residents and its history,’’ Kirk said. “It’s going to be different; there’s no denying that.’’


Anonymous said...

I would think they would keep in the family as long as possible. There are so many nieces, nephews, grandchildren.... I just cannot see it turned into a museum.

liz said...

i think they should keep it as a private residence. just because teddy is gone does not mean that the family is gone too. There is still a lot of kennedy's left. What better way of keeping the family together than by keeping the house. Teddy brought the family together, now the house can bring the family together in the summer. It will be the best way all of the family can stay connected.

Anonymous said...

I would like it if they keep it as a private holiday home for all the offspring of Joe and Rose Kennedy.

On other pictures of the compound another house is shown on the right of the houses that you see on the pic on this site. It is really huge and built in a V shape and stands a bit on a sort of 'corner' and has the US flag in front. Does anyone knows if this house also belongs to the Kennedy's?

Anonymous said...

though it is truly a grand gesture to make these homes public, and so many of us would love to visit, it would be so sad as well. much of the glamor and mystique of the kennedys is attached to the compound, so it would be lost. and we would no longer get those glimpses of the kennedys together on the lawn that we all relish.

Anonymous said...

interesting that lee radziwill is keeping so much company with calvin klein lately.

Jessika said...

I think it should be turned into a museum although I personally would prefer that they keep it in the family. But there is just the problem that keeping a house like this costs a lot of money (repairs and stuff). And it doesn't seem that anyone of the Kennedys wants to live in there. And what to do with an empty house when nobody is really willing to put further money in there? Or when the 4th generation isn't interested in it? Or there isn't just enough money in the family anymore to keep it (a couple of family members like RFK jr. and Maueve Townsend already indicated that there isn't that much money left)? The answer would be: to sell the house. So I think it is better to turn the house into a museum than to sell it some day and give it into the hands of a privat person, a stranger who maybe or surely changes the interior or even architectural elements or even just wants the piece of land and tears the house down to build a new one that matches more his or her ideas. You know that there are people like that who don't care about the history of things and don't appreciate it them. So better to keep the original as a museum than to lose it irrecoverably.

Jules said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

For selfish reasons, I would like to see it as a museum. Only because that is how history lives on. I wouldn't want some family member to come along and sell it to some obscure millionaire who just wants to own "The Compound". And then there is the question of WHO do you turn it over to? Which family member do you trust with it? Caroline sold a ton of family heirlooms that probably should have gone to a museum - again - personal opinion there. It is just that I have seen families with FAR less heirs than the Kennedy's fight over property and possessions - I don't want to see this happen to the compound.

I just think, as a museum, this could serve as a memorial to the Kennedy Legacy and focus on the whole family from Joe to Bobby and down onto Teddy, and everything in between. The Library is there for Jack and the Palm Beach home has already been sold - so really, this would be the only option.

I just don't think it's that bad of an idea.

Mary said...

Although I would be absolutely thrilled if the compound were turned into a museum, I can't imagine the family letting go of such a cornerstone in their life.
It would be great if there was a way just the main house could be open to the public, but that would be difficult to do when the homes are all so close together and so many fragments of the family would have to agree.

jane said...

Having been on the grounds there, it is an amazingly beautiful area...I don't think Ethel would ever give up her home there, and there are others in the family with plenty of money to preserve Rose's house (Maria or Caroline come to mind).
As for the other house mentioned in an earlier post, it is not a Kennedy home, but is often inaccurately used as a photo of the compound.

Harlow said...

does anyone know where exactly the compound is in hyannis???what part??


keeblerc said...

I found an additional description of the main house:

Main house

Joseph's home, the largest of the three, is surrounded by well-tended lawns and gardens and it commands sweeping views of the ocean from its long porches.

On the main floor are a living room, dining room, sun room, television room, the bedroom that President Kennedy used before he purchased his own house in the compound, the kitchen, and various pantries and utility rooms.

On the second floor are six bedrooms, a sewing room, packing room, and four servants' bedrooms. The house has a full attic.

The basement contains a motion-picture theater and a hall covered with dolls from all around the world (Rose Kennedy called it her "doll room" and the "Rose doll" was her favorite; a former chauffeur who helped her paint and arrange the area said he found it interesting that the Rose doll looked exactly like Jacqueline Kennedy). A wine cellar designed after a ship's hull and a sipping room is one of the Kennedy family's favorite hideouts. It is here that Ted coined the well-known toast "There are good ships, and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be."

The house has changed little, either structurally or in furnishings, since President Kennedy's association with it.

Also on the grounds are an enclosed swimming pool, tennis court, and four-car garage with private apartment upstairs, and two guest houses.

There are two circular driveways with flagpoles standing in the middle, a boathouse and several large stretches of lawn area where the many family touch-football games were played.

Other parcels of land that assorted members of the family have purchased remain as well-tended as those of the more prominent homes.

keeblerc said...

Yeah, google satellite maps! This link will take you to satellite map of the Kennedy compound and allow you to zoom in and out to see exactly where it is in Hyannisport. The compound is marked by a white line on the streets around it and also on its driveways. Hope this helps!

keeblerc said...

I would think if I were part of the family I would love to keep it private. However, it's not uncommon for even the most storied estates to be sold or donated, particularly when the cost of maintainng the house is going to be a challenge.

The thing that troubled me is that Ted had to seriously consider this step according to those who know the family because of all the infighting about who was going to get it, use it.....and the issue of Ted's kids and some of the cousins with Victoria, Ted's now widow, having access to it because she wasn't a "blood Kennedy."

Unless the family can come together and agree on who uses the house and how the bills will be paid for the main house and former President Kennedy's home, it seems increasingly likely it will become a museum. And if the family finances are dwindling--and I'd love to hear more on that if RFK Jr. and Maurice Templesman have made comments because both would know!--it will be hard to keep it for long.

Actually, the finances of the Kennedys have been problematic for awhile. I've read in several well-researched books on Jacqueline and Ethel Kennedy that Ethel's roof of her home in the compound was in bad shape and leaking until Jackie finally said "this is ridiculous" and paid for a new roof for Ethel. She also had the front steps replaced as they were falling apart and had huge holes and cracks in them.

Wglenn said...

Senator Kennedy's (Rose & Joe's) house is located at 50 Marchant Avenue.

President Kennedy's house is located at 111 Irving Avenue (behind Ethel's).

In 2005, The President's house then owned by Caroline Kennedy was sold for $3M to the Senator in a family private transaction.

Sometime prior to Ted's death the Senator sold The President's house for an undisclosed sum to his son Ted Jr. who was living in the house for the last year of the Senator's illness. The sale occurred likely in September 2008 or just after the Senator's diagnoses. So Ted Jr. now owns JFK's house.

Regarding Joe & Rose's ie Teddy's place: It is likely to cause quite an uproar by the neighbors if attempts are made for 50 Marchant to be turned in anyway to a public venue - museum or otherwise with thousands of tourist passing through the neighborhood to get to the house. Although the driveway is sizeable it would no where near accommodate a public parking area or the volume of vehicles likely to want to access the place not to mention all the landscaping and interior changes to meet handicap requirements, fire codes governing public spaces, ventilation and heating upgrades (the house is still heated by oil-fired personal favorite). Any changes to meet public requirements would surely take away the character of the house as it was and has been during the Kennedy use. Interestingly, sometime in 1963 after Joe Sr. had his stroke, an elevator and associated structure was added to the east side of the house. In photos it looks like a windowless tower and must surely have been useful during the Senator's illness.

My money says there will be petition - if not lawsuits by residents of Marchant and Irving Avenues to Hyannis city hall not to allow the property to come into the public domain. Ethel Kennedy who lives there year-round surely will protest the thought of buses or hordes of pedestrians passing daily by her front door - keeping in mind her house is directly adjacent to and looks over 50 Marchant.

It is said that Teddy's Will has expressed to have the house serve in sum way the public good. But he could have also conditioned his wish by either giving family members - or a member like Ted Jr. certain rights to continue private use or even ownership of the residence with possibly funds for upkeep coming from Teddy's trust setup by Joe Sr..

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