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Traditional Style House Design: Homes of President John F. Kennedy

Profiles in Stylish Living: Homes in Which JFK Has Lived

 

Perhaps no other president in modern history captivated the populace – and international audiences – than John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. With his charm, youth, Irish wit, and beautiful family – First Lady Jacqueline and children Caroline and John, Jr. – President Kennedy brought a lot of glamor, excitement, and expectations to the country. Born to wealth and privilege, Kennedy attended boarding schools and Ivy League institutions. He spent winters in the family home in Palm Beach and summers in the sprawling Kennedy Compound in Hyannis Port on Cape Cod – possibly the most famous presidential summer residence.

 

While most U.S. Presidents have traditional ancestral homes associated with them or have built/designed memorable architectural gems – think Mount Vernon, Monticello, Montpelier – no signature home is associated with JFK. Throughout his lifetime, President Kennedy lived in 27 residences across the Eastern Seaboard – from Boston to New York; Washington, DC; and Virginia.   

 

As we celebrate John F. Kennedy’s centennial birthday this month, we look at several of his interesting and multi-style homes.

 

 

1.  83 Beals Street

On May 29, 1917, the future president of the U.S. was born in a classic Colonial Revival style home in Brookline, Massachusetts. Purchased by Joseph Kennedy before his marriage to Rose Fitzgerald in 1914, the charming three-story, nine-room house on Beals Street included a nursery, a study, a parlor, and servants’ quarters on the third floor. JFK lived in this house until 1920 – when the growing family moved to a bigger house in the same neighborhood.   

Photo of JFK and the house he lived in as a child on Beals Street

President John F. Kennedy lived in this house on tree-lined Beals Street in Brookline until the age of three. 

 

Parlor/living room in JFK Beals Street houseNursery in JFK Beals Street house

Left: The parlor/living room in the Beals Street house where Rose Kennedy gave her children music lessons is comfortably furnished. Right: The nursery is re-created to reflect its appearance in 1917.    

 

The Beals Street home was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964 – a year after JFK’s assassination. After the Kennedy family repurchased the home in 1966, Rose Kennedy worked with an interior designer and spent three years restoring the home to how she remembered it in 1917.  Most of the furnishings and fixtures in the home belong to the family and were either used in either the Beals Street home or the family’s other residences.

 

In 1967, shortly after Rose Kennedy donated the home to the National Park Service, it was established as a National Historic Site.   

Colonial style House Plan #116-1099

This classic 2-story, 4-bedroom Colonial style home plan with 3,347 sq. ft. of living space is reminiscent of the Kennedy home on Beals Street (House Plan #116-1099).

 

 

2.  51 Abbottsford Road

After the fourth child was born to Joseph and Rose Kennedy in 1920, the family moved to a bigger house at 51 Abbotsford Road. The Victorian style home had the signature wraparound porch where Mrs. Kennedy watched her children play. JFK lived in this house until 1927, when his father’s business success drew them to New York and their first home there: a mansion in Riverdale with great views of the Hudson River.

 

The Abbottsford Road – currently a private residence – continues to spark interest with tourists and photo enthusiasts. 

Kennedy family home on Abbottsford Road

The Kennedy family sold the house on Abbottsford Road when Joe Kennedy’s business success made living in New York a sensible move. 

 

Victorian style House Plan #126-1279

If you want to go with the Victorian style like the Kennedy’s Abbottsford home, here’s a delightful 2-story, 4-bedroom home plan with a porch that wraps around the turret (House Plan #126-1279).

 

 

3.  Crownlands (Bronxville, New York)

Not totally accepted by Riverdale’s “high society,” the Kennedys moved in 1929 to a hillside estate in Bronxville. The Georgian style mansion called Crownlands was built on 5.5 acres at 294 Pondfield Road. While the Kennedys lived here through 1938, they employed a staff that included a gardener, chauffeur, cook, personal secretary, and house maids.

 

On the landscaped grounds were a tennis court, a teahouse, a greenhouse, several gardens, a three-car garage, a living area for chauffeurs, and a gardener’s cottage. Near the entryway was a grand piano, antique pieces, and two fireplaces in the sitting room.

Kennedy family mansion in Bronxville, NY, demolished in 1953

Crownlands, the Kennedy mansion on Pondfield Road in Bronxville, was demolished in 1953 at the urging of a developer who saw potential in the large acreage.  

 

View of Pondfield Road in 2017

Pondfield Road Circa 2017: Here’s a look at the area around the Kennedy’s old mansion as it appears today.

 

Georgian style House Plan #178-1034

This 2-story, 4-bedroom Georgian style home plan, with its manicured lawns, tall pillars, and Juliet balcony, is just as stately as Crownlands (House Plan #178-1034).

 

 

4.  The Winter White House – 1096 North Ocean Boulevard (Palm Beach, Florida)

Acquired by Joseph Kennedy in 1933 from the Wanamaker family of Philadelphia, the Palm Beach vacation home is built on a two-acre site, with a swimming pool, tennis courts, and nearly an acre of direct beachfront. The Mediterranean style beachfront home was originally designed in 1923 for the Wanamakers by Addison Mizner, the architect whose rendering of Mediterranean and Spanish Colonial homes influenced Palm Beach styles.

Palm Beach, FL, winter home of Kennedy family

The grand Mediterranean style home in Palm Beach was the winter home for the large Kennedy family. 

 

From 1933 to 1963, JFK spent part of his winters in the beachfront residence. It was in this house that he worked on the Pulitzer-prize winning Profiles in Courage while recuperating from a back surgery in 1954. The residence served as the Winter White House when President Kennedy was in office. It was also here that he drafted his Inaugural Address and screened candidates for his cabinet.

 

After the death of Rose Kennedy in 1995, the house was sold to New York banker John K. Castle and his wife Marianne. The Castles remodeled and expanded the house and had the furniture refurbished and restored.

 

The Palm Beach House became a historic landmark under a deal made by the Kennedys, the Palm Beach Town Council, and the Castles.

Mediterranean style House Plan #107-1207Overhead view of Mediterranean style House Plan #107-1207

Like the Kennedy home, this 2-story Mediterranean style home plan has 6 bedrooms and great oceanfront views (House Plan #107-1207).     

 

 

5.  Hickory Hill (Mclean, Virginia)

It may always be associated with Senator Robert Kennedy, his wife Ethel, and their 11 children. But the first Kennedy to own Hickory Hill, the elegant 18-room white brick Georgian mansion in McLean, Virginia, was President Kennedy. In 1955, then Senator Kennedy and wife Jackie purchased Hickory Hill from Irene Jackson, widow of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson.  President and Mrs. Kennedy lived at Hickory Hill for two years. After Jackie Kennedy’s miscarriage in 1957, the estate was sold to Robert and Ethel Kennedy.  

Hickory Hill mansion in McLean, VA

Its street address never mattered – just known as Hickory Hill – the magnificent white Georgian mansion in McLean, Virginia dates back to 1870, shortrly after the Civil War.  

 

Historians place the construction of Hickory Hill in 1870, and an extensive remodel in 1931. Built on 5.6 acres, surrounded by large oak and hickory trees, Hickory Hill featured beautiful rolling lawns, 13 bedrooms, and 12 fireplaces. In 1941, it became the home of Justice Robert Jackson before the Kennedys took over. Over the years, there were additions to the original property that included a pool, children’s pool, pool house, movie theater, paddocks, and tennis court. Ethel Kennedy and her children lived in Hickory Hill for a number of years after the death of Robert Kennedy.  

 

In 2004, the Kennedy family put up Hickory Hill for sale – with an asking price of $25 million. It was sold in 2009 – for $8.25 million – to a McLean businessman, who completely renovated the home.

Georgian style House Plan #106-1297

With more than 5,000 sq. ft. of living space, this 2-story, 4-bedroom Georgian style home plan features a beautifully landscaped front yard and lot of amenities, including a study, sauna, wine cellar, recreation room, and home theater (House Plan #106-1297).

 

 

6.  111 Irving Avenue (Barnstable, Massachusetts)

During JFK’s presidency, his modest two-story home inside the Kennedy Compound on Cape Cod was designated as the Summer White House. The Shingle style house at 111 Irving Avenue – bought in 1956, three years after his marriage – is a few doors down from the main house. Jackie Kennedy and her young children spent summers in this house – and President Kennedy would join them on weekends.

 

An actual mortgage document shows that Joe Kennedy paid for the house. He then gave his son and daughter-in-law a no-interest mortgage for the purchase price ($50,000) – saving them an enormous sum of money on interest over the years.

111 Irving Ave. - the "Summer White House" of JFKContract sowing purchase of 111 Irving Ave. JFK "Summer White House."

Left: The Summer White House (1961-1963): The 2-story house inside the Kennedy compound where the First Family spent summers, is now owned by Ted Kennedy, Jr.   

Right: The contract showing the no-interest purchase of the house.

 

Shingle style House Plan #161-1038

Enjoy summer months in this attractive and spacious 2-story Shingle style home plan with an inviting front porch, 4 bedrooms, 3 baths, family room with a deck, finished basement, and patio (House Plan #161-1038).

 

 

7.  3307 N Street Northwest, Georgetown (Washington, DC)

A 10-room townhouse in the Georgetown section of Washington, DC, was home to the Kennedys from 1958 to 1961 – the exciting period when their daughter Caroline was a little girl, when John Jr. was born, and when JFK ran for president. Just beyond the front steps of this home, the Kennedys played with Caroline. JFK also held many press conferences from its front steps.

 

This was the Kennedy residence prior to their White House Years. From this house, the President-elect traveled to the Capitol for his inauguration in January 1961.

JFK house on N Street in Georgetown, D.C.JFK family in front of N Street house in Georgetown, D.C.

Left: President and Mrs. Kennedy lived in this 4-bedroom townhouse on N Street in Georgetown with Caroline and John Jr. before moving to the White House. Right: The young family is shown in an informal and playful moment in front of the N Street House. 

 

Narrow lot House Plan #108-1078

Perfect, like the Kennedys' N Street townhouse, for a narrow lot, this 2-story, 4-bedroom home plan includes a garage, screened patio, Great Room, and study (House Plan #108-1078).

 

 

8.  Wexford (Middleburg, VA)

While President Kennedy spent only a few weekends in this Virginia estate, it is significant because it is the only home ever built for the family – and designed by the First Lady. After JFK’s assassination in November 1963, Jackie retreated to Wexford with her children. But within a year, she sold the estate.

 

The Ranch style house – which cost more than $100,000 to build – sits on more than 160 acres of land on Rattlesnake Mountain in Middleburg, Virginia. Named Wexford by Mrs. Kennedy – after the county in Ireland where the Kennedys trace their roots – the home has five bedrooms, two staff bedrooms, French doors, a long terrace off the living and dining rooms, walking paths, and patios.

 

The house features sitting, recreation, and family rooms; a library; and a communications room. Outdoor amenities include a tennis court, a guest cottage, stables, and plenty of land for riding paths.

Wexford JFK estate in Middleburg, VA

Wexford, the Kennedy estate in Middleburg, Virginia, featured this classic Ranch style home nestled in a bucolic surrounding. 

 

Terrace of Wexford JFK estate in Middleburg, VALiving room of Wexford JFK estate in Middleburg, VA

Left: The terrace at Wexford extends from the living room to the dining area. Right: The living room– with its glass windows and the pastel shades –  is bright and airy.  

 

Note written by Jackie Kennedy about the Wexford estate

A note written by Mrs. Kennedy about the design, planning, and furnishing of Wexford was one of many items at an auction in Boston in 2015.

 

For the 1,000 days that John F. Kennedy served as President of the United States, he sparked hope and excitement. His legacy lives on with the many projects of the Kennedy Foundation, the historic sites dedicated to his memory, and of course, his many fascinating residences.

 

 

Resources:

Miami Herald 

Virginia Living 

 

 

 

 

Traditional house plans

John F Kennedy Residences

Homes of JFK

JFK and Jackie Kennedys Homes

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