Kennedy Heirlooms Stir Memories
My candle burns at both its ends;
It will not last the night;
But oh, my foes, and oh, my friends --
It gives a lovely light
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
LiveAuctionTalk.com: by Rosemary McKittrick
Photo courtesy of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.
The Kennedy family may be the closest America comes to its own brand of royalty. Their family torch cast a bright if not brief light on America.
Their homesteads often reflected the air of old money and old bloodlines even though the family possessed neither. What the homes did possess was history. The Palm Beach ocean front estate was the place where Pres. John F. Kennedy recovered from back surgery and wrote Pulitzer Prize winning "Profiles in Courage," and the same place where he penned his inaugural address.
It's the house where JFK played host to Lyndon Johnson; Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn; Senate Majority leader Mike Mansfield; and Sec. of State Dean Rusk. It was a gathering place for family, friends, political cohorts; celebrities; athletes; historians and more.
Architect Addison Mizner built what later became the Kennedy Palm Beach Winter White House in 1923 for department store magnet Rodman Wanamaker II. The six bedroom, Mediterranean Revival home was small by Palm Beach standards. Joe Kennedy purchased it in 1933 for $120,000 and addedwings. The Mizner furniture came with the house.
In the Joe Kennedy era Jack and Jackie's bedroom occupied a corner on the first floor. Their French doors opened up to a balcony overlooking the tennis court.
Tucked behind a wall on North Ocean Boulevard the home had a swimming pool and tennis court. It also included Joe's "bullpen" a wooden enclosure with benches where Joe liked to sunbathe wearing only his broad-brimmed hat for shade. It was also the elder Kennedy and wife Rose's permanent residence.
“It was so crowded,” Jackie recalled, that I could be in the bathroom, in the tub, and then find that Pierre Salinger (press secretary) was holding a press conference in my bedroom.”
Jackie told friends Hyannis Port felt more like home.
JFK spent the last weekend of his life swimming, watching football and the movie “Tom Jones” at the Palm Beach estate. It was a laid back weekend with some talk of politics but not much. The President told White House assistant and close friend Dave Powers he was happy Jackie would be joining him for the upcoming trip to Dallas.
The home was called "La Guerida", loosely meaning "the bounty of war." The Kennedy family owned the home for 62 years. They sold it in 1995 along with much of its contents includingdecorative arts and the original Mizner furniture.
The Kennedy items went on the block on Jan. 23 at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers. A particular favorite was a pair of Venetian style walnut twin beds. They were the same beds where JFK and brother Joe slept alongside each another. They sold for $20,000.
Here are some current values.
Kennedy Winter White House
Kennedy Family Portrait; photograph on canvas; by Bob Davidoff, American, 1926-2004, Easter Sunday Palm Beach; signed; 20 inches by 16 inches; 1963; $6,250.
Hall Bench; Italian style painted; arched back depicts an urn filled with fruit and flowers; foliate scrolls and Roman soldier playing harp; 64 inches wide; $9,375.
Massage Table; walnut framed; where JFK received his massages; box spring and top cushion; $10,625.
Floor Screen; Coromandel Eight-Panel; originally owned by Sir Winston Churchill's daughter, Lady Mary Soames; late-19th century; 83 inches high; each panel 15 1/2 inches wide; $16,250.