By Steve Brawley
Photo from Postcard (Collection of Steve Brawley)
Middleburg, Virginia, is an old and historic town a few hours drive west of
Washington, in upper crust Virginia horse country, where you need two hundred
acres to build a house, and the location of Glen Ora, a large horse farm, leased
by the President elect Kennedy as a weekend retreat. The lease began Feb. 1., 1961 and Jackie began visiting right away.
Looking at the official
Presidential schedule, Glen Ora was a frequent destination for President
Kennedy, both by helicopter, approximately 25 minutes from the White House lawn,
or by car, a two hour drive.
Middleburg and Glen Ora were JFK’s
concession to his wife Jackie, a horse women who fit nicely into the stiff,
reserved, blue blood upper crust Middleburg hunt club society.
The Glen Ora Farm was rented to President and Mrs. Kennedy from 1960-63.
Gladys Rosenthal Byfield Tartiere was persuaded to rent the estate
Kennedys by William Walton. Glen Ora is now owned by Mrs. Eliane Broadhead
(Mrs. Tartiere's daughter). Glen Ora was once a 400 acre farm and is now
Jackie called Glen Ora home and referred to the White House as Washington. Jackie spent more than $10,000 to redecorate Glen Ora using Sister Parish, who also decorated the family quarters in the White House in early 1961. The President wasn't too happy with the bills, but the retreat gave Jackie a place to escape, and also gave him some freedom too. She called Glen Ora "her salvation."
When the President did visit he often brought along his lifelong friend Lem Billings and other guests. The Kennedy's would attend Church at Middleburg's Community Center in town.
Kennedys spent many weekends in the fall and winter at Glen Ora, even during the
Cuban Missile Crisis when Kennedy tried to maintain his normal agenda, and he
continued to the run nation’s business from Glen Ora. Sophisticated communications equipment was installed to enable the President to handle sensitive issues and secret service transmissions from Glen Ora.
Glen Ora was owned by Mrs. Gladys
Raymond Tartiere, who it is said, was persuaded to lease her estate to Kennedy
by William Walton, a mutual friend, and former Time-Life war correspondent. Clark Clifford would help negotiate the deal.
Jackie often got caught up in little lies, cancelling White House appearances due to a "cold," but would then be spotted at Glen Ora on horseback. She would spend more time at Glen Ora during the Presidency than anywhere else.
Jackie hosted the official family party for JFK's 45th birthday at Glen Ora in May of 1962. She stayed behind at Glen Ora for the big bash held in New York City a previous weekend featuring Marilyn Monroe and other entertainers.
She hosted the President of Pakistan Ayub Kahn at Glen Ora on September 26, 1962. He came to meet the horse he had presented her as a gift earlier in the year. Jackie and he road horses that day.
The Kennedys seemed to like Glen Ora and Middleburg, and wanted to own a
home there, rather than lease one, but as Clark Clifford mentions in his
memoirs, Mrs. Tartiere “did not wish to sell.”
So they purchased
some land nearby and lived at Glen Ora during the construction of their own
home, which they called Wexford, named after the town of Kennedy’s Irish roots.
While at Glen Ora, they tried to enjoy life outside of the Washington limelight
As Sally B. Smith wrote “…For Jack’s forty-fourth birthday on May 29, Jackie
conspired with Paul Fout to create a three-hold golf course at Glen Ora –
‘rather long & difficult ones – so it will be a challenge to play and not
just so easy that one gets tired of it.’
To further amuse Jack, she asked that
the holes have Confederate flags that would ‘not be visible from the road.’ The
Bradlees visited Glen Ora on May 20 for a birthday celebration, and Ben and JFK
inaugurated the course, which had grown to four holes ‘9,000 square yards of
pasture, filled with small hills, big rocks, and even a swamp,’ Bradlee
recalled. JFK ‘shot the course record, a thirty-seven for four holes.’”
Glen Ora had an interesting history, especially the background of its
owners. As Tom Scully notes, “Gladys Rosenthal Byfield Tartiere. Aka Mrs.
Raymond Tartiere, had been the JFK family's ‘landlady’ since late 1960, when she
leased her 400 acres, Middleburg, VA estate, ‘Glen Ora’, to JFK and Jackie.” Her
son Byfield, Jr. “was a US Army Captain in WWII, a member of OSS S1, according
to the memoirs of David KE Bruce. In 1943, Byfield was the best man in the
wedding of William H.G. Fitzgerald, Lt. Cmdr, USN, and later a philanthropist
and US Ambassador to Ireland.”
Jackie got into some trouble for her redecoration of Glen Ora - having to return the house to its original decor after their lease was up. Jackie did the same thing when they rented their first house on Dent Place In Georgetown.
Jackie would return to Middleburg in later years, often staying at the Red Fox Inn - where her husband once held press conferences when they were in the White House.
BELOW: FDR Jr and Lee Radziwill in the Glen Ora Living Room 1962.