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Hickory Hill





By Steve Brawley


In summer 1955, Irene Jackson (widow of Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson) sold Hickory Hill to Senator John F. Kennedy (D.-MA) and his wife Jacqueline. They had, since their September 1953 marriage, lived in Georgetown, but Hickory Hill—located not far from a Jackie childhood home—offered style and space for the family they hoped to start soon. They paid Irene Jackson $125,000 for the property.

By early 1956, the Hickory Hill Kennedys were expecting a baby. Jacqueline Kennedy, during the pregnancy, spent a significant amount of time planning and then, after construction, decorating a nursery in the big house.

At the Democratic national convention in Chicago that August, Senator Kennedy sought and nearly obtained the Party’s vice presidential nomination. Soon thereafter, Mrs. Kennedy suffered a miscarriage (her second). In the aftermath, she could not bear the sight of Hickory Hill. She and the Senator soon sold the property.

The late 1956 buyers of Hickory Hill were another Kennedy brother and his wife. At that time, Senate committee lawyer Robert F. Kennedy and his wife Ethel had five children and barely fit in their Georgetown home.

Hickory Hill, for which they paid the same $125,000 price that JFK and Jackie had paid less than two years earlier to Irene Jackson fit their immediate needs. As their family grew (ultimately to eleven children), they built a significant addition to the house and made other changes.

Robert Kennedy lived at Hickory Hill for the remainder of his life, and was the famous site of swims, seminars, pet shows, high governance, family love and relaxation and, again, greatness in American public life. It was at Hickory Hill that RFK learned of his brother's death.

Ethel remained in the house after her husband's death and had trouble selling the house for her original asking price.

After seven years on the market, she finally found a buyer in 2010. Originally listed for $25 million, the 5.6-acre property -- a 7,332-square-foot Georgian manor built in 1869, with 13 bedrooms and 11 baths, tennis court and pool -- proved a tough sell, especially given its designation as a National Historic Landmark (developers couldn't subdivide the land and throw up McMansions).

The price was dropped to $20 million, then $16.5 and finally to $12.5 two years ago. The buyer, who was not disclosed, now joins the list of distinguished owners including Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, John F. Kennedy and RFK, who bought it from his brother for $125,000 in 1957. The house has underwent a total gut rehab.

Ethel now lives full time at her Hyannisport, MA house.


Hickory Hill: Home of Jack and Jackie Kennedy (1955-56) and

Robert and Ethel Kennedy (1957-2010)




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Steve Brawley (314) 740-0298