By Steve Brawley
It would be hard pressed to find a house in metro Washington, DC that has seen the likes of so many famous folks - John and Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Gore Vidal - to name a few have all lived at or visited Merrywood Estate.
The seven acre waterfront estate
in McLean, Virginia belonged to Jackie's mother and stepfather, Janet Bouvier Auchincloss
and Hugh D. Auchincloss. Built in the 1920's, the nine-bedroom estate has since
been extensively renovated and refurbished. It features a 5,000 square-foot pool house and a tennis court.
In 1942, after her parents had divorced and her mother married Hugh D.
Auchincloss, Jr., a wealthy lawyer, Jacqueline divided her time between the
family's Merrywood estate in Virginia and Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode
Island. She lived at Merrywood while she completed her studies at George Washington University in Washington DC.
It is rumored that JFK may have done some of his writing for his book Profiles in Courage in the house while dating Jackie.
The financial strain of owning both Merrywood, Hammersmith Farm in Rhode Island and a house in DC's Georgetown led Auchincloss to sell Merrywood in 1963. But the sale was very controversial. Hugh sold the property to a developer who wanted to build high rise buildings on the property - much to the displeasure of neighbors (including Robert F. Kennedy at nearby Hickory Hill) and environmentalists (such as Jackie herself).
In the end the developers had to give up the fight to build their high rise development after the U.S. Dept. of Interior got involved and slapped a "scenic easement" on the property.
Hugh sold Merrywood in 1963 to the Magazine Brothers. The Magazine Brothers ended up selling the estate to Wyatt and Nan Dickerson after their development plans fell through. Jackie was pleased her childhood home (one of them) was saved. Dickerson ended up developing part of the property in a way the minimized impact on the landscape and kept the original home intact.
Wyatt and Nan's son John grew up at Merrywood. In his book "On Her Trail" he describes that "before Barbara Walters, before Katie Couric, there was Nancy Dickerson.
The first female member of the Washington TV news corps, Nancy was the
only woman covering many of the most iconic events of the sixties. She
was the first reporter to speak to President Kennedy after his
inauguration and she was on the Mall with Martin Luther King Jr. during
the march on Washington; she had dinner with LBJ the night after Kennedy
was assassinated and got late-night calls from President Nixon.
Ambitious, beautiful and smart, she dated senators and congressmen and
got advice and accolades from Edward R. Murrow. She was one of President
Johnson's favorite reporters, and he often greeted her on-camera with a
familiar "Hello, Nancy." In the '60s Nancy and her husband Wyatt
Dickerson were Washington's golden couple, and the capital's power
brokers coveted invitations to swank dinners at their Merrywood estate on the
Wyatt and Nan would divorce in 1981, and sell the property in 1984 to Alan and Dianne Kay.
NY Times Dickerson Story
When the Washington real estate market was at a golden peak in the 1980s, the high-rolling Alan Kay and his wife Dianne paid $4.25 million for Merrywood.
The Kays used the residence as a draw for their charitable causes. In 1990, Michael Jackson appeared at the home during a fundraising drive for the Capital Children's Museum, though the entertainer was visibly unimpressed with the real estate crowd and took greater delight in playing with the Kay's 5-year-old granddaughter Lauren.
Washington Life last reported on the home in December of 1999 when Washington
Fine Properties for the Kays, who sold it for slightly more than $15,000,000 to William Conway, a
founder and managing director of the Carlyle Group.
In 2005, Steve Case of AOL reportedly paid Conway
$24.5 million for Merrywood.
The home is described as a mock-Georgian brick house
set among 1/2 dozen acres of woods on the high Potomac palisades. From terraced
lawns, there is a steep rocky drop to the river.
1919: Newbold Noyes
1934: Hugh Auchincloss - Jackie's stepfather
1963: Magazine Brothers (Developers)
1964: Wyatt and Nan Dickerson
1984: Alan and Dianne Kay
1999: William Conway
2005: Steve Case