In mid 2014, a compound went on sale in Palm Beach, Florida, that hadn’t been on the market in nearly a decade. At first glance, it might have looked like any of the lavish estates that spread across the beachfront there. But this was a very special residence.
No, it turns out that this spread is the former home of U.S. president John F. Kennedy and his family. It provided a place to relax far away from the pressures of Washington, D.C. And a look inside reveals the comfort and opulence that JFK enjoyed.
Born into a wealthy Boston family renowned for its public service, JFK may not have seemed destined for a life in politics. His big brother Joe had been his family’s political bright light, in fact. But Joe’s life was sadly cut short in the Second World War.
JFK himself served in the war, as a naval commander. After a spell as a newspaper journalist, he entered the political fray. He was elected to Congress in 1946, sweeping to victory in his native Massachusetts.
A spell in the Senate followed, with JFK winning a spot there in the 1952 elections. The next year, he married his partner Jacqueline Bouvier, who had been working as a photographer.
The Kennedys soon began a family, and although Jackie was to lose two children early in infancy, she did have two who survived. Daughter Caroline and son John Jr., called “John-John” by close ones, often featured in photographs of the First Family.
JFK’s political career reached its apex when he was inaugurated as president in 1961. The youngest individual to hold the post, he was just 43 years old at the time. And although he won the popular vote only very narrowly, he and Jackie became a beloved First Couple.
However, that popularity unfortunately had its limits, and in November 1963 JFK was shot dead on the streets of Dallas. To this day, controversy rages over who was truly responsible for his killing, with suspicions of a cover-up refusing to die down.
In his life, JFK called several places home. Among them were the family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, and Hammersmith Farm in Rhode Island. The latter was where Jackie had grown up and would come to be known as the “Summer White House.”
Conversely, the Kennedys’ home in Palm Beach was later referred to as the “Winter White House.” JFK’s father, Joseph, had bought the property from a Philadelphia family in 1933. And it formed a fitting retreat for the Kennedy family when they wanted to enjoy some Florida sun.
A sprawling compound that covers more than 15,000 square feet, the property offers seven bedrooms and 11 full bathrooms. Sitting on Palm Beach’s North Ocean Boulevard, it looks out on the Atlantic, with upwards of 200 feet of ocean frontage.
The main mansion was built in 1925 with a Mediterranean look. Even though it’s a big place, the grounds offer plenty of lawns for the touch football that JFK and his family loved to play. And if they worked up a sweat playing football, they could dunk themselves in the enormous pool afterwards.
Investor John K. Castle bought the place in 1995, before restoring the property to its former glory. And according to Castle, the compound really did need some TLC to get it back into shape.
“Basically, what I saw was a house that needed a huge amount of work,” Castle explained in an interview published on his own website. “But it was on a fantastic piece of property with enormous history.” He added, “I can even imagine JFK [here] thinking deeply about the country and the world.”
Castle’s task, as he saw it, was to retain the look and feel of the Kennedy years. To do this, he was helped by having bought the home’s furnishings when he purchased the mansion.
And photographs show that his restoration was a stunning success. The interiors reveal a home truly fit for a president, in fact. The lovely period detail includes curious octagonal insets in the ceiling plaster in one of the sitting rooms.
Eventually, Castle put the compound up for sale. In 2005 it sold for $31 million to Jane Goldman, whose father was a real estate mogul. She in turn had every intention of retaining the property’s value as a symbol of American history.
A source told People magazine, “The new owner plans a massive, multimillion-dollar renovation to preserve and enhance this historic property.” Goldman apparently hoped to create a “Mediterranean masterpiece.”
The tradition of the “Winter White House” continued with Richard Nixon. He spent time at a compound dubbed the “Florida White House” in Key Biscayne. And other presidents have also called Florida home for some of the year.
Perhaps most notable of them is the current president, Donald Trump. Like JFK, Trump resides in Palm Beach for some of the year. That’s because President Trump famously spends many weekends at the second-biggest residential property in Florida, Mar-A-Lago.