Sale and Renovations of Historic Kennedy “Winter White House” Make History

Thousands of residential real estate closing contracts in Florida are signed every month. Those transactions could represent a significant chapter in the history of an individual family that will soon be moving into a new home. Sometimes, however, closing contracts – especially in Palm Beach – tie into history on a somewhat broader scale.

When it comes to the sale of the former Kennedy estate at 1095 N. Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, that is surely the case.

The oceanfront home, which was built in the 1920s, was purchased by the 1095 North Ocean Trust in June 2020 for an impressive $70 million. “The new owner, registered as a trust whose beneficiaries are at the moment unnamed, will have gotten a right hefty chunk of American history along with the 15,347 square feet of living space that the 11-bedroom, 12-bath former Winter White House and its outbuildings provide,” Forbes pointed out at the time of the sale.

Living with history, however, is not always comfortable. So now, with the blessings of the Palm Beach Landmarks Commission, a $4.5-million renovation to the historic home is underway.

Making History

The house and the sale are both significant for a number of reasons.

History is one of the top majors for those planning to study the law (and that would, of course, include those who go on to have successful careers as real estate lawyers in Florida), so you will understand if we indulge in a little historical reflection about some of those reasons.

The house was built in 1923 for retail magnate Rodman Wanamaker by famed architect Addison Mizner, who popularized the Mediterranean Revival style of architecture.

Any report on 1095 N. Ocean Blvd. will always skip ahead a few decades, however, and lead with the Kennedy connection. But what came to be known as the “Winter White House” during John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s administration originally had another name.

“The house’s name was La Guerida, which apparently translates loosely, and ominously, as ‘The Spoils of War’,” Guy Martin, senior contributor at Forbes, wrote last year when reporting on the sale of the former Kennedy compound in Palm Beach. “Unknown is whether Wanamaker or [Joseph P.] Kennedy gave it the sobriquet, but either way it seems an obvious reference to the aggressive management of business.”

Mizner died in 1933, the same year that Joe Kennedy bought the oceanfront estate in Palm Beach from Wanamaker. Purely coincidence, of course.

“It’s believed the estate is where John F. Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage prior to his election as president,” Ian Harvey of The Vintage News says. “JFK stayed there to recover after having surgery on his back in 1956. After he was elected president, he met there with his advisors to work out the composition of his Cabinet, and even wrote his inaugural speech there. Jacqueline Kennedy also used the estate to recuperate following her son’s birth in 1960, and the Kennedys spent the weekend there just before the trip to Dallas which sadly proved to be JFK’s last.”

History of the Home by the Numbers

  • 1923: Built for Rodman Wanamaker II for approximately $50,000
  • 1933: Purchased during the Depression by Joseph P. Kennedy for $120,000
  • 1995: John Castle bought the estate from the Kennedy family for $4.9 million
  • 2015: Sold to real estate billionaire Jane Goldman for $31 million (She “restored and renovated it rather gloriously in 2017,” according to Forbes.)
  • 2020: After just five years, Goldman sold the home to the 1095 North Ocean Trust for an astonishing $70 million in an off-market deal. (The folks at the Boston Business Journal got out their calculators, determining that, “The price equated to $6,176 per square foot.”)
  • 2022: And now, a $4.5-million renovation has begun on the historic home, just in time for its 100th birthday next year.

“In other words,” Forbes says, “in the mid-90s, the Kennedy clan sold what it clearly felt was an old and rather run-down house. They had used it for three generations. But the value of the acre of land on which it sits, as well as its old-school 1920s capaciousness has in the last 25 years driven the street value of the old place into the current stratosphere.”

A New Chapter

As reported by the Palm Beach Post in October 2020, The Town of Palm Beach’s Landmarks Preservation Commission gave the go-ahead to the new owner’s plans for $4.5 million in interior and exterior renovations to the historic home, which will include:

  • Removing the tennis court
  • Reconfiguration of the property’s entry sequence
  • Adding a bedroom to the pool house
  • Building a new kitchen on the east side of the main house
  • Adding a new opening in the wall along North Ocean Boulevard
  • Moving the main staircase and elevator in order to open up the interior
  • Installing plate glass windows to expand the view of the ocean
  • The addition of two sets of cascading fountains in the courtyard

If Those Walls Could Talk

The Town of Palm Beach is rich in history, but it is also well-positioned for the future. If you would like to learn more about our fascinating history, contact the Historical Society of Palm Beach County.

If your future includes a Florida real estate purchase or sale, you are welcome to contact Florida Bar Board-Certified Attorneys David E. Klein, Esq. and Guy Rabideau at Rabideauklein.com. They have the expertise and experience you need to ensure that your interests are protected throughout your real estate transactions in the Town of Palm Beach, across the Palm Beaches and throughout Florida. Contact Rabideau Klein today to discuss the legal implications of your Florida property transactions.

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