The Corcoran Group listing photo for Grey Gardens.
The Corcoran Group listing photo for Grey Gardens.

No estate in the Hamptons conjures up as many iconic ideals about the fleeting nature of fame and sanity as Grey Gardens, the East Hampton home that had once belonged to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis’s eccentric relatives.

Grey Gardens, at 3 West End Road in East Hampton, just steps from Lilly Pond and Georgica Beach, was just placed on the market for $19.95 million with Corcoran Group agents Michael Schultz and Susan Ryan.

The house, made famous in the 1975 Albert and David Maysles documentary “Grey Gardens,” was the home to a mother and daughter, both named Edith Beale, who lived in squalor in their crumbling family home in a memory of the Hamptons of another time. The pair were the aunt and first cousin to the former first lady.

"Little Edie" Beale. Photo: Courtesy Janus Films
“Little Edie” Beale at Grey Gardens in a still from the Maysles brothers’ film. | Photo Courtesy Janus Films

The two recluses, known affectionately as Big Edie and Little Edie, told their story directly to the camera in the iconic film, which was later the basis for a Broadway musical.

After Big Edie’s death in 1977, Little Edie sold the house to Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn and her husband, Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, for $220,000 in 1979.

Mr. Bradlee passed away in 2014, and Ms. Quinn told the Wall Street Journal in a Feb. 8 story about the sale of the property that the house “just wasn’t the same without him.”

According to Corcoran Group, the house was originally designed by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe in 1897 and is “one of the few remaining original shingle homes South of the Highway.”

“It was totally renovated and restored to its originally condition with the addition of today’s amenities when the current owners rescued it some 40 years ago,” according to the listing.

Ms. Quinn described her first visit to the house, where she was given a tour by Little Edie, in a 1984 piece for Architectural Digest magazine.

“Inside, the cat smell was overpowering. The floor was part dirt. The ceiling was caving in. Raccoons peered at me through the rafters,” she wrote. “Some twenty cats scurried as we entered each room. Still I thought it was the prettiest house I had ever seen.”

She said Mr. Bradlee had told her “you’re out of your mind” when she broached the subject of purchasing the house. 

The couple had agreed as a condition of the sale to not demolish the house, and worked to restore the seven bedroom house and gardens to their former splendor.

According to the listing, “with gracious common rooms coupled with enough bedrooms to comfortably house all your special guests, this ode to another era additionally offers heated gunite pool, Har-Tru N/S tennis court and of course the legendary gardens, which are likely to be some of the most beautiful you will ever see. Stroll to Georgica Beach a few hundred yards away or sip something iced in the little stucco cottage hidden within the lush landscape.”

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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