Grey Gardens (estate)

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Grey Gardens
Grey Gardens (2009).jpg
Grey Gardens in January of 2009
General information
Architectural styleShingle style
LocationEast Hampton, New York
OwnerUndisclosed as of November 2017
Governing bodyPrivate
Design and construction
ArchitectJoseph Greenleaf Thorpe

Grey Gardens is a 14-room[1] house at 3 West End Road and Lily Pond Lane in the Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton, New York. It is best known for having been the residence of the Beale family from 1924 to 1979, and specifically of mother and daughter Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale and Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale from 1952 to 1977. A 1975 documentary about the two, Grey Gardens, which showed them living in squalor in the mansion, is considered one of the best documentaries of all time, and spawned a 2006 Broadway musical and a 2009 television movie, among other adaptations.

The house itself dates from 1897, and was designed by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe. Other notable owners include Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, who lived together in the house from 1979 to 2014, and who significantly improved its state after moving in.

Design and early ownership[edit]

In 1895, 4 acres (16,000 m2) of oceanfront land was bought by F. Stanhope Phillips and Margaret Bagg Phillips, daughter of John S. Bagg, who had acquired the Detroit Free Press in 1836. The Phillips paid $2,500 (equivalent to $75,000 in 2018) from the estate of a Mr. Candy. The couple announced their plans to build a $100,000 (equivalent to $3,012,000 in 2018) house on the property. However, the purchase hit a snag when it was revealed that the property had been bequeathed to the U.S. government.[2]

In 1897, Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe (1862–1934) designed the house.[3] Thorpe had designed several other houses in East Hampton. But the house did not get immediately built.

Phillips died in 1901, leaving behind an estate valued at $250,000 (equivalent to $7,529,000 in 2018). His brother challenged Margaret for control of the estate, saying she had used undue influence on him and that she had cremated him so that an autopsy could not be performed to confirm this. The court sided with Margaret.[4]

After the ownership issues were settled, the house was built.

In 1913, Robert C. Hill, president of Consolidation Coal Company, bought the house. Hill's wife Anna Gilman Hill (1875–1955) imported ornate concrete walls from Spain to enclose the garden and hired landscape designer Ruth Bramley to create what would become the core of Grey Gardens. Ruth was married at the time to architect Aymar Embury II and their offices were in the same building.[1]

Beale ownership[edit]

Grey Gardens, Joseph Greenleaf Thorp, architect, 1897. Landscape by Anna Gilman (Mrs. Robert C.) Hill. Robert C. Hill acquired the house and four acres and half in 1913; Edith Bouvier Beale owned the house from the 1920s

In 1924, Phelan Beale acquired the estate for his wife Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale.[5] Phelan was a law partner of John Vernou Bouvier, Jr. and had married Bouvier's daughter, Edith. Bouvier owned an estate in East Hampton, located three miles north on Further Lane at Lasata where his granddaughter Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was a frequent visitor.

After an extended marital separation, Phelan Beale notified Edith of their divorce around 1946 by telegram from Mexico. Phelan provided Edith with an allowance of $300 (equivalent to $4,000 in 2018) per month to maintain the property, herself and her daughter Edith Bouvier Beale, who was commonly known as "Little" Edie. Phelan's financial support eventually ceased and the two Ediths lost contact with him. The house and garden fell into disrepair and were overtaken by nature due to the lack of funds. The two women continued to inhabit the house, where they kept a large number of feral cats and wild animals.

In 1972, the Suffolk County, New York Health Commission issued a notice of eviction, stating the Beales would be unable to live in the house until it was cleaned and basic utilities restored. The news of the order and of the squalor in which the two women lived received international attention because "Big" and "Little" Edie were the aunt and first cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, widow of former US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, and current wife of Aristotle Onassis.

Jacqueline and her sister, Lee Radziwill, donated money to make the house habitable and return it to a standard which would allow for the rescission of the eviction order.

In 1973, Lee Radziwill asked film-making brothers Albert and David Maysles to create a film, including interviews with the Edies, which would document the Bouvier family's visits to East Hampton during Lee's and Jacqueline's youth. The project was ultimately canceled and the Maysles turned their attention to the Beales, resulting in the 1975 documentary Grey Gardens. After the release of the film, Edith and Little Edie continued to reside in the house. Edith passed away in 1977 and Little Edie remained until she sold the property.

Post-Beale ownership[edit]

In 1979, Little Edie sold Grey Gardens to Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn for $220,000 (equivalent to $759,000 in 2018) with the stipulation that they were not to tear down the house.[5] Little Edie reportedly told the couple, "all it needs is a coat of paint!"[6] Quinn later recalled that the dilapidated house "was worse than the movie," and was filled with waste from 52 feral cats.[6]

Bradlee and Quinn restored the home, which would be featured in several architectural and home décor magazines.[6] In February 2017, a widowed Quinn put the house up for sale with an asking price of $19,995,000.[7] The Beale-owned furniture, along with household items owned by Quinn, were auctioned off in an estate sale held from November 17–19, 2017.[8] On December 20, 2017, the house sold for $15.5 million to a private buyer.[9]


  1. ^ a b "The House". Grey Gardens Online. 2009. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  2. ^ "City and Vicinity" (PDF). The New York Times. The United Press. December 15, 1895. Long Island section, paragraph 2. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  3. ^ Steven Petrow (2004). The Lost Hamptons. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 86–. ISBN 978-0-7385-1187-0. No better example is Grey Gardens, the residence of Mrs. Stanhope Phillips, designed by Joseph Greenleaf Thorp. Built in 1897 on West End Road overlooking the Atlantic, the house was for years famous for its enclosed back gardens, ...
  4. ^ "Stanhope Phillip's Will Admitted" (PDF). The New York Times. April 3, 1901. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Mallon, Bridget (September 11, 2015). "The Grey Gardens Estate Could Be Yours For $175,000 A Month: The infamous mansion has been fully restored to its pre-Edie glory". Veranda. Retrieved September 12, 2015.
  6. ^ a b c Peterson, Oliver (September 3, 2007). "Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee on Grey Gardens". The Southampton Press. Archived from the original on October 20, 2012. Retrieved July 11, 2015.
  7. ^ Rogers, Katie (March 2, 2017). "Want to Live in Grey Gardens? It Can Be Yours for $20 Million". The New York Times. p. D1. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
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Coordinates: 40°56′15″N 72°12′58″W / 40.9376°N 72.216144°W / 40.9376; -72.216144