Phelan Beale

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Phelan Beale (May 23, 1881 – June 12, 1956) was a wealthy attorney and sportsman in New York City.

Beale, who was married to Edith Ewing Bouvier, an aunt of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, is probably best remembered as the absent father chronicled in the Grey Gardens saga portrayed in a 1975 movie documentary, 2006 Broadway musical, and 2009 HBO Film, all of which were named for his home in East Hampton, New York.


Beale was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and grew up in Montgomery, Alabama. He graduated from the University of the South in 1902 and from Columbia University Law School in 1905.

He was the grandson of John D. Phelan, an Alabama Speaker of the House and Alabama Supreme Court Justice.[1]

He formed the law practice of Bouvier and Beale with Jacqueline Onassis's grandfather, "Major" John Vernou Bouvier, Jr.

In 1917 he married Bouvier's daughter Edith Ewing Bouvier (later nicknamed "Big Edie"). Among their children were Edith Bouvier Beale ("Little Edie"), Phelan Beale, Jr., of Tulsa, and Bouvier Beale of Glen Cove, Long Island. Ushers at the January 17, 1917, wedding at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City included Jackie's father John Vernou Bouvier III and W. Seargant Bouvier.[2]

In 1924 he acquired the 28-room Grey Gardens mansion fronting the ocean (the oceanfront parcels were sold much later) in the Georgica Pond neighborhood.

He and his wife separated circa 1926 and were legally divorced in 1931, but continued his presence in East Hampton. As part of the divorce, Edith was given the East Hampton house, Grey Gardens.[3]

He owned the Grey Goose Gun Club of Cedar Point, a hunting preserve at what is now Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton. In 1937 he expanded it by buying the abandoned Cedar Island Light on an island next to his property.[4] Washed up sand during the New England Hurricane of 1938 joined the island to the land via an isthmus. The lodge itself is now the park foreman's residence just north of the park's general store.

He remarried in 1947 to Dorothy D. Durham of Poplarville, Mississippi. He died in Pass Christian, Mississippi.