Remember the book, movie and play on Broadway called Grey Gardens? Today I spent a while looking through our files about the connection between our first Regent, Mrs. Jesse Drew Beale and the two women of Grey Gardens “fame”.
Our First White House archives tell how Mrs. Beale’s son Phelan, a prominent New York attorney and sportsman, married Edith Ewing Bouvier, an aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.The Beales acquired a house in East Hampton, NY, and among their children were a son, Phelan Jr., a son Bouvier Beale, and a daughter, Edith Bouvier Beale, “little Edie”. The Beales were divorced in 1931 and for over 50 years the mother and daughter lived in the house, called Grey Gardens because of the color of the dunes, the cement garden walls and the sea mist!
By 1971-72 their eccentric lifestyle had led to unsanitary conditions in the house, which became infected with cats and racoons, fleas, no running water and garbage everywhere. Facing eviction, the mother and daughter were “rescued” by Jackie and her sister Lee, who together provided the money to keep the ladies from becoming homeless and the house from being torn down.
Big Edie died in 1977 and Little Edie sold it in 1979 with the understanding that it not be razed. It has now been restored by the new owners. Little Edie died in 2002. A far cry from Montgomery, Alabama, and the First White House, but what an interesting connection!