The Winter White House Of JFK: The Kennedy’s Getaway in Palm Beach

A home away from home is just the thing the president of the United States needs. Donald Trump has his home away from home at Mar-A-Lago in Florida. President John F. Kennedy also had a getaway home on a sprawling Palm Beach estate that housed the famous family for three generations. While the beautiful mansion was the setting for warm family moments, it wasn’t free from secrets and scandal. Take a look inside the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach, Florida.

The Kennedy’s Home Away From Home

The Kennedy’s Home Away From Home

The Palm Beach, Florida mansion located at 1095 N. Ocean Blvd was a gathering place for the Kennedy’s for three generations. The home was first purchased by JFK’s father Joe Kennedy back in 1933 and remained in the family until 1995.

During his time as president, the home was known as the “winter White House” where Kennedy and his family would escape the cold winters of Washington D.C. and enjoy their time together on the water.

Family Time

Family Time

The waterfront mansion included a huge pool and lawn where everyone would get together and enjoy the Florida weather. The family was very active, spending lots of time in the pool, playing tennis, golfing, or swimming in the surf. Photos of the iconic family at the mansion show the bond they had with each other and the good-hearted nature of the family that captured America’s heart.

Palm Beach was family time, and it’s clear from the photos that everyone was happy to be there. Palm Beach resident Jesse Newman told the Chicago Tribune, “Palm Beach was home and they loved it here. Yes, it was a Republican town, but people found it exciting to have him here too. The only president with a home in Palm Beach.”

Holidays in Palm Beach

Holidays in Palm Beach

Here President Kennedy is pictured with his daughter Caroline Kennedy during Easter, enjoying the holiday with his family. The Kennedys spent most holidays at the Palm Beach home, where the entire family had space to gather and celebrate. They attended church, went shopping, and took the kids out for burgers around Palm Beach, like the typical American family. One of their favorite spots was Hamburger Heaven on South County Road. Although secret service was never far away, residents would often see the famous family around town, or driving in a convertible.

Crusin Town

Crusin Town

Photo: Kathy Fay

The Kennedy family often frequented the luncheon at Green’s Pharmacy, local movie theaters and went shopping on Worth Avenue. They also loved boating on the Intracoastal Waterway and attending local charity events. JFK drove the clan around in a white Lincoln convertible, with the top down, of course. Always dressed for the occasion, the Kennedy family depicted Florida living with polo shirts and boat shoes. While in Palm Beach, the family also played tennis, golf, and spent plenty of time in the water.

A Modern Day View Of The Living Room

A Modern Day View Of The Living Room

Although the Mediterranean-style residence is considered iconic to American history, it’s never been officially recognized as a historical landmark. In fact, the Kennedy’s fought to prevent it from becoming a landmark, as they thought it would make it harder to sell, later on. However, the most recent owner, Jane Goldman, insists that she will preserve the home as much as she can, to keep intact the style and nostalgia of when the Kennedy’s occupied the space.

When Castle purchased the mansion, he also kept the furnishings and passed those on to Goldman. The grand living space covers 15,347 square feet and includes 11 bedrooms and more than 12 bathrooms.

A Little Chit Chat with the Prez

A Little Chit Chat with the Prez

With so much living space and grounds, the Palm Beach mansion was a perfect place to relax with company. This is the type of home that your guests will love to tour. In this image, President John F. Kennedy tends to more important matters while staying at the Palm Beach house. He is having a powwow with then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk on April 1, 1961. Rusk was speaking to JFK about his trip in Southeast Asia.

Other guests who stayed at the mansion include movie star Peter Lawford, but it was predominantly a place for the Kennedy family to spend quality time together, without the stress and scrutiny of Washington D.C.

Keeping The Family Safe

Keeping The Family Safe

When the family was away from Washington, it didn’t mean the Kennedy’s were out of harm’s way. Police and secret service were constantly on the lookout for threats in Palm Beach and kept a close watch on the family. Here, in 1961, JFK’s nephew and niece, young David Kennedy and Maria Shriver, are being watched by three members of the secret service and two police officers as they play outside the Palm Beach home, both five years old at the time.

JFK’s assassination, however, made a major impact on the security and protection of the president, moving forward. Chief Archivist and Curator of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County said, “His death increased and changed how Secret Service operated. He was still able to go to St. Edward [Catholic Church] and greet people on the steps. I don’t see Trump being able to do that.”

A Close Call in 1960

A Close Call in 1960

The day of JFK’s assassination wasn’t the first threat made to his life. In 1960, while the family was spending time in Palm Beach, a man attempted to kill Kennedy at the mansion. 73-year-old postal worker Richard Paul Pavlick parked his Buick outside the Kennedy compound on December 11, 1960. Inside of the car, he packed seven sticks of dynamite. Strongly against Catholics, the man planned to wait for JFK to leave for Mass, and crash his car into the President’s, setting off the explosives.

He watched JFK begin to leave the house, but when his wife Jackie and the kids came to the door to wave goodbye, he said, “I did not wish to harm her or the children” and pulled back from his plan. Four days later he was captured in Palm Beach by the secret service.

A Piece of History

A Piece of History

Although the home was not deemed a national landmark, many important moments in U.S. history occurred at the Kennedy compound in Palm Beach. It was in the home at Kennedy wrote his inaugural speech, and chose the members of his cabinet. On stationery that read, “North Ocean Boulevard, Palm Beach, Florida” JFK handwrote his speech announcing his candidacy for president from the Palm Beach home in 1959.

The three-page manuscript was auctioned for $200,000 in 2015. Executive Vice- President of the RR Auction, Bobby Livingston told Palm Beach Post, “We sell hundreds of thousands of written things, but this is one of those rare manuscripts that just blows your mind.”

Joe Kennedy’s Affairs

Joe Kennedy’s Affairs

The Kennedy men had a reputation for having a wandering eye and many mistresses. Joseph Kennedy Sr. had a nine-year long affair with his much younger assistant, Janet Fontaine. His wife Rose knew of his affairs and it was rumored that she wanted a divorce when she was eight months pregnant with their child. However, it wasn’t acceptable for a Catholic woman to get a divorce at the time, and so she stayed, following her father’s stern advice.

Joe Kennedy even had his mistress over to the Palm Beach mansion. Fontaine later told People Magazine, “I spent a great deal of time at their homes in Hyannis Port and Palm Beach. Rose accepted me with open arms, was very fond of me and treated me beautifully. I have no hard feelings toward her.” Rose, however, may have felt differently behind closed doors.

A Meeting of the Minds

A Meeting of the Minds

This image appears to show a very serious matter at the Winter White House. The United States was fresh off of the Korean War a few years and the Cuban Missile Crisis was just around the corner from this meeting of the minds.

President Kennedy is seen here at his winter retreat with future President Lyndon B. Johnson and several members of the military known as the Joint Chiefs of Staff. They were here briefing the president on pressing matters as it relates to the nation on January 3, 1962.

A Sad Easter in Palm Beach

A Sad Easter in Palm Beach

David Kennedy was only 12 years old when his father, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. The boy had a strong bond with his father and was devastated by his death. He turned to recreational drug use to cope, which only grew worse over time.

In 1984, 28-year-old David Kennedy flew to Palm Beach to join the family for traditional Easter at the mansion but decided to stay at the nearby Brazilian Court Hotel instead. He spent a few days partying in Palm Beach, and family members grew worried when they hadn’t heard from him. On April 25, 1984, he was found dead in his hotel room, due to an overdose of cocaine, Demerol, and Mellaril.

The Scandal By The Pool

The Scandal By The Pool

Three generations of Kennedys occupied the Palm Beach home, where the kids learned to swim and made childhood memories that would last a lifetime. However, another incident occurred at the family’s pool that they would rather forget, and ultimately played a role in selling the estate. In 1991, William Kennedy Smith was accused of raping a woman by the pool after the two had met at a local bar, went drinking and walked on the beach. The story made major headlines and drew negative attention to the famous family and the home. Smith was acquitted of charges after it was decided that their relations had been consensual.

See what was hiding just minutes away from the mansion next…

Peanut Island Bunker

Peanut Island Bunker

Just a quick boat ride away from the Palm Beach mansion was the Peanut Island bunker – the spot President Kennedy would be taken to in case of a threat of a nuclear explosion or other crisis. Built in 1961 by the Navy, the bunker was quietly constructed leading up to the Cuban Missile Crisis and sits underground, reinforced with 12 feet of concrete and steel.

The man-made island where the bunker sits can only be accessed by boat, and with the wild brush and trees, was the perfect secret location for the bunker that was designed to house both the President and his family in a Cold War disaster.

Inside The Kennedy Bunker

Inside The Kennedy Bunker

Now known as the “Kennedy Bunker,” the fallout shelter included 15 metal bunk beds and provisions including canned water and radiation detection kits. It also contained a desk for the president and a conference table. The bunker only took the Navy 10 days to build, and they held drills to see how quickly they could take Kennedy door-to-door, which was 10 minutes. The bunker was never used as a shelter for disaster and was fixed up and opened as a museum to the public in 1999.

Kennedy’s administration wasn’t the only one to create a bunker. In the 1950s President Dwight Eisenhower’s administration built a large bunker four hours from D.C. when they feared nuclear war.

Time To Let Go

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In 1969, Joseph Kennedy Sr., the family patriarch, passed away, only a year after Robert Kennedy was assassinated. A string of deaths continued in the family, as the “Kennedy Curse” wrecked havoc through the family tree.

In 1995, Rose Kennedy, widow of Joseph Kennedy Sr. passed away after battling pneumonia. It was at that time that the family decided that it was time to let go of the Palm Beach “Winter White House” that held so many memories, and move on. At that point, the house was still not considered a landmark and was listed for sale much like any property would be sold.

Addison Mizner: The Mind Behind the Mansion

Addison Mizner: The Mind Behind the Mansion

Addison Mizner designed the 11-bedroom mansion in 1922. He originally built the mansion for a man named Rodman Wanamaker. Eight years after the construction of the mansion, John F. Kennedy’s father Joseph P. Kennedy bought the mansion, for which he paid $120,000. The house was a gathering place for the Kennedy family, and would eventually become the Winter White House for John F. Kennedy during his term.

John Castle Buys The Property

John Castle Buys The Property

The “Winter White House” was sold to a man named John K. Castle, a merchant banker and the CEO of Castle Harlan. After looking at the magnificent house, he offered $31 million and purchased the home in 1995.

John Castle and his wife Marianne then sold the outbuildings and up to an acre of land to Jane Goldman. Palm Beach residents and visitors to the area have an interest in the house largely due to the Kennedy family making it their winter retreat.

History Preserved

History Preserved

The historic value of the house plays a huge part in its preservation. Although it may be behind in some sense when it comes to modern living, the historical context is considered to be the most important part of this property. The Kennedy family dwelt in this mansion and many believe it is worth preserving.

John Castle said, “Everyone in Palm Beach considered it a teardown. They said the house was ugly and awful, beyond saving.” However, Castle himself said that it was a “national sanctuary” and put two years worth of renovation into the house which cost $6 million.

The Winter White House Had Seen Better Days

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A quick look at the State of Florida Archives dug up this photo of the home before Mr. Castle spent $6 million to fix it up. With the Kennedy’s no longer using the estate as their “go to” family vacation spot, it was left to the elements. Being situated right along the beach meant the home was constantly battered by storms, salty sea water, and other natural elements. With repairs needed both inside and outside fo the home, it was long believed that the property would be torn down because it lacked any type of landmark status. Thankfully, Castle fell in love with the property and restored it to its former glory.

No Modern Day Comforts

No Modern Day Comforts

Although stunning, this house was originally built in 1922, and so the comforts of today were not included in its design, including air conditioning. In 1995, the Kennedys sold this house, and it had not been upgraded in years. Another thing that the house needed was some central heating. CEO John Castle purchased the house and said: “They said the house was ugly and awful, beyond saving. If one of the few gas-fired heaters exploded, I wouldn’t have been surprised.”

We’ve compiled some exterior and interior images of the home so you can decide for yourself it it’s really “ugly” and not worth saving.

A Sprawling Beachside Estate

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A beachside property in Palm Beach, Florida comes at a premium and the JFK “Winter White House” is situated right on the ocean. With a tennis court, swimming pool, and a nice grass-filled beach facing yard, it doesn’t get much better than this. The home is situated directly next to a lot of neighbors but still managed to create its own isolated paradise with plenty of bushes and trees to create a private oasis. The home is also only steps away from the ocean, allowing for plenty of warm weather fun for the entire family. This is what $31 million will buy you in the sunshine state.

Protected From Ocean Surge And Intruders

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As you can imagine, it’s not easy to walk up to a sprawling estate and just knock on the door. It’s even more difficult when the President of the United States was living inside. In this historic photo, you can see a large concrete wall located in the bottom right-hand corner. The wall helped protect the home from the ocean and from possible intruders. A large cement wall extends all the way around the home, providing privacy and security for its residents. As we already discussed, the Secret Service had one close call with a crazed man and security was always on high alert when the Kennedy’s visiting their “Winter White House.”

A Sprawling Estate With Cozy Charm

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While JFK and his family could most certainly bask in the sun and play on the beach, the family home also had various “hideaway” areas where they could enjoy a quiet meal and great conversation. Nestled throughout the property are areas of relaxation that are surrounded by palm trees, bushes, and other natural elements. The home with its charming design was improved with the help of a natural outdoor look. Much of the homes original design is still in place and fully preserved thanks to Mr. Castle and his decision to spend millions of dollars instead of tearing down the property and starting over.

A Closer Look At The Beach

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It might be hard to tell from aerial photos exactly how close JFK and his family were to the beach. This photo from one of the home’s balconies shows perhaps one of the best views Florida beach living has to offer. Imagine waking up every day and watching the sunrise from this beautiful veranda. Of course, JFK had to contend with a bunch of secret service officers who were no doubt always on the lookout for prying eyes. The home’s perfectly manicured lawn and amazing pine trees add an extra bit of charm to the entire estate.

Unadultered Views Of The Atlantic Ocean

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Imagine waking up in this stunning bedroom with its canopy bed and immediately looking out on the Atlantic Ocean through the giant floor to ceiling doors and windows offered in the room. The JFK “Winter White House” offered these views throughout many of its 11 bedrooms. It’s no wonder JFK and his entire family liked to spend the colder winter months vacationing and conducting business at such a magnificent piece of property. This is what $31 million will buy you in Palm Beach, Florida. The home is dated but remains just as it was when JFK traveled here with Jackie O. and their children.

A View From The Beach

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Visitors to the beach outside of the Kennedy compound can gain a better perspective on the sheer size of the family’s home. You can’t walk up to the back door and make yourself at home, but it’s still a foreboding view. The beach is open to the public on a more quiet piece of sand-filled Florida real estate, making it possible to take in what really should be a historic landmark. Imagine the Kennedy kids running around and playing with each other when their father was President of the United States.

JFK And His Sister Kathleen At The Palm Beach Property

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It was almost always about family when JFK headed off to the “Winter White House.” Here he is with his sister Kathleen. Long before the “Kennedy curse” became reality, there were many happy times at the home. After Kennedy’s assassination that quickly changed and photos like this were no longer a regular occurrence at the home. Family time can be hard to come by when you’re the President of the United States but John F. Kennedy somehow made it work.

It Wasn’t All Fun And Games

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The Kennedy’s often headed to their Florida home to get away from the frigidly cold winter weather of Washington, D.C. but that didn’t mean Kennedy’s job was put on hold. In this photo from December 12, 1960, the White House Press Corps was invited to the property as John F. Kennedy announced his nomination of Dean Rusk as secretary of state. There’s a lot of talk about “work-life” balance these days and JFK was ahead of the game, even when serving in the most demanding job on the planet. Notice how laid back and relaxed everyone in attendance appears to be during this big occasion.

Wartime Decisions Were Made At The Estate

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JFK didn’t just hold press conferences from his Palm Beach, Florida home, he also conducted series business with his defense chiefs. Shown here from left to right are General George Decker, Army chief of staff; General Lyman Lemnitzer, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Vice President Lyndon Johnson, and Kennedy. The president’s job never stops and Kennedy made sure to have all his necessary personnel at the ready. We’re sure his defense chiefs didn’t mind being flown to Florida during the colder winter months. This meeting appears to have been more laid back with quite a few smiling faces in the room at the time of this photo.

Kennedy’s Palm Beach Home Was Close To Other Powerful People

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

President Kennedy didn’t choose to live a secluded life while spending time in Palm Beach, Florida. In fact, some other very powerful people and world leaders also owned homes in the area. Here, JFK is pictured with King Saud of Saudi Arabia and the King’s daughter. JFK made a special appearance at the king’s own residence in Palm Beach, Florida, This photo was taken January 27, 1962. When he wasn’t spending time around his home, Kennedy was often spotted attending meetings elsewhere in the city or even shopping with his wife and children. The president’s job is never done and it’s definitely a crazy balancing act.

Business On The Golf Course

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When you’re the President of the United States there’s a good chance you like to get out and swing a few clubs. John F. Kennedy was no exception to this rule. When visiting his home in Palm Beach he would often take to the cities immaculate golf courses to unwind and conduct business. Here is JFK pictured with Peter Lawford, right, Stephen Smith, left, and his father, Joseph P. Kennedy, second left. Presidents before and after Kennedy enjoyed the very same type of leisure, often on the same Florida golf courses that Kennedy played the game when the chance was available to him.

JFK Driving His Dad To The Airport

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It was a different time in the 1960s, a time when the President of the United States could hop behind the wheel and drive his own dad to the airport. In this photo, former Ambassador Joseph Kennedy rides with his son to the West Palm Beach Airport here. The President boarded his jet for the return flight to Washington, D.C. In a recent interview, Joe Biden said that he missed being able to drive his own car since becoming Vice President of the United States. In the laid-back Palm Beach area, secret service agents apparently felt that some time behind the wheel for JFK was okay.

Family Art Time In Palm Beach

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CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Without 800 channels of cable to watch and a beautiful ocean setting to keep them engaged, the Kennedy family would often gather outside and paint. In this photo, John F. Kennedy can be seen painting at an easel while Jacqueline Kennedy looks over his shoulder. The photo was taken at the Palm Beach, Florida home in 1955. The shared interest in art shows a family that was incredibly close which might help explain why they started to fall apart after JFK was assassinated. This photo points to a more simple time in the family’s history, a full eight years before JFK became President of the United States.

The Honey Fitz

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With quick access to the Atlantic Ocean and plenty of rivers and lakes to choose from it should come as no surprise that John F. Kennedy liked to get out and boat around whenever he had the chance. This photo shows the President taking a relaxing boat ride on Lakeworth. The President sat on the stern of the Honey Fitz as he read the newspaper and soaked up the Florida sun. JFK was busy preparing for his up coming trip to Costa Rica when this photo was taken. Golfing, boating, art? Kennedy definitely kept himself business in Palm Beach, even when he was not working.

Caroline Kennedy Enjoy Some Sun And Fun

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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Kennedy family dealt with a lot of turmoil during their lives but their Florida getaways always seemed to be filled with fun and plenty of love to go around. Here’s an iconic photo of Caroline Kennedy playing outdoors on the lawn of the estate during a family vacation. Sadly, tragedy would soon strike the family with JFK’s assassination and these happy go lucky days were soon abandoned in Palm Beach, Florida. Notice how quiet the beach behind little Caroline was despite the allure of a U.S. President regularly visiting the property to spend time away from the White House and the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C.

Jackie Kennedy And ‘John John’ Hold Hands

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Bert Morgan/Getty Images

This photo in 1963 shows Jackie Kennedy And JFK Jr. holding hands as they exit the home of JFK’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy. The family had just finished celebrating Easter Sunday at a location on North Ocean Boulevard. Sadly, John F. Kennedy, Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, along with her sister, Lauren Bessette would die 36 years later when their plane crashed while traveling to Martha’s Vineyard on July 16, 1999. The Kennedy curse might be superstition but a lot of really bad things have happened to members of the Kennedy clan for decades.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy And Another Powerful Meeting

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John F. Kennedy didn’t start the tradition of hosting powerful people at his family’s Florida home, that right belongs solely to his father. In this photo, from left to right, we see a powerful meeting of the minds that includes Edward J. O’Leary, U. S. Ambassador to Great Britain Joseph P. Kennedy, Arthur Houghton, and Jack Kennedy enjoying a luncheon on the patio of the Ambassador’s home. Kennedy invited over his friends as he vacationed from his duties in London. This same location would later be used by his son to host some of the most powerful people in the world while JFK served as President of the United States. This home really should be listed as a national landmark.

Hosting Diplomats In Palm Beach, Florida

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President John F. Kennedy fully understood how to put international diplomats at ease. When given the chance to escape the confines of the White House, he would often invite dignitaries to his Florida home. In this photo, Kennedy and France Ambassador Charles Bohlen are seen exiting Kennedy’s boat after a lunchtime cruise in Palm Beach. After a day of rest, relaxation, and international talks, Bohlen would return to Washington D.C. later that night. Both men looked happy to have escaped their typical political surroundings for a private chat in warmer weather. Palm Beach, Florida served as a much different atmosphere for the President’s talks with important people.

Well Before John F. Kennedy’s Rise To Power

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As previously stated, it was Joseph Kennedy who really started using the home, built in 1922, as a base of operations when hosting powerful friends. In this photo, Joseph Kennedy, the US ambassador to London, was attending a party for his father-in-law, John F. Fitzgerald, the former Mayor of Boston. Left to right at the 77th birthday celebration are, Mrs. and Mr. Fitzgerald, their daughter, Mrs. Kennedy, and Ambassador Kennedy. We ask once again, how has this house not been deemed a national landmark? We know the Kennedy’s fought against that designation but it’s time to honor the strong and long legacy of the “Winter White House.”