It was a most pleasant sunny day at Grey Gardens (3 West End Road), on the day we visited the iconic home nestled mere steps from the Atlantic Ocean, at Georgica Beach in East Hampton Village. My wife, Cindi, and I met award-winning real estate agent Michael Schultz of The Corcoran Group for a majestic sweep through the many rooms of the 120-year-old home known as Grey Gardens.
Years ago, through the efforts of Andrew Wargo, I had the opportunity to talk to Albert Maysles about the famous documentary he did on Grey Gardens and its inhabitants, Edie Bouvier Beale and her mother, Edith, with his brother David Maysles. Albert felt that this property, despite all its disrepair, had an intellectual charm – a power that was timeless and priceless.
Now, after almost 40 years of ownership by Sally Quinn, the legendary Washington Post journalist, the Hamptons home is on the market for not quite $20 million ($19.995 million, to be exact). Location, location, location is never to be underestimated in pricing a home, but with Grey Gardens there is just so much more.
My first visit to Grey Gardens was in the summer of 2007 for an East Hampton Historical Society event. I had just composed a three-part series on the history of Sag Harbor and was thus invited. The Grey Gardens living room was filled with historical, intellectual types as savvy factoids and trivia were being pronounced with every sip of Long Island wine. It was my kind of party; vibrant, cheerful, informative, and yet, I was the youngest one in the room at 54-years-old. It was with those thoughts in mind that I slipped through the front Dutch door, on the porch to the main entrance of Grey Gardens. Immediately what struck me was the way the home was a conduit for cheerful sunlight with every room bright and cheerful as all summer beach homes should be.
My mind instantly realized that this trophy home, although over 6,000 square feet with nine bedrooms and seven and a half bathrooms, was not your average megalomaniac billionaire’s beach house. It did not have gaudy, oversized windows, hallways and community hall size bathrooms – this was a home, a David Rockefeller type summer home he would have up in Bar Harbor, Maine or anywhere. With enough bedrooms for a large young family, what I enjoyed was exploring the three floors of Grey Gardens. The distinctive bedrooms adhere to the architecture of the home; each one similar yet different like children in a large family. I visited the famous bedroom with the two single beds that both Big Edie and Little Edie slept in, as well as Sally Quinn’s master bedroom. Again, I was struck by the way both rooms on opposite sides of the house gathered in the bright afternoon sunlight.
The huge dining room that is on the left as you walked in the front door is also brightly naturally lit due to the numerous large historic windows. The fireplace there practically whispered in a ghost like manner about the fun the August dinner parties of Sally Quinn and Ben Bradlee (her husband) were, with only the juiciest and tasteful gossip. There also had to be typical summer “Hamptons” what we did today conversations. The big, roomy old style kitchen is large enough to have a pre-dinner cocktail party in it. I think many have actually occurred there, but I can’t prove it.
This visit was just one day before spring, so the 1.7 acres of gardens were not in high feather. But, I have toured them when they are and all I can say is, they are almost like the rooms of the house, each section distinctively oozing with enchantment and history.
Too often many think of Grey Gardens as a rundown home in ill reappear. It is anything but. I remember Pattie Boyd, the ex-wife of George Harrison and Eric Clayton, talking about Harrison’s luxurious palatial estate, Friar Park. When she first visited it with George, there were holes in the roof, broken windows and it was a total mess. Now, it is one of the great estates of the world. Grey Gardens is not a Friar Park, however, it is a distinctive summer home with one of the best addresses in the world. Possessing Grey Gardens would validate a life of success for any intellectual minded titan who understands quality beyond the new tech wealth gaudiness that is enveloping the Hamptons ocean coastline, like a disease of classlessness.