The coastal Kennedy estate on North Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach, Florida served as the “Winter White House” throughout the John F. Kennedy administration from 1961-1963. Sworn in as president on January 20, 1961, 41-year-old John F. Kennedy became the youngest person to be elected president in American history; 31-year-old Jacqueline Kennedy became the third youngest First Lady. As a presidential couple, the Kennedys differed from their predecessors, the Eisenhowers, by their relative youth and their relationship with the media. Historian Gil Troy has noted that in particular, they “emphasized vague appearances rather than specific accomplishments or passionate commitments” and therefore fit in well in the early 1960s’ “cool, TV-oriented culture”.
The Kennedys were great entertainers in Palm Beach, hosting many social events that brought together the most elite figures from politics and the arts. A fashion icon of the era, Jacqueline was courted by the best fashion designers in the world, often at private parties held at the Everglades Club on Worth Avenue. Kennedy’s fashion choices were a prominent topic of discussion in American pop-culture throughout her years in the White House. She was the first First Lady to hire a wardrobe designer (American designer Oleg Cassini) as well as a press secretary, Pamela Turnure, who carefully managed her and her children’s contact with the media. Academic Maurine Beasley has stated that Kennedy “created an unrealistic media expectation for first ladies that would challenge her successors”, as she was often portrayed as the ideal woman. Nevertheless, by attracting worldwide positive public attention, the First Lady gained allies for the White House and international support for the Kennedy administration and its Cold War policies.
The N. Ocean Boulevard estate in Palm Beach was designed by well-known Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner in his signature Mediterranean Revival style in 1923 for department store magnate Rodman Wanamaker. It was purchased ten years later in 1933 by John F. Kennedy’s father, Joseph Kennedy, as a family vacation home. The family held residence at the estate for over seventy years and were a staple of the small and elite community which had grown in size and stature since its foundation in the late 19th century as a resort ‘colony’. A supplement to Palm Beach Life Magazine, The Palm Beach Colony Residents’ Listing, 1962-63 listed “Kennedy, President of the United States and Mrs. John F.” at 601 No. County Road and the Honorable Joseph P. Kennedy at 1095 No. Ocean Blvd.
President Kennedy wrote his Inaugural Speech of 1961, chose his cabinet and, legend has it, worked on his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Profiles in Courage while recovering from a near-fatal 1955 back operation in the Winter White House. At the time of its publication in 1956, Profiles in Courage: Decisive Moments in the Lives of Celebrated Americans served as a clarion call to every American. The inspiring accounts of eight previous heroic acts by American patriots inspired the American public to remember the courage progress requires. Now, half a century later, the book remains a classic and a relevant testament to the national spirit that celebrates the most noble of human virtues. In it, Kennedy relates these heroisms to sketches of American politicians who have risked their careers for principle. “A man does what he must,” he wrote, “in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures-and that is the basis of all human morality.”
John F. Kennedy was photographed boarding his plane to depart from Palm Beach just days before his assassination and death on November 22, 1963. The estate was sold by the Kennedys in 1995, and more recently in 2015. It is currently being rehabilitated by the Town of Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission as it remains an important historical landmark.
Our collection currently includes the above featured pieces as well as many other significant Kennedy signed books, photographs, and documents including: The dedication copy of John F. Kennedy’s first book, Why England Slept, with Rose Kennedy’s embossed name on the front panel; a framed group of 7 gelatin silver prints of President Kennedy awarding the Distinguished Service Medal to General Lauris Norstad; and an original reading copy of a John F. Kennedy campaign speech with extensive annotations in his hand, among many others.