John and Marianne Castle sell house to company linked to seasonal Palm Beacher
Daily News Real Estate Writer
Known to millions as the “Winter White House,” the former Kennedy family compound on the ocean in Palm Beach has changed hands for a recorded $31 million.
Merchant banker John K. Castle and his wife, Marianne, sold the 1920s-era house, its two outbuildings and about an acre of land — with 200 feet of beachfront — to a company associated with seasonal Palm Beacher Jane Goldman, according to the deed recorded today by the Palm Beach County Clerk. The Castles bought the estate at 1095 N. Ocean Blvd. from the Kennedy family in 1995.
The Castles shared the view of historians who consider the house an iconic piece of American history associated with one of the nation’s most prominent families. It was a place where generations of Kennedys lived and played, including President John F. Kennedy, who is said to have worked on his inaugural address there.
Even so, the town never granted landmark protection to the house, which has been much changed since it was designed in 1923 by noted society architect Addison Mizner. But the buyer in this week’s sale plans to keep the Mediterranean-style residence intact, according to sources familiar with the deal.
With New York ties, Goldman is a principal of Solil Management, a family company that manages assets related to the fortune amassed by her late father, New York City real estate investor Sol Goldman. She bought the house using a Florida limited liability company named TGS Florida LLC. In March, Goldman’s 1952 lakefront house at 200 Via Palma in the Estate Section sold for a recorded $29.85 million, property records show.
A confidentiality agreement prevents all parties involved in this week’s sale from commenting, said Paul Rampell, the Castles’ Palm Beach attorney.
The Castles had paid a recorded $4.9 million for the North End estate and acquired its furnishings. Their subsequent two-year renovation added air conditioning for the first time and carefully preserved several rooms to look as they had when used by President Kennedy, first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and their two young children.
“We wanted to preserve the things that were preservable,” John Castle told the Palm Beach Daily News in 1999 after the renovation was completed.
Broker Lawrence Moens of Lawrence A. Moens & Associates handled both sides of this week’s sale, his office confirmed. He listed the estate in the local multiple listing service for $38.5 million in April 2014, although he had marketed the property privately several months prior with ads promoting “a rare chance to own Camelot.” Moens’ listing expired in late March. He could not be reached.
Two months ago, Moens acted on Goldman’s behalf in the sale of her lakefront house, which was owned by a limited liability company she controlled. The buyers were television executive Herbert J. Siegel and his wife, Jeanne Sorensen Siegel, who were represented by Corcoran Group agents Colleen Hanson and John Campbell.
In all, the former Kennedy compound has 15,347 square feet of living space, 11 bedrooms, 12 bathrooms and three half-baths, according to Moens’ sales listing.
The house can’t be seen from the street, thanks to its high perimeter wall and wooden gate, which are the only parts of the property landmarked by the town.
The Kennedys successfully fought against landmark status several times over 15 years, fearing it would make the estate more difficult to sell. The wall and gate were finally named landmarks as a condition of the sale to the Castles, who wanted to renovate without hindrance.
Renovated by Kennedys
Boston-based Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., the family’s patriarch, bought the house in 1933 from the Wanamakers — of Philadelphia department-store fame — for use as a winter retreat for his family, including wife Rose and their children.
The two-story house was designed for Rodman Wanamaker II by noted society architect Addison Mizner. With its simplified Mediterranean-style architecture, it was originally named “La Querida,” loosely translated as “the dear one,” although many sources have erroneously recorded the name as “La Guerida.” The Castles called the estate “Castillo del Mar” (“castle by the sea”).
Needing more space for his large brood, Kennedy Sr. bought adjacent land and hired society architect Maurice Fatio to expand the house and add a two-story garage building, tennis court and pool pavilion.
Kennedy Sr. made the house his legal residence in 1941 and often vacationed alone there, frequently swimming in the pool, according to his biographers. John F. Kennedy is said to have written his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage, at the house while recovering from back surgery in 1956. He and his advisers later discussed the composition of his Cabinet at the estate, although the president reportedly spent many nights at a neighbor’s home nearby rather than in the house itself, according to the late architectural historian Donald C. Curl.
Members of the family famously played touch football on the lawn that stretches down to the beach or played tennis on the street-side court. After giving birth to her son in 1960, Jacqueline Kennedy recuperated at the house. In November 1963, the president spent the weekend in Palm Beach immediately before heading to Texas, where he was assassinated in Dallas.
Rose Kennedy continued to use the house after the death of her husband, a former U.S. ambassador to England, in 1969. She died in Hyannis Port, Mass. — where the family had another well-known estate — the same year the Castles bought the Palm Beach house.
In 1991, the Palm Beach property landed in the international spotlight again when it was the site of an alleged incident that led to sexual assault charges against William Kennedy Smith, who was exonerated at his trial later that year.
Smith’s uncle, the late U.S. Rep. Ted Kennedy, was on the property that night with Smith and frequently used the house during that time.
The house also was a destination for other members of the extended family, although their visits had declined by the time the property was sold 20 years ago.
“To us, it was always the beach house,” Anthony Shriver, JFK’s nephew, told The Palm Beach Post in 2003.
Refurbished and restored
The Castles bought the estate from more than a dozen members of the Kennedy family and a trust. Among those listed as sellers on the 1995 deed were Ted Kennedy, the late John F. Kennedy Jr. and his sister, Caroline Kennedy. Agent Ned Monell of Sotheby’s International Realty had the $7-million listing, and Paulette Koch, then an independent broker and today an agent with the Corcoran Group, acted for the Castles.
An avid sailboater with an interest in equestrian show-jumpers, John Castle founded the private merchant bank Castle Harlan in 1987. He serves as chairman and CEO of the company and its successor, CHI Private Equity. He also heads Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and Branford Castle Inc.
The Castles preserved two adjacent first-floor bedrooms, known as the “President’s Room” and the “Attorney General’s Room.” The latter name referred to the late Robert F. Kennedy, who served in that post during his brother’s administration.
The Castles refurbished and restored beds, a chest and tables they found in the bedrooms when they bought the house. The furnishings include a massage table reportedly used by JFK during his recuperation from back surgery.
In the library, most of the furniture was simply recovered or refreshed, according to the 1999 article in the Daily News.
The renovation added a turret to the front facade to house a new spiral staircase. The Castles also built a two-story addition on the south side. A former loggia became a family room, and they updated the kitchen with an expanded pantry. Windows also were enlarged to better capture ocean views.
Outside, the so-called “bull pen,” where Joseph Kennedy Sr. sunned himself, was rebuilt as a fully enclosed two-story pool house.
The Castles referred to the central bedroom as “Rose’s Room,” while two others were called John-John and Caroline’s rooms because the president’s children were known to have occupied them. The Castles also merged upstairs staff bedrooms to become guest rooms and work areas.
During their tenure, the Castles hosted charitable events at the house benefiting such organizations as the Children’s Home Society and American Friends of the Uffizi Museum.
In 2011, the Castles were involved in a high-provide dispute with their immediate neighbors to the north after Stephen and Jill Karp announced plans to build a guest addition. The Castles argued for more than a year that the project would impinge on their privacy and block their ocean view. The Karps’ plans were eventually altered so that the addition wouldn’t extend any farther east than the eastern façade of the Castle’s residence.
In 2012, John Castle made headlines of a different sort when Paul Kucik, a waiter at private Club Colette, accused him of breaking his finger during a dispute over a bill. No police charges were ever brought, and both sides agreed to a voluntary dismissal of a civil lawsuit and counterclaim related to the episode. A third lawsuit filed against Castle in 2013 by Kucik remains active, circuit court records show.
But in 2001, John Castle told the Post that he and his wife took their stewardship of the house seriously. “We do feel, to some degree, we’re protecting a legacy,” he said.
“I’m a Republican, of course, so I don’t want to confuse things, but I thought Jack Kennedy was an outstanding president with a great deal of vision,” he told the same reporter. “I think a lot of his vision for our country may well have come from the fact that he was able to sit there on the lawn and reflect on where the country should go.”