By Leon Pascucci
August 30, 2016: “Mrs. Kennedy didn’t entertain her own friends in the White House. She put them to work,” wrote J.B. West. Foremost among those friends was Rachel Lambert Mellon, or Bunny, (1910-2014) who had an enormous influence on Jacqueline Kennedy and was a lifelong friend. An heiress in her own right, Mrs. Mellon was a famed horticulturalist who maintained exceptional gardens at her many homes. Picture above: Bunny Mellon (left in hat) and Jackie (right in white hat).
She surrounded herself with beautiful French furniture and fine art, all put together in an amazingly understated style. “Nothing should be noticed” was one of her design principles. Dressed in couture by Givenchy, who also designed the uniforms of her staff, Mrs. Mellon exacted a kind of perfection in everything she did. She lent her expertise and generosity to the Kennedy White House in many areas.
The White House Gardens
Perhaps Mrs. Mellon’s signature and most lasting influence is the Rose Garden which she completely redesigned at the invitation of President Kennedy in 1962.
He was actively involved in its renovation as well. Bunny designed planting beds along the sides in the 18th century style, adding mature magnolia trees at each corner and leaving a large open lawn in the center, suitable for gatherings. Broad stairs and a landing outside the Cabinet Room provided a place for presentations and press conferences, as it is used to this day.
In the 1980’s Mrs. Reagan called back Bunny to review the Rose Garden and she oversaw some heavy pruning and installed new plantings.
A superb piece on the garden’s development may be found in an issue of White House History.
In 1965 Lady Bird Johnson dedicated the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the former East Garden, in the former First Lady’s honor, and it followed a design of Mrs. Mellon’s begun before the Kennedy assassination. A more intimate garden than the Rose Garden it features a trellised arbor and small reflecting pool as well as planting beds and topiary holly trees. It serves as a lovely setting for smaller receptions and outdoor gatherings.
May 30, 2016 Notes; Jackie continued working at Doubleday until her death in May 1994. One of the books she was still going back and forth with was a Russian spy story. In his book, Reading Jackie, William Kuhn tells the story of the relationship between Jackie and attorney Philip Myers, who was shopping his tale of Soviet spies. Jackie met with Myers several times - even at 1040 - and left several voicemail messages for him.
Some of these voicemails can be heard on Myers publisher's website - that is promoting Myers' spy tales.
Listening to Jackie's voicemails is fascinating. She even gives out her office and 1040 phone numbers. Please don't call the numbers and bother the current users. Enjoy.
Voicemails courtesy of Entrepot Publishing and Philip Myers.
April 18, 2016 Notes: In 1926 Joseph and Rose Kennedy rented a summer cottage at 50 Marchant Avenue in Hyannis Port. Two years later, they purchased the structure, which had been erected in 1904, and enlarged and remodeled it to suit their family's needs. In and around this house, their nine children spent their summers, acquiring a lifelong interest in sailing and other competitive activities.
In 1956, Jack bought a smaller home of his own at 111 Irving Avenue not far from his father's home. Subsequently, Ted acquired the residence at 28 Marchant Avenue adjacent to the other two in 1959 and sold it to Bobby and his wife Ethel in 1961. Edward lived in the compound until his death.
Known as the Main House and the largest of the three, Joe and Rose's house is surrounded by well-tended lawns and gardens and it commands sweeping views of the ocean from its long porches.
On the main floor are a living room, dining room, sun room, television room, the bedroom that John used before he purchased his own house in the compound, the kitchen, and various pantries and utility rooms. On the second floor are six bedrooms, a sewing room, packing room, and four servants' bedrooms. The house has a full attic.
The basement contains a motion-picture theater and a hall covered with dolls from all around the world. A wine cellar designed after a ship's hull and a sipping room – one of the Kennedy family's favorite hideouts. It is considered the place that Ted coined the well-known toast "There are good ships, and there are wood ships, the ships that sail the sea. But the best ships are friendships, and may they always be."
In 2012 the main house was donated by the Kennedy family to the Edward Kennedy Institute for the US Senate, which said it would host educational seminars in the house and that it will open it to the public at specific times. On the grounds are an enclosed swimming pool, tennis court, a four-car garage, and two guest houses.
There are two circular driveways with flagpoles standing in the middle, a boathouse and several large stretches of lawn area where the many family touch football games were played.
Other parcels of land that assorted members of the family have purchased remain as well-tended as those of the more prominent homes. (Wikipedia)
Image copyright Jake Gariepy (Dapper and Dreamy)
March 31, 2016 Notes: James Bernard West (July 27, 1912 – July 18, 1983), known as J. B. West, was Chief Usher at the White House from 1957 to 1969. His best-selling book, Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies (with Mary Lynn Kotz), documents his time in the executive mansion and is considered a good source of material on the First Families he served.
He directed state functions; planned parties, weddings, funerals, gardens, playgrounds, and extensive renovations; and with a large staff, supervised every activity in the presidential home. For 28 years, first as assistant to the chief usher, then as chief usher, he witnessed national crises and triumphs, and interacted daily with six consecutive presidents and first ladies, their parents, children and grandchildren, and houseguests - including friends, relatives, and heads of state.
He was heavily involved in Jackie's White House restoration project and the two became very close. In 1963 Jackie surprised her lifetime confidante Nancy Tuckerman, then serving as White House Social Secretary, with a birthday party. At the party, West dressed up as "Miss Ward" the former headmistress of Miss Porter's School, where the two women attend school as young girls. West and Kennedy remained in contact after the assassination and often corresponded, with Jackie sending him notes and funny sketches.
West announced his retirement from the White House on November 14, 1968. According to author Ronald Kessler, however, an investigation into missing items at the White House had supposedly discovered that West let friends into the White House for after-hour tours and some of them had stolen White House mementos. According to Kessler again, the investigation also reportedly concluded West was a homosexual, which at the time made him a blackmail/security risk. West was forced to retire, or be dismissed. West left the White House on March 1, 1969. (Wikipedia)
Image copyright Jake Gariepy (Dapper and Dreamy)