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+ JACK LOVES IT

See the Virginia home Jackie O designed for JFK

Kennedys in Virginia
Photo courtesy Cecil Stoughton/White House Photographs/ John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston
A place to call home.
  • Annalisa Merelli
By Annalisa Merelli

Senior reporter based in New York City

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, the quintessential American style icon, was not one to delegate in matters of taste and design. From 1961 to 1963, during her husband’s tragically short-lived presidency, she put her design eye to use on the first house the Kennedy’s had built from the ground up.

The property—in Atoka, near Middleburg, Virginia—was a 163-acre estate that cost over $100,000 (roughly equivalent to $750,000 today) to build in 1963—much above the original budget of $40,000, which president Kennedy had allocated for the house at his only request that it be modest. Jackie called the home “Wexford” after the county in Ireland where Kennedy family was originally from.

During the construction, Jackie maintained correspondence with the contractors, sharing her opinions on the plans. She also collected and annotated architecture magazine cut-outs (mostly French) to find inspiration for the place.

The correspondence, pictures, and notes are now up for auction at Boston-based RR Auctions, at a starting price of $5,319, together with the blueprints of the house. The property—which is currently for sale for $7,950,000, down from a reported 11 million—was sold year in 1964.

The letters reveal the level of detail Jackie put into the project, curating everything from the layout—adding rooms to the plans and resizing existing ones to accommodate her family’s specific needs—to the kind of ashtrays (not her ”good ones”) to be placed in guest rooms. They also reveal a desire to build a haven for her family and to revitalize her marriage to JFK.

Notes to the builders.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Notes to the builder.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Notes to the builder.

The first lady attached images she had taken from magazines and annotated to the letters to give the builders detailed references of what how she wanted her home to look.

Photo courtesy RR Auction
Inspiration for the home with Jacqueline Kennedy’s annotations.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Paint reference, with request to see samples “if it is cheap.”
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Inspiration for master bedroom’s windows (“unless too expensive’) from American magazine Homes & Gardens.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Magazine reference for the Jacqueline Kennedy’s bathroom.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Reference for the home decor from French magazine Promotion Maison & Jardin.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
A French magazine reference for the house’s pool.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Magazine reference for the pool, annotated.

The property deed is dated 1962 and construction was completed in 1963. According to one of his wife’s letters, president Kennedy was skeptical about the house but ended up “loving it.” She confided in her friend Bill Waxton that Wexford was a sign of success in her marriage: ”I think we’re going to make it. I think we’re going to be a couple. I’ve won,” she told him during a dinner. Sadly, the family only spent a couple of weekends there in 1963—the last reportedly on Nov. 10, shortly before the president was assassinated.

Photo courtesy RR Auction
“+ Jack loves it”

The four bedroom, ranch-style home was 5,050 square feet, surrounded by equestrian trails, and contained an underground bunker and dependencies used by Secret Service personnel.

Photo courtesy RR Auction
Blueprints of the property.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
The property layout.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Jacqueline Kennedy’s sketch of the layout.

This is how the house looked once it was completed:

Photo courtesy RR Auction
A view of the residence.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
The living room.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
Jacqueline Kennedy’s bedroom.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
A child’s bedroom.
Photo courtesy RR Auction
The dining room.

Jacqueline loved the place. In a letter with requests to the builders she notes that it has “everything” a house needs, underlining that the space would allow both husband and wife to conduct some of their activities separately; the property had “all the places we need to get away from each other.”

Photo courtesy RR Auction
Notes to the builders

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