Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I wanna live there Wednesday # 25

I live in a pretty incredible area - It's an historical neighbourhood loaded with tons and tons and tons of charm - and 20th century architecture, just steps away from the city center, it's also a pretty expensive neighbourhood ( in which I live in servants quarters basically compared to what I'm surrounded by ) 
Because there are days I don't have furniture makeovers to show you - I've chosen Wednesdays to showcase and feature one home that's for sale around here.................( or apartment - or duplex - or teepee )
Keep in mind this is in the heart of the city - so the prices reflect that  - think Manhattan - where these places would cost 3 or 4 times what they're listed for here!

I'm so excited for this post, my fingers are flying all over the keyboard - does anyone else get like that or am I just neurotic ( well, I AM neurotic anyway - but sometime's a little more than other times ) I've been wanting to post about this forever!
GREY GARDENS - let me repeat that
GREY GARDENS - because I love houses, because I love history, because I love interesting stories and even more so, because I love interesting people.  I've been fascinated by this story for many many years..............................

This was the name of the country estate owned by Jackie O's Aunt Edie Bouvier Beale and shared with her daughter ( Little Edie )  - the story is far too long and intricate for me to go into all the details in just one post - but I'll do my best to give those of you that are unfamiliar with this, a condensed version.
This was a lady and her daughter who came from great beginnings - high society - great wealth - the best of everything .....................and their subsequent fall from that ladder.

Meet Edie ( the mother ) a beautiful socialite

grey gardens, edie beale,

and her daughter Little Edie  ( probably around her debut ) I can see Jackie in her, can you?

grey gardens, edie, big edie,

Grey Gardens was their summer home in the Hamptons - where coveted soirees were held,  Little Edie dated Howard Hughes and Joe Kennedy supposedly proposed as did
J. Paul Getty.
AND apparently she was the beauty of the family at the time - surpassing Jackie.
Big Edie would sing and Little Edie would dance and entertain the evenings away.
This is what Grey Gardens looked like in the beginning

grey gardens, beautiful, original

a gorgeous 10 bedroom 6 bathroom estate - with a tennis court......................
one of the prettiest ocean side houses in the Hamptons - where Jackie O and her sister
Lee would spend time in the summers as little girls - I can almost hear the piano playing in my mind and the laughter and gaiety that drifted out of the french doors into the garden in the back.  The ocean is a hop, skip and a jump down the road.  Important people filled the rooms - people that would go on to do great things ( the Kennedy boys come to mind ) but the 2 Edie's futures were not to be good ones.
By the 1970's in fact, there was a NYC  Suffolk County ordinance to have the house torn down.  ( thanks Katie for pointing out my mistake - much appreciated !!! ) 
Here's a picture of what it looked like by then

gray gardens,

and this is what they looked like by then....................

edie beale, the two edies,

They went from splendour and glamour - to squalor.
To dressing in the height of sophistication to wearing Jackie and Lee's castoffs - 
of which little Edie would do some fascinating things to fit into clothes that were far too small for her.  Surrounded by mementos of a better time, they somehow aclimitized to this and hurt no one but themselves.
Below's scene would have fit in today's Hoarder shows........................

gray gardens, hoarders,

They lived in 2 rooms upstairs - with no heat - and minds that had already slipped into
a sort of manic crazed sub - existence.   They recalled their days of glory - as Big Edie
warbled out " Tea for Two " and Little Edie spun in circles over and over again like the
professional " dancer " she might have been had life not turned so tragic for the 2 of them.  They lived with raccoons and hundreds of cats and all that that entails.
Just before the house was to be demolished Aristotle Onassis stepped in and paid to 
have it cleaned up ( not restored by a long shot ) but cleaned up enough to make it safe
by law to keep.

Little Edie  in one of Jackie's old skirts - 
grey gardens, photo of Edie Beale

In 1975 two amazing brothers decided to pay them a visit - and asked if they could do a documentary on them - they agreed - and the rest, as they say, is history.  Literally so.
Albert and David Maysles captured these 2 women in the most incredible way within a time frame of 6 weeks.
Yes it's sad - tragically so - 
But it's also heartwarming - and funny - and seriously one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.
It shows the fragile human condition in ways few other documentaries can or do.
I for one fell in love with these ladies the moment the film started rolling - 
I could still see the beauty amongst the rags they wore.
The grandeur of the house amongst the ruins.
And as shreds of sanity peaked through their very damaged minds I could catch glimpses of the dreams in their hearts, still vibrant and still very much alive.  
I would have loved to have known the both of them - and would have been very willing to sit on the soiled beds ( with a newspaper under me ) and spend hours and hours listening to these wonderfully eccentric ladies tell me their stories................

Big Edie in the bedroom ( Jackie's Aunt ) 
grey gardens, edie beale
You see that painting?  You'll notice that later in the video below

This film is about as fascinating a look as you can get into a part of Jackie O's family history - I simply can't recommend it highly enough - suffice it to say that I own the documentary  ( and have watched it at least 10 times over the years ) I was also extremely lucky to have seen the musical on Broadway with Christine Ebersol ( one of my favorite Broadway actresses )

and I saw the movie a few years back with Jessica Lang and Drew Barrymore - who 
brilliantly portrayed these 2 ladies.

If you're interested in seeing the original Documentary - you can order it HERE 
It's worth every. single. penny ( and I can earn some pennies ( literally ) if you order it from the above link.  Sorry to throw that in there - but hey - if you want to order it, you may as well order it through me, someone you know and trust lol.

Moving forward - in 1979 the home was purchased by Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn
for 220,000. dollars with the condition that they could not tear down the house - because, as  Little Edie put it " all it needs is a coat of paint " lol 
Apparently Sally claimed it was much worse than the documentary depicted.  
They lovingly restored every nook and cranny to it's former beauty.

Ok - so how this post came to be is that apparently Grey Gardens is for rent this summer.  
You can rent it for a month for 125,000. dollars - and I know that sounds insane - but I can't help but feel a little bit of warmth for the estate and for the 2 ladies that spent their lives living in it -  they're beloved home is as it should be.  They would be proud.
Or maybe not - they were after all, far more eccentric than I.

Here's how it looks today....................

grey gardens, restored,

grey gardens, restored

grey gardens, restored

grey gardens, restored

grey gardens, restored

restored, grey gardens restored,
I think that's a poster of the 2 Edies on the wall there!!!

grey gardens sun room, grey gardens restored,

restored, master,


grey gardens, poolside, landscape

secret garden, landscape

secret garden, restored, landscape

And a little snippet of the documentary.....................take it away Edie!
(the painting they show at the end of her song is Big Edie in her
glorious younger days)

I adore the 2 of them - and though they aren't a part of my story I would have loved for them to have been................
A line later discovered in Little Edie's teenage diary reads
" I only mark the hours that shine "
So sad that so little of her life actually held any sparkle at all.

( and yes - this above all others is an I wanna live there - for me ) 

*Interesting reading material (and where I sourced some of this post      can be found HERE

Thanks to Life on Lakeshore Drive  for the feature!

Sharing with!
Have a daily cup of Mrs. Olson        No Minimalist Here       Shabby Creek Cottage
The 36th Avenue                             Katherine's Corner         The Charm of Home
French Country Cottage                  My Turn ( for us )           Happy Go Lucky
One Artsy Mama                            Finding Fabulous             Twigg Studios
I Heart Nap Time                           Life on Lakeshore Drive   Alderberry Hill
Uncommon Designs                        Under the Table and Dreaming
The Dedicated House                     Coastal Charm                 Cedar Hill Ranch
twelveOeight                                  Kathe with an E                Not just a Housewife
Clean and Scentsible                       Savvy Southern Style       Adorned from Above
Classy Clutter                                 Flamingo Toes


  1. I saw the movie about a year ago and was totally fascinated. It makes you wonder how 2 high society women can fall through the cracks and end up letting everything around them turn to ruins. That home is beautiful now. What an effort to restore.
    Farmhouse hugs,

  2. Wow, what a story. Did they every say what made them go from riches to rags?
    Angie G.

  3. I must watch that documentary. I'm a bit iffy about the house. That marble sink laying on the counter in the bathroom baffles me.

  4. I have seen this and just loved it. It is fascinating story and it really reveals that time in history, the fame, the money and the complications of families with money. REally interesting. Great post Suzan.

  5. How totally spectacular it is now, and probably once was! I love old houses, especially when they are tastefully restored! Can you imagine that house being torn down? And replace by some monstrosity? Sometimes I drive through Forest Hill (Toronto's Hoytee Toytee neighbourhood) and I'm so saddened because many of those gorgeous old mansions have been torn down and replaced by modern megahomes!

    1. Here in Westmount ( where almost all the houses are over a century old ) you can only restore - you can't take away the integrity of the building whatsoever!
      I agree - that house is spectacular - ( and the story behind it even more so!!! )
      Thanks so much for coming by

  6. I have never read such a captivating post, Suzan! I'd never heard of this before. Edie (the mom) was a beautiful woman, far, far prettier than Jackie. And documentary is my favorite kind of TV. I'm renting this tonight and will probably end up buying it. How fascinating!! And Little Edie was right - all it needed was a coat of pain - who knew! LOL I wonder if Lady Mary will end up like this. I hope Julian Fellowes reads this post. So much more I could say, but I need to go clean out a closet...

  7. Boy she knew the words to that song, didn't she? I think no matter what happened, they were very fortunate to have one another. I haven't seen the documentary, so I could be wrong, but that was what came to mind when watching the video.

    As for the house... I could pay off a really nice chunk of our mortgage w/what it cost to rent that one for a month! LOL The rooms are nice and big, aren't they?? I like it. :)

  8. Yes, I heard about this story of Jackie's family, her aunt and cousin.. and about the movie too, I'm sure I can buy it to watch it, as they sell movies here for $1,50..LOL!! My daughter is going to build her house and she wants a lay out very much like this, a kind of very American plan...not as huge as this one, but enough. Thank you for sharing.

  9. What a beautiful story-thanks for sharing it.
    Have a good rest of week

  10. What a lovely way to honour these two women Suzan. I've seen both the movie and the documentary several times and these women are absolutely fascinating, tragically charming in their later years. I always knew Jessica Lang was a fabulous actress, but I was so surprised that Drew gave an equally stellar performance. Both Big Edie and Little Edie have a place in my heart. Every time I see the documentary I wish I could give them each a big hug and protect them somehow. I find them enchanting and heartbreaking at the same time.

  11. I cannot believe you bring this up! In fall of 2012 I fell upon this story somehow (maybe while searching out info on the Collyer Brothers of NY?). I immediately got the first documentary from the library, then got a second documentary (basically a supplement to the first), then got the HBO movie with Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore. I would highly recommend seeing them in that order, as you have indicated here. It's hard to describe how caught up in this story I felt while I was experiencing it. And it was hard to convey that to others, but you have done very well at that here. Youtube has a lot of good video, to anybody that simply wants a digested version. Search 'Grey Gardens'.

  12. Great post Susan love all the interesting facts thanks so much for sharing I learned something new and totally want to see the documentary now

  13. Good Evening Suzan!!

    I'm very interested in this whole story, especially when other family members seemed to build their bank accounts. This is a point that has always bothered me in history. I know that you bring out that A. Onassis fix it up some, but, not totally for all the money he had.

    I know, maybe I'm one of the few that sees this as a problem, but, I can't understand why Jackie O couldn't have helped out more. Maybe by buying them clothes that fit and so forth.

    The house is absolutely beautiful!! I love the grey that they used for the outside of the homes. I'm glad that couple restored to it's former beauty.

    I wouldn't mind staying there for the summer with some of my friends!!

    Thanks Suzan!!


  14. The human condition is a mystery to me... how do you get that far detached? I've never heard their story before, so sad. I'll have to rent the movie sometime... have they since passed? What a lovely home now, I bet it's not as pretty as it was then, but I'd take it and yes, I could pay off my mortgage for 1 month's rental!

  15. Hi Suzan! What a beautiful home and I love the story. I sure wish I had a home like this one. Love it!

  16. Suzan you wrote a wonderful post rich with history, photos and interest. I am fascinated by them also and saw the documentary and then the movie with Jessica and Drew. It was brilliant and both keep you transfixed. Thank for your bloggy friendship and for sharing at the hop xo

  17. Hi Suzan - Thanks for visiting and leaving such a nice comment. I have read about this house before. I love discovering the history of people and places. Looking forward to reading your future posts.
    Have a Wonderful Day,

  18. Suzan, I saw the movie / documentary last year. It was excellent. I've wondered what happened to Grey Gardens. What a gorgeous home. I could live there! '-)
    Thanks for sharing this interesting post. The photos show two beautiful women for sure! Sad story.

  19. Phelan Beale, Big Edie's husband, left his wife and daughter and got a "fake Mexican divorce" (as described in the film)

    You can read more about them here:

    The Maysles Brothers were originally going to do a story about Lee Radizwill and her youth growing up. They wanted Big Edie to comment in the proposed film, but when the Maysles met her and Edie, they dropped Lee like a hot potato and concentrated on the Beale women.

    Onassis paid a token amount to fix up the place when it became a huge public scandal that the aunt and cousin of the woman who was married to one of the wealthiest men in the world were living squalor.

    I can't recommend the original documentary highly enough.

    1. Yes - they gave a token amount to make the story " go away " - didn't that blow up in their faces?
      Apparently the Edies never got a cent for the film - which is pretty heartbreaking actually.
      The Maysles were ahead of their time -
      Love these ladies more than I can say..............
      AND yes you have to see the original first - most definitely - but I was blown away by Drew Barrymore's performance!

  20. Suzan, I forgot to ask. Do you know Kathleen @ Cuisine Kathleen? You both live in the Hamptons.

  21. I saw the movie but not the documentary. Would love to see it. Little Edie then went on and lived her life in Bal Harbour FL. I wanted to find out in which building she rented, lol..., but never did. It somehow fascinated me.
    Maya @ Completely Coastal

  22. Really neat post. I'll take it! Love Hampton's House! Stop by

  23. Suzan! Wow. So much history behind this little honeycomb hideout. I love it. It's beautiful.

    Thanks for sharing!!

    Amber @ The Honeysuckle Bus Stop

    1. Thanks so much - they were fascinating, weren't they?

  24. Suzan, I love this house and I want to see that documentary! Can you imagine the cost to restore It? Can't believe how it looked and that the two Edies still lived there. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

  25. Oh I missed this post! Yes, I also saw the documentary and a day or two later, the movie starring Jessica Lang and Drew Barrymore. I found them fascinating! They lived in a fantasy world and I hope they were happy that way. I think it's shameful that Jackie O didn't do more for them.

    I can't believe it's the same house. It's magnificent. I'm glad it has been restored as it honours the girls in a wonderful way.

    Great post.

  26. WOW - thanks so much - ( now I'm striving to get the best post of ALL TIME lol )
    You're so sweet! Thanks Big Edie - thanks Little Edie!
    Will be by to visit soon
    Big hugs,

  27. LOVED the movie and hope to see the documentary some day.
    Don't know if you watch the sitcom "The New Normal" but the little girl did a fabulous impression of little Edie...perhaps it is on youtube, it was wonderful!

  28. I did see part of that documentary. Totally interested in the movie, I'll have to look into that. So glad that Gray Gardens was restored. That sun room is AMAZING!

  29. Ok, I saw the documentary and the movie today and I'm soo sad for the two of them, I'm sure they weren't emotionaly healthy, I think the two were pretty much alike and wild..somewhat crazy, or bipolar! Very depressing story, but so interesting about how some humans have the tendency to cling to material things no matter what, to the point of denial!! Thank you for sharing this Suzan. Have a nice Sunday.

  30. Fascinating story and clips. No wonder you were so excited to write about it. Some of the most beautiful moments (and people) stand stark against chaotic, sad backgrounds. Lynaea @

  31. Suzan,this is a sad but beautiful story and I can see why you adore it.
    Thank you for visiting me and for your sweet comments and following me. I'm following you too. x

  32. Good Afternoon Suzan,
    I remember watching the documentary about Grey Gardens quite a few years ago. I found it so sad that two women could live in such squalid conditions, especially when they were part of such a prestigious family. There was a warmth about Edie and Little Edie which captured my heart. I have also seen the film Jessica Lang and Drew Barrymore and they played their roles fabulously, at times I forgot I was watching a film and not the documentary.
    I have enjoyed reading your blog so much that I have become a new follower. Sending you best wishes from England. I have tried fixing my "no reply blogger" problem, without success, as I believe Google Chrome does not allow me to show my email address. I write the blog Ivy, Phyllis and Me! my email address is Warmest regards, Daphne

    1. Hi Daphne!!!
      Yes Jessica and Drew were fabulous in the movie ( especially Drew ) It's such an incredible story!
      Thanks so much for following - I'll come by and follow back defintely!
      Where in England are you?
      Hubby's from Murfield ( Huddersfield )

  33. Oh my what a crazy life and a beautiful home it is now.

  34. Suzan....what an incredibly interesting post!!! I always learn something new when I visit you, girlie. :) This story was sad and triumphant all rolled into one. I would'ave loved to visit with those ladies, too, and hear them share their life stories with us. Fascinating! And that house???? Oh yeah....THAT one is truly one of my favorites!!! I could definitely see myself walking those floors past those big, gorgeous windows overlooking the expansive lawn and pool. Oh yeah....... :)

    xoxo laurie

  35. The outdoor scenes are very inviting! People are so quirky, aren't they.
    Liz @ Quirky Vistas

  36. That was a great post. Visiting from Wow Us Wednesday. I saw both the documentary and the moview made about the documentary but not the Broadway show.

    1. Fascinating, right?
      Thanks so much Janette!

  37. Great story. Thanks for sharing it.
    Popping by from Wow Us Wednesday

  38. I love this documentary & movie too - and saw the play here in Boston a couple of years ago...truly fascinating women in the most beautifully tragic way possible. Thanks so much for sharing the pics of the renovated Grey Gardens, it's so wonderful to know this house has not only been saved but is if I could only raise that $125K to spend a month there this summer :)


    1. May we could split it and share lol - there's 10 bedrooms afterall!

  39. You have outdone yourself on this post girlfriend! I knew some of the history, but you have shown the ladies and that wonderful home in the most respectful and loving way. I haven't seen the documentary but I believe I will order it from your site today. Thanks for such an entertaining post!

  40. I have seen the documentary and the movie. It was very sad. I had no idea you could now rent it out! Now that would be awesome!

  41. This is a fascinating post - I will have to have a look at that movie - I am SO intrigued! Thanks for sharing

    1. It's a fascinating story!!!
      Try to get the documentary BEFORE you watch the hollywood version - I'm telling you there's no way you can only watch it once - it's just amazing!
      You'll fall in love with these women.
      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  42. This is such an awesome post!! You did a fantastic job on the post. I am featuring it on Pick of the Bunch tonight if my computer will cooperate!! GGGRRR I planned on having the post up hours ago. LOL Thank you so much for sharing at A Bouquet of Talent. Have a fantastic weekend.


  43. This place feels like a dream home! I just LOVE history and it's so fun digging in and finding out more about people, how they lived and all that and this post just did it. You showed the people their story and their house! Definitely gonna watch the movie.
    The patio is the best part of this house along with that small garden gate. I WANNA LIVE HERE!!

  44. Isn't it something else Javeriya?
    You'll be amazed by the story - absolutely amazed!!!
    Have a great wknd, hugs,

  45. We have lived in the 3 Mile Harbor area of East Hampton since 1976. I was surprised to see you write,
    "By the 1970's in fact, there was a NYC ordinance to have the house torn down."
    What would NYC have to do with a house that is located in Suffolk county?

  46. It is amazing story about two very quirky women. I have seen the movie and the documentary and thoroughly enjoyed both. I was fascinated by the house and I am so glad that it has been taken back to its former beauty. Wish I had the money to rent it for the month....oh if those walls could talk!

    1. Isn't it just fascinating Sheryl?
      Thanks so much for coming by!

  47. HI Suzan, Yes we are birds of a feather romantics!! I love this post too. I have several posts like this on my blog of I spend a little more time on facebook as it is faster. Need to find you there. But love blogs and blogging as I can.

    Here is one of my Romantic crazy posts...

    I just followed you too!!

  48. I love the story and have been fascinated by it for years. I follow the Grey Gardens blog, too. Such a sad life and yet, they were happy in their own odd way. Thanks for the link to this post- xo Diana


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