A Staunch Character with Deep Pockets Has Purchased Grey Gardens


Sally Quinn, owner of the fabled Grey Gardens in East Hampton, has accepted an offer on the property. Last asking price was $18 million. Excitingly, she’s also going to be holding a yard sale of the furnishings, including “the pieces she discovered in the attic when she bought the place.” (On the day of the sale, that tall lady knocking other people away from the choice pieces will be yours truly.)

Grey Gardens is not only one of the most famous estates in East Hampton, it’s one of the loveliest, with a truly stunning exterior and summery, old-school-elegant interiors. When the property was listed last February, it was available for sale for the first time in almost 40 years. Agents were Corcoran’s Michael Schultz and Susan Ryan, who listed the place at $20 million, and then $2 million was knocked off the price in April.

The history of the storied estate at 3 West End Road goes as follows: The house was designed by architect Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe in 1897. It was purchased in 1913 by Robert Hill and his wife Anna Gilman Hill, who hired landscape designer Ruth Bramley to design the garden, including the ornate concrete walls from Spain that give the estate its name.

Grey Gardens living room
Grey Gardens living room, Photo: Corcoran Group

In 1924, Phelan Beale and Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale purchased the house. Phelan was a law partner of John Bouvier, Jr. and had married Bouvier’s daughter, Edith. Bouvier’s Further Lane home, Lasata, where his granddaughter Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis was a frequent visitor, also just sold.

Phelan Beale left his wife, and for many years Edith, known as “Big Edie,” and daughter “Little Edie” lived alone in increasing poverty, mental illness and squalor, mostly ignored by their relations. They became famous in 1975 when a documentary, Grey Gardens, was filmed about their daily lives and their relationship by the Maysles Brothers. The film has subsequently been acclaimed a classic. Eventually, embarrassed, their cousin Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had the house cleaned up.

Grey Gardens windows
Grey Gardens windows, Photo: Corcoran Group

After Big Edie’s death, Little Edie put Grey Gardens on the market. Ben Bradlee, who was editor of the Washington Post during Watergate, and wife Sally Quinn, also a journalist, purchased the estate in 1979 for $220,000. The house was in terrible condition again—the agent refused to even set foot inside and Quinn recalled later that the home “was worse than in the movie,” although Little Edie told the Bradlees, “All it needs is a coat of paint!”

RELATED: Grey Gardens Available as Unique Holiday 2016 Rental

Main garden at Grey Gardens
Main garden at Grey Gardens, Photo: Corcoran Group

The Bradlees lovingly restored and renovated the dignified old place. The property is 1.7 acres with still-stunning gardens, while the house boasts 10 bedrooms and 6.5 baths. It probably needs some updates, including the quirky kitchen, but is basically fine as is. Were we the buyer, we’d insist the framed posters of the movie and HBO adaptation be included. (Cans of cat food and hot plates in every bedroom are extra, of course. Just don’t let the cat go to the bathroom right behind your portrait.) Congrats to the new owners!

3 West End Road, East Hampton

Grey Gardens Fairy Cottage
Grey Gardens Fairy Cottage, Photo: Corcoran Group
Garden door at Grey Gardens
Garden door at Grey Gardens, Photo: Corcoran Group