When I go down to the sandy shore
I can think of nothing I want more
Than to live by the booming blue sea
As the seagulls flutter around about me
I can run about when the tide is out
With the wind and the sea all about
And the seagulls are swirling and diving for fish
Oh–to live by the sea is my only wish
–Jackie Bouvier, age 10
There is a rich history that comes with “Wildmoor.” It’s the original Bouvier property built in 1895, that comes complete with a legacy of glamour and art. The residence, located at 55 La Forest Lane in East Hampton, was a place where the Bouvier family would host weekend polo matches nearby and entertain friends, the home where Jacqueline Lee “Jackie” Kennedy Onassis spent summers as a young child, a lifetime before she would move into the White House and an international icon of style and culture.
The former First Lady was born in 1929 at Southampton Hospital to parents American Wall Street stockbroker John “Black Jack” Vernou Bouvier III and Janet Lee Bouvier, but the Bouvier family legacy was embedded in East Hampton history well before she arrived. John was born in East Hampton in 1891. In 1926 the Bouviers joined the Maidstone Club, and John and Janet were married in 1928 at St. Philomena’s Catholic Church, which is now Most Holy Trinity.
John’s nickname “Black Jack” referred to his flamboyant lifestyle. It was said that he had an affinity for drinking, gambling and philandering. Soon Jackie’s parent’s marriage would become strained by John’s alcoholism and affairs. The couple divorced in 1940.
John’s sister, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, lived close by with her children at the notorious Grey Gardens estate in Georgica. Edith and her daughter of the same name, referred to as “Little Edie,” were the subjects of the 1976 documentary Grey Gardens.
Jackie’s grandfather, Major John Vernou Bouvier Jr., purchased Wildmoor in 1910. In 1925 he would purchase, with part of his inheritance, a larger estate named Lasata, located close by. Jackie’s parents would use Wildmoor, which was a simpler home, during the summer.
Growing up, it is noted that Jackie idolized her father, who reportedly favored her over her sister, socialite Caroline Lee Radziwill. He would say Jackie was “the most beautiful daughter a man ever had.”
As a child, Jackie was a bright student but at times misbehaved. A teacher of hers once described her as “a darling child, the prettiest little girl, very clever, very artistic, and full of the devil.”
During her time in East Hampton, Jackie became a competitive equestrienne. The New York Times wrote in 1940 following a competition at Madison Square Garden, “Jacqueline Bouvier, an eleven-year-old equestrienne from East Hampton, Long Island, scored a double victory in the horsemanship competition. Miss Bouvier achieved a rare distinction. The occasions are few when a young rider wins both contests in the same show.” Horse riding would remain a lifelong passion of hers.
Her favorite horse was named Danceuse. Many photographs of the two in East Hampton by famed society photographer Bert Morgan would appear in the book Young Jackie. A rare collection of these images was unveiled at Clinton Academy Museum by the East Hampton Historical Society in 2017 in a show that chronicled some of Jackie’s formative years, recalling a bygone era.
Morgan, who was known for photographing the social set from Palm Beach to East Hampton, was encouraged by Janet to seek out young Jackie when she participated in East End events. He photographed her at horse shows, dog shows and fashion benefits, as she grew from a child into a young adult, according to the East Hampton Historical Society.
In 1960, the famed Abstract Expressionist Adolph Gottlieb bought Wildmoor to be by the ocean. His art studio, a converted carriage house on the property, is filled with light and surrounded by gardens.
Today, Wildmoor, which is on the market for $7.5 million (Paula Butler of Sotheby’s International Realty holds the listing), has all the makings of a classic East Hampton summer home. The 4,291-square-foot home located on one acre of land offers six-bedrooms and four and a half bathrooms, a gabled roof, and a wraparound porch, a stunning atrium that flows into a pergola-covered terrace. The location, right off of Apaquogue Road, is just a short walk to the ocean. Listen as the ocean breeze blows, and poetry of long ago still hangs in the air. Oh-to live by the sea is my only wish…