$28m for Grey Gardens

Ms Sally Quinn (right) at her Grey Gardens home (above), which inspired a film of the same name (left, on poster).
Ms Sally Quinn at her Grey Gardens home, which inspired a film of the same name (on poster).PHOTOS: NYTIMES
Ms Sally Quinn (right) at her Grey Gardens home (above), which inspired a film of the same name (left, on poster).
Ms Sally Quinn at her Grey Gardens home (above), which inspired a film of the same name (on poster).PHOTOS: NYTIMES
Ms Sally Quinn (right) at her Grey Gardens home (above), which inspired a film of the same name (left, on poster).
Ms Sally Quinn at her Grey Gardens home, which inspired a film of the same name (above, on poster).PHOTOS: NYTIMES

The house in New York with a nearly mythic history, which was the subject of a documentary film and musical, is now up for sale

EAST HAMPTON (New York) • On a recent afternoon, Ms Sally Quinn walked through Grey Gardens, her fabled summer home, one that has been the subject of both a documentary film and a Broadway musical, and passed by a glass menagerie of tiny kittens.

The figurines had once belonged to Edith Bouvier Beale, better known as Little Edie, a woman of many cats, who for years lived in the house with her mother, Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale, known as Big Edie. Both were former socialites and relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

The figurines were among the many artefacts that journalist- author Quinn kept when she bought the house from the younger Beale in 1979, paying US$220,000 for what was then a place of almost unimaginable squalor.

Restoring the home was not for the faint of heart, but Ms Quinn was undeterred. In fact, she was smitten.

"'It's yours,'" she recalled Little Edie saying to her. "She did a little pirouette in the hall and said, 'All it needs is a coat of paint.'"

The home was long ago restored to its old Hamptons charm. It is decorated in soft blues and floral wallpaper and dotted with fat-leaf potted plants.

Ms Quinn recently put a price on parting with Grey Gardens: It is listed for US$19.995 million (S$28.2 million).

During a recent visit to East Hampton, she walked from room to room, pointing out wicker furniture, chaise longues and a set of china with a floral pattern. All were among the treasures she discovered in the attic that first year and lugged down to preserve.

After Grey Gardens was restored, she and her husband Benjamin C. Bradlee, former editor of The Washington Post, treated it as a retreat where famous friends, including actors Lorne Michaels, Jack Nicholson and Lauren Bacall, would visit in August.

As time wore on, the parties slowed. The death of writer Nora Ephron, a close friend who lived across the street, in 2012 took some of the magic away and it all but left when Mr Bradlee died in 2014.

After his death, Ms Quinn, 75, said, the decision to sell was not difficult.

Whoever buys Grey Gardens will take on a home with a nearly mythic history.

Completed in 1897, it became infamous under the care (or lack thereof) of Little Edie and her mother, the first cousin and aunt of Jackie Onassis.

Their plight generated headlines when the Suffolk County health department raided the house in 1971. The authorities cited every known housing code violation. Onassis ended up footing the bill for a clean-up.

The women became the subject of Grey Gardens, Albert and David Maysles' 1975 documentary. The brothers captured a relationship defined by financial downfall and unhealthy emotional dependence.

Over the years, the Edies have morphed into something of a cult sensation - inspiring, among other projects, a 2009 HBO movie starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore.

With summer still months away, Ms Quinn is not planning to return to East Hampton, at least not for an extended period.

"You want the best for your child," she said of her decision to sell. "But at some point, you've given it up."

Besides, she reasons, Washington is where the story is.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 04, 2017, with the headline '$28m for Grey Gardens'. Print Edition | Subscribe