Friday, November 29, 2013

Merrywood

'Merrywood': Circa 1920's. 

Overlooking the Potomac River, and located just a few miles away from George Washington's 'Mount Vernon', 'Merrywood' is one of the finest estates in Virginia, and is just northwest of Washington. Built around 1919, the 46-acre estate was purchased in the mid 1930's by Hugh D. Auchincloss II, who is most famous for being the step-father of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie, whose mother married Hughdie (as Auchincloss was called) when she was 13 years old, grew up at the estate, spending her free-time swimming, horseback-riding and playing tennis on the estate's grounds. Jackie's mother, Janet, was known for the series of lavish parties she hosted at the estate, earning the title Mistress of Merrywood


Jackie Kennedy with her mother, Janet Auchincloss, having tea with
one of Janet's many dogs on the grounds of 'Merrywood'. 
When not in Washington, the Auchincloss family spent time at their magical country estate in Newport, R.I., 'Hammersmith Farm', the last functioning farm in Newport. It was here that Janet and Hughdie would host Jackie's wedding to John F. Kennedy, a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Later, both 'Merrywood' and 'Hammersmith Farm' would serve as fundraising HeadQuarters for Kennedy's campaign for President. 


'Merrywood': Circa 1940's. 
With Kennedy's election as U. S. President, the couple was able to move out of 'Merrywood' and into The White House, though their visits to the estate were no less frequent! The Kennedy's visited 'Merrywood' so often, that it was officially given the code name "Hamlet" by the U.S. Secret Service. 

It was around this time, that Hughdie quietly listed 'Merrywood' for sale. With his once successful firm now taking huge losses, the financial burden of maintaining 'Merrywood' and 'Hammersmith Farm' was becoming too heavy for Hughdie. For years, he had been asking Janet to start economizing at 'Merrywood', which resulted in the layoff of many of the groundskeepers. Finally, in 1963, an offer was submitted for $650,000 (the estate was listed at $850,000). Hughdie accepted the offer, and with Janet purchased a four-story townhouse in Georgetown, a few miles down from The White House. 


John Dickerson, age 7, whose parents purchased 'Merrywood' in 1964. 
In 1964, 'Merrywood' was purchased by Wyatt and Nan Dickerson, who moved in with their son, John. In his book, "On Her Trail", John describes that  "before Barbara Walters, before Katie Couric, there was Nancy Dickerson. The first female member of the Washington TV news corps, Nancy was the only woman covering many of the most iconic events of the sixties. She was the first reporter to speak to President Kennedy after his inauguration and she was on the Mall with Martin Luther King Jr. during the march on Washington; she had dinner with LBJ the night after Kennedy was assassinated and got late-night calls from President Nixon. Ambitious, beautiful and smart, she dated senators and congressmen and got advice and accolades from Edward R. Murrow. She was one of President Johnson's favorite reporters, and he often greeted her on-camera with a familiar "Hello, Nancy." In the '60s Nancy and her husband Wyatt Dickerson were Washington's golden couple, and the capital's power brokers coveted invitations to swank dinners at their Merrywood estate on the Potomac.


Wyatt and Nan Dickerson, pictured at 'Merrywood' during the happier
times of their marriage.
Wyatt and Nan divorced in 1981, and together they sold the place in 1984 for $4.25 million to Alan and Dianne Kay, a high-powered couple who used the home to fundraise for their numerous charities. In the 90's, the home played host to Michael Jackson, who appeared at the home for the Kay's fundraising drive for the Capital Children's Museum. The home was sold for $15 million in 1999, and again in 2005 it was sold for $24 million, this time to Steve Case of AOL. The estate beautiful estate remains in his ownership today. 

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