Grey Gardens, the East Hampton estate and namesake of the Maysles brother’s 1975 documentary about mother/daughter shut-ins Edith “Big Edie” Ewing Bouvier Beale and Edith “Little Edie” Bouvier Beale, is up for sale. You could buy it for $20 million or you could leave it to it’s rightful owners: the raccoons and feral cats that once infested its floors and walls.
The home has been refurbished since it was bought by author/journalist Sally Quinn from Little Edie for $220,000 in 1979. According to it’s Corcoran real estate listing, it now features 9 bedrooms, 7.5 bathrooms, a heated pool, view of the ocean, and a pool/guest house where you can keep your obnoxious elderly mother. Under Quinn’s ownership, it’s even played host to the likes of Lauren Bacall, Nora Ephron, and Jack Nicholson. The New York Times even shared these anecdotes from the charmed parties she’d host with husband Ben Bradlee, the former executive editor of the Washington Post:
During one party, the producer Norman Lear paid a group of violinists to pop out of the foliage and surprise the guests. Their frequent clambakes were just as memorable: Ms. Quinn, Mr. Bradlee and their friends once poured rosé into soda bottles, trying to avoid the beach police like a bunch of rich teenagers.
“When people would walk into the house,” Ms. Quinn said, “you almost felt like fairy dust had been sprinkled all over us.”
What remains of the Beales, Quinn tells the Times, is a china cabinet full of cat figurines and, during long storms, the occasional intense smell of cat urine in one corner of the foyer—the same foyer, I presume, where Little Edie performed her best flag dancing:
Since deciding to sell the house, Quinn:
...has been focused on choosing the right person to sell it: Since listing the house, she has replaced one real estate agent with another. Michael Schultz of Corcoran Real Estate followed close behind on this day, and was careful when explaining why the house would be a “specific” sale. For one, he said, the house is old. In this area, it is common for the superwealthy to buy homes just to raze them and start over.
“People think they want an old house,” Mr. Schultz said. “People want a new house that looks old.”
Grey Gardens is close to the ocean, but it isn’t technically a mansion, at least not by East Hampton standards. There are 10 bedrooms, sure, but no in-home movie theater. (How could anyone survive?) Mr. Schultz emphasized that the home, with its gray shingles, tennis court and pool, not to mention its legacy, is not priced to be torn down. Whether the person who buys the home agrees will be a different story.
Once again, there is only one true answer to the question “What to do with Grey Gardens?” and that is to have it registered as a historical landmark so no one—except maybe Jerry the handyman—can touch it and leave the estate to nature’s scavengers. Sadly, raccoons deal in garbage, not money, so, unless they start understanding the value of trash (like the Beale’s did), it seems unlikely that Quinn and her team of realtors will do the property justice.