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Friday, November 30, 2007

Hammersmith Farm

Hammersmith Farm in Newport, Rhode Island, the childhood home of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, remains an impressive example of 19th century expression of wealth and social standing, when the lions of industry and society created havens for themselves, a place to get away from it all.

More subdued in style than the goliaths of architecture you’ll find on the Newport Mansions tour, the shingle-style 28-room cottage has the distinction of becoming an icon not of the Gilded Age but of the 1960s. The wedding reception of Jacqueline and John F. Kennedy was held here in 1953. Afterwards, during his presidency, the Victorian mansion was dubbed “the summer White House” by the press as President and Mrs. Kennedy were frequent summertime visitors.

With gardens originally designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the lawns and meadows stretch to the bay. The dock there had once berthed the Presidential yacht “Honey Fitz.” However, Robert Redford also took advantage of it in the film “The Great Gatsby” (1974). Contrasting with this period of elegant notariety, the 50-acre property was still the last working farm in the city of Newport.

John W. Auchincloss, the great-grandfather of Jacqueline Kennedy's stepfather, Hugh D. Auchincloss, built the house in 1887. At the time this photo was taken, the mansion was open to the public for tours. Having been sold along with many of its original furnishings, the property is now privately owned, and it is now closed to the public.

The image of a young married couple being photographed in their wedding clothes against an expansive lawn bordered by a rustic rail fence is what most people who have not seen the property in person can recall. The former debutante and the former Senator made history, which was still part of the hazy future when their wedding photo was taken. Located on Ocean Drive in Newport, the mansion can still be seen from the road, and it has achieved the privacy which eluded it for so long.


Anonymous said...

In 1968, my family moved to Newport from Kaneohe, Hawaii. My dad was a pilot in the USMC. At the time, we moved our horses from Hawaii to Newport (at the time, it was rare to move horses across the country).

My mother was riding her horse around Newport one day. Mrs. Auchincloss pulled up beside my mother in her car. My mother ended up getting an invitation to board our horses at Hammersmith Farm (Mrs. Auchincloss was looking for a riding companion).

It was quite an experience. Mr. and Mrs. Auchincloss were wonderful. I was 10 at the time and, until our move, had lived in Hawaii. The culture shock from moving from Hawaii to Newport was even more pronounced once we were able to ride our horses around Hammersmith Farm.

The stables at Hammersmith Farm were infinitely better than the quarters we lived in on base.

I remember JFK, Jr. driving around the farm on his go cart. He was very personable, but I was pretty reticent about approaching him because he was a President's son.

When I would go out riding, tour buses would stop and the passengers would take my picture. Little did they know that they were wasting their film taking a picture of a service brat!

Hugh Auchincloss was awesome. He gave me a tour of the house and once even drove me around in his Rolls-Royce.

B. Denny
Shreveport, Louisiana

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you so much for sharing your memories of Hammersmith Farm with us. Your comments are a terrific contribution to this blog, and I really appreciate it. I'm very interested to know about anyone's personal experiences with the locations that are discussed on this site.

What an impressive experience for a young child.

Thanks again.

Unknown said...

The month after Jackie died, I took my three young nieces from Nevada to Hammersmith Farm. It was owned by Camelot Gardens at the time, and was open to the public. Since the Rhode Island schools had not recessed for the summer, we had the entree house and grounds to ourselves for the day. The guides let us go wherever we wished, into Jackie's bedroom, her bathroom, the kitchen, the deck room, and the wonderful sun porch. It remains one of the most memorable days of our lives, since the house was truly a family home, and we felt so welcome. Lynn Shoen

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thanks for sharing your memory of this special place, Lynn. I had much the same feeling when I toured the house years ago, when it was still open to the public, that it was a very homey place. I'm glad you got a chance to see it with your nieces. Your visit, following so close after her death, must have seemed especially poignant.

Unknown said...

I am now 70 and I grew up in Bristol, Rhode Island. One of our favorite things to do even as kids was to drive around and see the "Summer Cottages" in Newport. From Bristol we went over Mt. Hope Bridge onto Aquidneck Island. There towns are locsated on Aquidneck: Portsmouth, Middletown and Newport. One of our favorite places to see was the stables at Hammersmith. They were much closer to the the public road and were a thing of beauty! Stone and wood and gorgeous animals! I grew up wanting those stables to be my home! I haven't seen them in over 20 years as I live in Texas now but I pray they were restored when the home was. Robin Miller Holbrook

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your memories of this special place. I don't know about the stables at Hammersmith, but perhaps someone else can tell us.

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