She was the last surviving sibling of one of the most famous families in the world. This week the New York home of Jean Kennedy Smith, who died in June, aged 92, goes on the market. The gracious property, in a quiet enclave of Manhattan, offers a glimpse into the lives of the illustrious dynasty and reminders of the Kennedys' continuing legacy.
The youngest sister of President John F Kennedy, who served as US ambassador to Ireland from 1993 to 1998, lived at 4 Sutton Place in Manhattan for the final 20 years of her life. A light-filled prewar duplex, overlooking the East River, the property has been placed on the market seeking $6.4 million, or about €5.35 million, by the Corcoran Group.
Amanda Kennedy Smith says her mother bought the East Side apartment when she finished her term as ambassador. "We had grown up in a brownstone in Manhattan, which my mother sold when she went to Dublin. Once she decided to come back to the US she began looking for a more suitable home."
Her mother chose the duplex in part because of its location – “the view over the 59th Street bridge and across the river. She also loved to walk – by the river or along 57th Street, a street that is so central and yet still residential.” Jean Kennedy Smith’s sister Pat – Patricia Kennedy Lawford – also lived across the street.
Initially, the four-bedroom home spanned the entire sixth floor of the condominium building and half of the floor above. When the young couple living in the adjoining apartment on the seventh floor moved on, as their family grew, she bought the second unit. But she broadly kept the configuration, keeping a separate two-bed space for guests.
Amanda Kennedy Smith says that although the apartment was in many ways her mother’s “empty-nest home”, her family have many memories of her time there. “It was always filled with people. Writers, artists. Her guest list was really interesting – people who were at the top of their field.”
Amanda celebrated her engagement with a party there, and her mother threw many gatherings for her throughout her own writing career. “Then, when I had children, she would have Christmas parties there, for all of her grandchildren.”
As ambassador to Ireland, Jean Kennedy Smith is remembered for her work behind the scenes on the peace process. Appointed by US president Bill Clinton, she arrived in Dublin at a crucial point in Northern Ireland politics. She played a key role in encouraging Clinton to meet Gerry Adams, during his long presidency of Sinn Féin, at the White House in 1995. She also visited Northern Ireland despite contrary advice from Washington. In 1998 Kennedy Smith was conferred with honorary Irish citizenship, in recognition of her service to the country.
Her deep links with Ireland are evident in the property now for sale. In her time in Dublin, during which she lived at the US ambassador’s residence, in the Phoenix Park, she got to know many Irish literary and cultural figures, an influence she brought with her when she renovated her home.
She brought muralists and trompe-l'oeil painters from Ireland to ornament the walls. Some of the lacquerwork is still evident in the interior of the property. Similarly, illuminations from the Book of Kells and Celtic knots are reminders of her time in the home of her ancestors.