Pre-auction exhibition of Kennedy furnishings re-creates “Camelot” in WPB

Kennedy family furnishings from the "Winter White House" will be auctioned Jan 23

Jan.January 15, 2016 02:15 PM

An exhibition of furnishings from the former Kennedy estate in Palm Beach has turned an auction house into a Camelot experience.

Leslie Hindman Auctioneers in West Palm Beach on Thursday opened its exhibition of Kennedy family furnishings from the Palm Beach estate known as the “Winter White House,” including walnut beds and a massage table that President John F. Kennedy used.

The week-long exhibition of beds, chairs, cabinets, tables and other items will precede a January 23 auction of 153 “lots,” each with one or more items from the former Winter White House.

A slick catalog lists the presale price estimates for each lot, and they total about $87,000.

“But we would think that it would exceed that,” Donna Tribby, managing director of Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, said in an interview with The Real Deal.

“An auction like this, a celebrity auction, it’s very hard to judge. So we make an estimate [for each item] as if it pretty much belonged to anybody,” Tribby said. “These are low presale estimates.”

She said a Louis XV Provincial style mahogany banquet table probably will command one of the highest prices in the auction. The presale price estimate is $4,000 to $6,000.

This was the dining room table where the extended Kennedy family enjoyed many meals during stays in their Palm Beach estate, which John F. Kennedy’s father Joseph P. Kennedy bought in 1933 for $120,000.

Tribby said the typical seating arrangement at family meals placed Joseph Kennedy and his wife Rose Kennedy at opposite ends of the long mahogany table: “Joe and Jack sat next to their father, and Bobby and Teddy sat next to their mother, and the girls [their sisters] sat in the middle.”

Two pairs of upholstered chairs also could command much more than their presale estimates of $800 to $1,200 each, she said. They were located in a small library off the dining room where President Kennedy interviewed and selected all but two of the members of his cabinet. (The two were Robert McNamara, who served as defense secretary, and Robert Kennedy, whom his brother selected as attorney general.)

Competitive bidding also many unfold for twin walnut beds where the future president and his brother, Joe Kennedy Jr., slept as teenagers and young men during their stays at the 11-bedroom family estate in Palm Beach. President Kennedy and his wife Jackie Kennedy slept in the twin beds when the estate became known as the Winter White House.

The twin walnut beds and many other furnishings in the estate were supplied by highly regarded Palm Beach architect Addison Mizner, who designed the residence at 1095 North Ocean Boulevard, where President Kennedy wrote his inaugural speech and the book Profiles in Courage. JFK also spent time at the Palm Beach residence recovering from back surgery.

John K. Castle bought the property in 1995 along with most of the furnishings. In May of last year, TGS Florida LLC, managed by Jane Goldman, bought the property from Castle for $31 million. But Castle chose to sell the furnishings separately through Leslie Hindman Auctioneers.

“Since the word got out, we’ve been receiving calls from all over the United States,” Tribby said. “We have bidders from China, Tokyo, Paris. All over.”

She said the celebrity nature of the Winter White House auction could produce some eye-popping bids.

For example, Tribby said Leslie Hindman Auctioneers expected less than $100 for a lithograph of Worth Avenue that was owned by deceased Palm Beach socialite Lilly Pulitzer and sold at 2013 auction.

“She hadn’t signed it. It wasn’t a limited edition,” she said. “We had given it an estimate of $40 to $60. It sold for $16,000.”

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