Kilkare: ‘Priced to Sell’ at $45 Million

Storied house had just two owners in 139 years
Perched above the beach at Georgica, Kilkare boasts chevron-ribbed ceilings, wide-plank pumpkin pine floors, and the grand staircase with the widened treads to accommodate women wearing Victorian gowns. Durell Godfrey

Kilkare, the iconic 1879 house that sits dramatically moored atop a 3.42-acre swath of bluff and dunes on the Georgica oceanfront in Wainscott, has hit the market again with a different real estate agent and a notably amended listing that shows the property actually has about one half-acre and 1,500 more square feet than the original listings stated last year.

The seven-bedroom, seven-and-a-half-bath house — the location for movies such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Nanny Diaries” and a frequently mentioned landmark in books and historical tales — is now listed at 6,493 square feet. It is part of the exclusive Georgica Association and remains priced at $45 million, down from its original $55 million a year ago.

Kilkare sits just 50 feet from the ocean and is buttressed by a stone revetment — two features that wouldn’t be allowed today. It also offers nine fireplaces, 332 feet of water frontage, a heated 60-foot pool, and meditation garden with a waterside viewing platform.

“It’s a rare opportunity to find a property like this that has the history, provenance, and positioning that this home does,” said Michael Cantwell, chief marketing officer for Bespoke Real Estate, which is now handling the listing. “It has a view on one side as the sun rises over Georgica Pond and a view to the west as the sun is setting. It’s captivating.”

Eleanora Kennedy and her late husband, Michael Kennedy, a prominent trial lawyer who defended clients such as John Gotti, Timothy Leary, the Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton, and Ivana Trump in her divorce from Donald Trump, became only the second owners of the house in 1975. 

The Trumps rented a small saltbox that used to be part of the grounds for seven years, beginning when they were newlyweds. The Kennedys’ daughter, Anna, was married on the property. The Kennedys loved to entertain, and Kilkare was the frequent site of large, star-studded parties frequented by authors and celebrities. Billy Joel sometimes played the piano into the night. Candice Bergen and Kurt Vonnegut would swing by.

Fog dramatically shrouds Kilkare some mornings. Other days, the unobstructed 360-degree views are startlingly clear and the ocean shimmers and the sound of crashing waves drift into the beachfront rooms. Even the property’s name, which the Kennedys invented, is evocative: Kilkare, they liked to say, represented “a mythical Irish town where all your cares fade away.”

Ms. Kennedy put the house on the market last summer, about 18 months after her husband died. Before the Kennedys, Kilkare had remained in the same family since Camilla and Walter Edwards commissioned ship carpenters to build it in 1877 — an apparently fortuitous choice, given the minimal damage the house suffered during the infamous 1938 Hurricane, which damaged many neighboring houses.

Still, that relatively humble provenance, the fact the house doesn’t boast a big-name architect such as Stanford White or John Russell Pope to protect its survival, has preservationists worried that new owners will come in and demolish it. Then its array of period features — the chevron-ribbed ceilings, the wide-plank pumpkin pine floors, the grand staircase with the widened treads to accommodate women wearing Victorian gowns — would be lost to history.

Even Ms. Kennedy, whom Bespoke declined to make available for comment, acknowledged to The New York Times a year ago that she suspected the house would appeal to three kinds of buyers: someone who “will love it the way it is,” someone who will modernize it, or “someone who will come with a wrecking ball.” 

Upon purchase in 1975, Ms. Kennedy promised the seller, Kitty Edwards, a descendant of the original owners, not to disturb the house’s essential character. The Kennedys honored the vow during the renovations they did undertake.

They skipped adding air-conditioning and decided to continue relying on breezes from Kilkare’s 85 windows to avoid dramatically disturbing the layout. They added bathrooms, converted a butler’s pantry into part of an enlarged eat-in kitchen with a new fireplace, freshened the paint and floors, and repaired the plaster. Otherwise, they left the house pretty much undisturbed.

But will current buyers love the house as is, as the Kennedys did?

Mr. Cantwell said demolishing Kilkare is probably “not the way this is going to go down.”

“What’s more likely,” he said, is that a new buyer will appreciate how the 3.42-acre size of the property allows them to build a significantly sized new structure and keep Kilkare standing, because, “They could modernize the interior. . . . But they wouldn’t be able to re-build exactly where it is now.” 

“Whatever happens is going to be taste-specific,” Mr. Cantwell said. “This property is rare, of significant size. It’s priced to sell. And if we can find the right person for it, all the better.”