Hickory Hill Estate in McLean has been the seat of political influence, social change and above all else, a family home. The 18-room Georgian mansion is now being offered for sale at the price of $25 million by Robert F. Kennedy’s widow, Ethel.
Interest in the large estate has been “significant,” according to Dianne Fentress, the Sotheby’s representative for the property. Hickory Hill is listed with Washington Fine Properties, an affiliate of Sotheby’s International Realty.
Though the Kennedys refuse to comment on Hickory Hill, some information is known about the property and the lives of the Kennedys while they resided in McLean.
Robert and Ethel Kennedy bought the house in 1957 from John F. Kennedy, who was at that time a U.S. senator. JFK purchased the home from Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson when he married Jacqueline Kennedy in 1953.
Robert and Ethel raised their 11 children at Hickory Hill. Ethel stayed at the home after RFK’s assassination and only recently decided to move permanently to another house she owns in Hyannisport, Mass.
Hickory Hill sits on nearly six acres in the heart of McLean. It has 13 bedrooms and 13 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, two swimming pools, a stable, a small movie theater and a tennis court.
Holly Templin, who grew up next to Hickory Hill, remembers the Kennedys as many residents remember them. “They kept to themselves most of the time. You didn’t see them very often,” said Templin.
In the 1970s, the Kennedys, animal lovers, hosted community pet shows that were open to pedigreed and mutt dogs alike, as well as the community. Templin remembers well the children’s seven dogs roaming the neighborhood and no one along the quiet McLean street asking that the dogs be restrained.
“They did love animals. They used to have an alligator in the basement. It was a mini-alligator or something, but I remember watching it in the basement through those bubble window things that people used to have,” Templin said.
Neighborhood children were often invited onto the property for play. “They had a zip wire in the back, and we all used to play on that. That was great,” remembered Templin.
No firm offers have been accepted for the property, which has residents concerned that Hickory Hill could be bought by a developer who could build several houses on the lot. McLean resident Sheila Richards said, “It would be a real shame if it was developed. It’s a part of McLean’s history. It’s what put it on the map, really.”
Others in the community believe that, while expensive, Hickory Hill provides the rare opportunity to purchase a slice of American history and will ultimately be purchased as a home or corporate retreat.