This is where Robert Kennedy, his wife, Ethel, and eleven children lived both before and after Bobby’s assassination in 1968.
It’s shown as the building appeared in 1970, along with an interview with Ethel, who introduced some of her favorite aspects of the “playhouse.”
Hickory Hill was in the Kennedy family for more than five decades, first being purchased by Jack & Jackie in 1955. In 1956, JFK sold the house to his parents, who, in turn, rented it to Robert & Ethel Kennedy — who bought it outright in the ’60s. (The family sold the house to a local businessman in 2009.)
There’s one other thing for which the backyard shown below is notable. Of those who were old enough to remember 1963, a common question is: “Where were you when you heard that President Kennedy had been killed?”
For JFK’s younger brother, Bobby, the answer would be that he was having lunch beside this very pool.
The Kennedy family pool house
Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy: “Our pool house is the children’s escape.”
Behind her house on Hickory Hill in McLean, Virginia, Mrs. Robert Kennedy has found the answer to the needs of her eleven mini-to-midi children for extra elbow room — a poolside playhouse. “Somehow, it turned out to be more for them than for me.”
Designed by architect John Carl Warneke in the manner of a little French manoir, the pool house (its main room is on the cover) offers enough space for raising a rumpus, curling up with a book, watching movies, dancing to a jukebox, cooking up a storm.
“I’m a terrible cook,” says Mrs. Kennedy, “but the girls are amazingly good, especially, you might know, with rich things like chocolate cake and brownies.
“And they much prefer eating indoors, which seems a little odd of them. More grown up, I suppose, than munching around the pool, which is what I like.”
Home to the Kennedy family movie night
“Once a week,” says Mrs. Kennedy, “we have a movie… There’s a screen at one end of the room and a projector and seats at the other. Finding a movie for children these days isn’t easy, believe me.
“At any time, it’s a nice room to loll in, which we all do, including the dogs. The children read here, or do their soul searching, and when that palls, they climb up the roof and slide down it.”
“This is where I like to hear the patter of little bare wet feet — just up at the house.”
Beautifully organized, Mrs. Kennedy could probably keep busy and amused if they lived in a shoe.
Even so, although Hickory Hill is a big house, the pool house is called a godsend with reason. (In more ways than one: Forty children were fed and bedded down in it during the Vietnam Moratorium during November.)
In addition to the living-room core, there are two wings — one a ladies’ dressing room [pink], the other, for gentlemen [yellow]. Children file left or right according to gender.
The kitchen, part of the ladies’ wing, is where the tyro cooks of the clan perform. On grown-up party nights, however, brownies give way to more substantial fare; and when the family is away, inner city children have daily use of both the pool and the playhouse.