Rent the Legendary hamptons estate Grey Gardens

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Another winter in a summer town. Although Edith Bouvier Beale (now known to history as Little Edie) was desperate to escape the season’s bleak chill along the East Hampton seashore, we think it would be a great place to hide out and write undisturbed for a few months. And that is exactly what you can do: For the low, low price of $150,000, the legendary house and Bouvier Beale domicile Grey Gardens is for rent from now until the end of May (and that includes Memorial Day!). Known principally as the broken-down, lost-in-historical-twilight setting of the Mayles brothers 1975 documentary Grey Gardens—a portrait of Little Edie and her mother, Edith Ewing Beale (Big Edie), the cousin and aunt, respectively, of Jackie and Lee Bouvier, then living a reclusive life defined equally by nostalgia and squalor—the house was built in 1901 from an architectural design by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe, who also created many of the original Hamptons residences of that era. In 1924, Phelan Beale and his wife, Edith, acquired the property, which they used, as people did then and still do, as a country retreat to escape noisy and traffic-clogged Manhattan. As fans of the Edies well know—and there are untold numbers of them—there ensued a charmed life filled with summer society galas, intimate musicales and debutante balls, a gay ritual during the between-the-wars years that, through divorce, indulgence and, ultimately, a lack of funds, degenerated by the 1970s into the iconic spectacle of a mother and daughter living in a house with scores of cats and mounds of garbage but no running water. The press went wild, and the former First Lady found herself in the uncomfortable and very public position of having to restore the house with the funds of her husband, magnate Aristotle Onassis. The documentary exposed mother and daughter’s outsize personalities and eccentricities to the world, and they became late-in-life celebrities. Big Edie died in 1977, but Little Edie went on, surviving until 2002 until her death in Bal Harbour, Florida.

Meanwhile, Grey Gardens itself has been owned since 1979 by the legendary newsman Ben Bradlee, and his wife, author Sally Quinn. The couple used up acres of money, time and patience, but the estate ultimately was brought back to its original elegance. And if you want to be there during a glorious Hamptons summer, enjoying the sunrooms and beach and fabled gardens, the rental goes down a bit to $125,000 for the two months of June and July. A current occupancy might seem the better bargain, but you also lose out on that prospect of a morning swim with Alec Baldwin.

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