Readers: This month you’ll be awash with coverage — including in this newspaper — of the 50th anniversary of America’s crime of the 20th century: The Nov. 22, 1963 slaying of President John F. Kennedy. The Palm Beach County connections to the Kennedys are legion. We’ll visit “local angles” over the next three weeks.
We’ll start with the Kennedy estate in Palm Beach.
It’s been the scene of joy and heartache for the Kennedys, considered one of America’s royal families. Rose Kennedy first visited Palm Beach with her father in 1911. After she married Joseph P. Kennedy, the couple often visited Palm Beach with their young children. In 1933, they bought a Spanish-style Mizner home with seven bedrooms on North Ocean Boulevard. The house had no air conditioning, and with its windows and doors flung open to the breeze, it also was exposed to the humidity.
When their children were growing up, the Kennedys spent summers in Hyannis Port and Christmas and Easter holidays in Palm Beach. Every Sunday, the family would fill a pew at St. Edward’s Catholic Church on North County Road. After church, the children would often go to Green’s Pharmacy across the street for a hamburger and french fries, then home for touch football on the lawn or tennis on the family’s court. In the early years, the Kennedys were considered ordinary by Palm Beach money standards. They were also Irish-Catholics and Democrats in a den of old-money Republicans.
By the time Jack Kennedy ran for president in 1960, most of his siblings were married and the home was constantly filled with relatives and children; the family rented or borrowed nearby homes for the overflow. After the Bay of Pigs and Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy had a bomb shelter built on Peanut Island near the Coast Guard station, in case he was in Palm Beach during a nuclear attack. John Kennedy made his final trip to Palm Beach on Friday, Nov. 15, 1963, seven days before he was assassinated.
Tragedy and scandal would continue to follow the Kennedys in Palm Beach. Robert Kennedy’s son, David, 28, died in 1984 of a drug overdose at the Brazilian Court Hotel in Palm Beach.
And in 1991, John Kennedy’s nephew William Smith was accused of raping a Jupiter woman on the beach behind the estate. He was acquitted. The Kennedys sold the mansion in 1995.
NEXT WEEK: The Palm Beach plot to kill JFK
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