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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

General information
Architectural styleGeorgian Revival
Location700 Chain Bridge Rd., McLean, Virginia
Completedc. 1919
ClientNewbold Noyes Sr.
Grounds7 acres (2.8 ha)
Known forChildhood home of Gore Vidal, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and John Dickerson (journalist)
Other information
Number of rooms36 rooms

Merrywood is a historic home located in McLean, Virginia on the Palisades overlooking the Potomac River that has hosted several presidents and members of the British royal family. The Georgian Revival style brick dwelling was built in 1919.


The land upon which the estate was built once formed part of General Henry Lee III's Salona Plantation in the late 18th century and was surveyed by George Washington. On the property, Noyes built Merrywood, which was said to be a copy of an 18th century mansion. The library was panelled with black walnut from trees on the estate. The gardens were landscaped by well-known landscape architect Beatrix Farrand, the niece of Edith Wharton.[1]

Newbold Noyes Sr. was the associate editor of the Washington Evening Star which his father, Frank Brett Noyes, had acquired in 1867. Frank was also the founder and president of the Associated Press.[2] Newbold and his wife, the former Alexandra Ewing, were the parents of Newbold Noyes Jr. After Newbold's marriage to Alexandra ended, the Noyes sold Merrywood, their marital home. After the divorce, Alexandra married Thomas Stone and they built Boone Hall in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.

Auchincloss years

Sometime between 1927 and 1934, Hugh D. Auchincloss acquired Merrywood from Noyes for $135,000.[3] His maternal grandfather, Oliver Burr Jennings, had been one of the original shareholders of Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller in 1871. The following year, Auchincloss married married Nina S. Vidal, the only daughter of U.S. Senator Thomas Gore and the former wife of Eugene Luther Vidal, a Roosevelt appointee.[4] Nina and Eugene were the parents of author Gore Vidal. After their divorce in 1941,[5] Auchincloss married Janet Lee Bouvier, the mother of future First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Lee Radziwill, in 1942 and the family lived together at Merrywood. Onassis later wrote of the home, stating: "I always love it so at Merrywood - so peaceful… with the river and those great steep hills".[6] The home was enlarged to 23,000 square feet and the estate featured a shooting range, tennis court, and the Olympic-sized swimming pool and a circular Arts and Crafts-style pool house.

In 1959, the Auchincloss' put Merrywood on the market for $850,000, although it eventually sold for $650,000 to a syndicate led by the Magazine Brothers Construction Company that had hoped to use the property for an apartment development.[7][8] After Jackie's husband John F. Kennedy was elected president, the Auchincloss family moved to Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. in 1963.[9] A 17-story apartment building at Merrywood was proposed, but later dropped after the Government took a "scenic easement" that severely restricted development on the property.[10] "The federal government paid $744,000 in early 1964 to compensate for the easement, which assures that the property will be substantially "frozen" in its current state."[11]

Later owners

On November 14, 1964,[12] the syndicate sold the property for about $660,000 to C. Wyatt Dickerson, a successful businessman,[13] and his wife Nancy, a reporter for CBS and NBC, and the "first female star of television news," which by then had a swimming pool, a tennis court and a gymnasium.[14] They Dickersons sold 40 acres (16 ha) of the estate for development in 1965;[a] reducing the estate to the 7 acres (2.8 ha) parcel it remains today. During the Dickerson years, the home was host to Frank Sinatra, James Stewart, Jack Benny, New York Governor W. Averell Harriman, Walter Annenberg, Edward Bennett Williams, and Nancy and Ronald Reagan shortly before his inauguration.[16] The Dickersons later separated, Wyatt moved out in 1981, and they sold the house in 1984.[14] In 1989, Nancy married former Goldman Sachs chairman John C. Whitehead.[17]

In 1984, Alan I. Kay, a real estate investor,[18] and his wife Dianne Comess bought Merrywood for $4.25 million which was considered "one of the largest sums ever paid in the Washington area for a single-family residence." Reportedly, "C. Wyatt Dickerson, the Kays and a middleman sealed the deal over a bottle of 1962 Dom Perignon champagne midnight Friday at Georgetown's Pisces Club."[11] The Kays further enlarged the home from a 26-room residence to 36-rooms and built the 5,000-square foot pool house.

In 1999, the Kays sold Merrywood for $15.5 million to William E. Conway Jr., who co-founded the Carlyle Group, owned Merrywood for less than a year before selling it to former CEO of AOL Steve Case and his wife, the former AOL executive Jean Villanueva, for $24.5 million, again breaking the region's property sales records. The home featured nine bedrooms, 11 full bathrooms and two partial baths, "formal gardens, a pavilion with full kitchen, indoor and outdoor pools, a carriage house with indoor parking for four automobiles, and a lighted tennis court, plus public rooms scaled to accommodate large gatherings, an expansive master suite with his or her dressing rooms, a private study and exercise room."[19]

Current ownership

In 2018, the Cases placed Merrywood on the market for $49.5 million, eventually selling it to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for $43 million,[19] making it, again, the most expensive property ever sold in the area.[20]

In popular culture

In his 1967 novel Washington, D.C.,[21] author Gore Vidal put the fictitious "Laurel House", a thinly disguised cover for Merrywood, at the center of his novel.[14]

See also


  1. ^ In the late 60s, a small luxury community of 35 condos directly off Dolley Madison Blvd, known as "Merrywood on the Potomac", were built on a portion of the subdivided land that was part of the Merrywood Estate.[15]
  1. ^ Hughes, Tyler (29 November 2013). "The Gilded Age Era: Merrywood". The Gilded Age Era. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  2. ^ "FRANK B. NOYES, 85, PUBLISHER, IS DEAD; Head of The Washington Star Was First President of AP, Serving for 38 Years". The New York Times. 1 December 1948. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  3. ^ Herrick, Carole L. (2011). McLean. Arcadia Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-7385-8745-5. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  4. ^ "Hugh Auchincloss Marries in Capital". The New York Times. October 9, 1935. Retrieved 8 March 2016.
  5. ^ The Kennedy White House: Family Life and Pictures, 1961–1963 By Carl Sferrazza Anthony, page 149
  6. ^ Kuhn, William (2011). Reading Jackie: Her Autobiography in Books. Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0-307-74465-4. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  7. ^ Times, Marjorie Hunter Special To the New York (14 January 1962). "Girlhood Home of Mrs. Kennedy Optioned for Luxury Apartments". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  8. ^ "D.C. BUILDER S. MAGAZINE DIES AT 78". Washington Post. February 10, 1989. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  9. ^ Pottker, Jan (2013). Janet and Jackie: The Story of a Mother and Her Daughter, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. St. Martin's Publishing Group. p. 493. ISBN 978-1-4668-5230-3. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  10. ^ "U. S. Wins a Battle for Scenic Beauty in Capital; Developers Drop Project for Apartments at the Childhood Home of Mrs. Kennedy". The New York Times. 16 January 1964. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  11. ^ a b Hockstader, Lee (24 July 1984). "Va. Estate Is Sold for $4.2 Million". Washington Post. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Auchincloss Home in Washington Sold". The New York Times. 15 November 1964. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  13. ^ Stanley, Alessandra (3 December 2016). "C. Wyatt Dickerson, Businessman and Man About Washington, Is Dead at 92". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  14. ^ a b c Dickerson, John (2 November 2006). "Growing Up in a Glamorous Neverland". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  15. ^ Briscoe, Karen (21 September 2017). "Where We Live: Merrywood on the Potomac". Patch. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  16. ^ Nemy, Enid; Times, Special To the New York (19 January 1981). "The Capital Party Game Is Seeing and Being Seen". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  17. ^ "Nancy Dickerson is Married". The New York Times. February 26, 1989. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
  18. ^ Bernstein, Alan, "Alan I. Kay, Washington area real estate magnate and philanthropist, dies at 75", The Washington Post, June 19, 2010
  19. ^ a b Gilgore, Sara (May 30, 2018). "Steve Case's McLean estate sells for $43M — a new record". Washington Business Journal. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  20. ^ Washingtonian Staff (23 April 2019). "Who Are the Richest People in Washington?". Washingtonian. Retrieved 24 September 2020.
  21. ^ Greenfeld, Josh (30 April 1967). "A Skeleton in Every Closet; Skeleton in Every Closet". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 September 2020.

External links

This page was last edited on 29 October 2020, at 07:20
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