When John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy moved in together for the first time as newlyweds, they rented a four-bedroom townhouse in Georgetown, with oak floors, huge windows, and an English-style back garden with a brick walkway and bright flower beds.
John and Jackie married on Sept. 12, 1953, in Newport, R.I. It was the high-society event of the season, with more than 700 guests. After they honeymooned in Mexico, Jackie, 24, stayed with her in-laws in Hyannis Port, Mass., while John, a 36-year-old freshman senator, visited on the weekends. Jackie wasn’t a huge fan of the arrangement and was “anxious” to get a place of their own, according to Anne Garside in her book “Camelot at Dawn: Jacqueline and John Kennedy in Georgetown, May 1954.”
John’s secretary found the furnished rental at 3321 Dent Pl. NW in December 1953; the couple moved in just after the holidays, in January 1954.
Jackie was no newcomer to the Washington area. She had spent part of her childhood in the tony suburb of McLean, Va., and had been working as a photographer for the Washington Times-Herald when she met Kennedy in 1952.
According to Garside, John already had ambitions for the White House and welcomed any press attention, so when a photo agency suggested a spread on Jackie’s homemaking skills in the spring of 1954, he and Jackie readily agreed. From May 4 to 9, photographer Orlando Suero took more than a thousand photos of the couple in their rented home, many of which ended up in the women’s magazine McCall’s.
In the photos, the house holds the couple like a warm embrace. Here, they lean side by side against a balcony railing; there, John relaxes with a book in the sunny backyard while Jackie tends the garden. There are photos of Jackie coming down the stairs in a ballgown for a candlelit dinner party, and others showing her dressed “casually” in a plaid pencil skirt while talking on the phone in a second-floor bedroom, and on the patio petting the dog. Suero even captured the couple looking through their wedding photos together.
“The sessions reflected the image that the Kennedys themselves wished to project,” Garside wrote: glamorous, rich, young and powerful. Even so, she wrote, a present-day reflection on all that would befall them makes them appear “strangely vulnerable” in the photos.
The Kennedys damaged a number of items in the home in only six months, leading to a large bill upon moving out — $385.49, or about $4,300 in today’s money. The listing includes a photo of a letter from Jackie to her landlord Virginia Childs, reading:
Dear Mrs. Childs,The original total of what I owed you was $378.61. I subtracted $1.65 for the three hooks we found & $6.49 for the curtain rod brackets — which left it at $370.49 — then I added $15 for the pheasant plate — Grand total $385.49! Have a wonderful trip to California.Love, Jackie
After Dent Place, the Kennedys spent a few months at Jackie’s family home in McLean, where they experienced their first great trial as a couple. John’s chronic back problems became so severe, he required a spinal-fusion operation and nearly died of a resulting infection. They spent time in Florida while he recovered.
When they returned to Washington, the couple moved to Hickory Hill in McLean, and it was there the Kennedys experienced another tragedy: In August 1956, their first child, Arabella, was stillborn. The couple would later lose another child, Patrick, who died at 2 days old in 1963; months later, Kennedy was assassinated.
“Their stay in the house at Dent Place has received only passing mentions in books about the Kennedys,” Garside wrote. “Yet these few months in their first home were perhaps the only relatively normal time in J[ohn] and Jackie’s married life.”
After Kennedy’s assassination, Jackie moved temporarily to Georgetown again, this time to a sprawling mansion on N Street NW. Incredibly, that property is also on the market.
At $2 million, the Dent Place home is by far the cheaper of the two; the one on N Street, which has been combined with two adjacent properties, is listed at $26.5 million.