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Kennedy Winter White House Won’t Be a Landmark

April 21, 1990

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ The Kennedy family quietly won its fight Friday to prevent preservationists from designating as a town landmark the $3 million home that once served as a winter White House.

The Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission listened to a report on the historical and architectural value of the seaside estate, called ″La Guerida,″ but all seven members were silent when chairman James Sullivan asked for a motion to make the report a part of the record.

A request for any other motions also met with silence, removing the matter from the commission agenda.

Although commission members felt strongly that the home should become a landmark, Sullivan said ″the Kennedy family’s intransigence″ - and the threat of a costly legal battle - doomed the proposal.

″I think the commission did the right thing,″ he said. ″We can’t act as Don Quixotes, fighting windmills.″

Attorneys for the estate’s owner, 99-year-old Rose Kennedy, said nothing during Friday’s meeting. But in an April 2 letter, they argued the commission could not legally declare the property a landmark because the Town Council denied it that status 10 years ago.

In 1980, the council unanimously rejected the landmark commission’s recommendation to declare the Mediterranean revival style mansion a landmark after an attorney for the family argued that the landmark ordinance violated Mrs. Kennedy’s right to due process. The Kennedy family has said it wants to maintain complete control over the property.

The letter also said the home did not qualify as a landmark, citing a consultant’s report in 1980 that declared the mansion - built by Addison Mizner in 1925 - as being ″certainly Mizner at his poorest.″

Commission members, however, said it should become a landmark because of its association with President John F. Kennedy, who held Cabinet meetings and played touch football with family members on the beach three decades ago.

Owners of landmark homes are required to get permission from the commission before making structural or cosmetic changes. They also may be pressed to renovate if the commission determines the property needs work.

Palm Beach has designated historical status to about 130 homes, including billionaire Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.

Of the homes that have been deemed landmarks since the ordinance passed in 1979, only a handful of owners have objected, Sullivan said. Those owners said the landmark requirements violate their rights and could make homes more difficult to sell.

The Kennedy home was built for Redman Wanamaker of the Philadelphia department store chain. Members of the family, including Sen. Ted Kennedy, D- Mass., still visit the estate, but Mrs. Kennedy no longer spends winters there because of failing health.

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