Grey Gardens in 2009.
Grey Gardens in 2009. Taber Andrew Bain/CC BY 2.0

In 1979, a few years after the eponymous documentary film made it famous, Sally Quinn, the writer, socialite, and wife of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, purchased Grey Gardens for $220,000 from “Little Edie” Beale, a cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. 

Even then, the price was pretty reasonable for the neighborhood (about $730,000 today), but that was mostly because the East Hampton, New York, home, as portrayed in the documentary, was in severe disrepair. Quinn and Bradlee promptly spent $600,000 restoring the mansion, which they then proceeded to use as a summer home for over three decades.

On Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, Quinn said she was finally putting it back on the market. Bradlee died in 2014, and the home, she told the Journal, “wasn’t the same without him.”

The list price is $19.995 million, or about 90 times what Quinn and Bradlee originally paid, which reflects both the continued resonance of the Maysles brothers’ documentary as well as the realities of the Long Island real estate market. 

The home was originally built in 1897, but by the early 1970s was in derelict shape, crumbling on the outside and flea-infested on the inside. A condition of the original sale to Quinn and Bradlee was that they could not tear it down, but Quinn told the Journal she would place no such restrictions on any buyer today. 

Grey Gardens, in other words, could soon just be another piece of cinematic history that’s been turned into a memory.