Inside Homes: The Birth of Camelot

celebrates the history of Jacqueline Bouvier and ’s famous first meeting at his charming rowhouse in Georgetown’s West Village. 

Scott Stewart with his 8-year-old husky, Brooke holding an iconic photo of the Kennedys he was gifted after moving in. (Photos by Tony Powell).

You would be amazed at how much Kennedy stuff people will send you,” Scott Stewart says with a laugh, referencing the thematic housewarming gifts he received after moving into the house where John F. Kennedy first met his wife. Stewart says he was immediately drawn to the attached colonial in Georgetown’s West Village and bursts with energy as he retells anecdotes of the dinner party that started it all. “The whole historic thing felt like a warm blanket,” Stewart explains amid detailed descriptions of how the famous evening went down.

Two Giclee pop-art paintings of the Kennedys by John Stango, which were previously on display in Stewart’s office, now hang in the entrance of his home. Below, a credenza operates as a functioning Hi-Fi music player. For the interiors, Stewart went for a mid-century modern motif, sourcing most of his furniture from West Elm and Room & Board.

It was Sunday, May 13, 1951, Mother’s Day, and an old family friend Charles Bartlett, who fought in World War II with JFK, hosted a dinner party for eight friends. What appeared to be casual on the surface was actually a matchmaking ploy conceived by John’s father, Joseph P. Kennedy. He had asked Bartlett to help get his son, then a second-term congressman, to abandon his playboy ways and settle down with a wife. Among the guests was Jacqueline Bouvier, a freelance photographer with whom Bartlett had previously worked. Over Rob Roys, Manhattans, chicken casserole and blueberry cobbler, JFK soon became enthralled with Jackie. The rest is history. According to Edward Klein’s book “All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie,” Kennedy said, “I’ve never met anyone like her.”

When Stewart first moved in, the 2,000-square-foot space needed a facelift. He started by swapping out the kitchen floor, opting for tile inspired by the iconic bar P.J. Clarke’s. For the backsplash, he chose his favorite color, seafoam green. He calls the hue calming and reminiscent of the ocean.

Stewart’s fascination with the political dynasty is not unique, but his connection to the late leader runs deep. He also went to Harvard (albeit the Business School), maintains a strong connection to the sea and generally subscribes to Kennedy’s ideals. Stewart’s penchant for the former president comes from his working-class Irish-Catholic mother from Detroit, whose loyalty was such that she used to root for the “Fighting Irish” of Notre Dame despite Stewart and his siblings having attended its major rival, the University of Michigan. Although Stewart’s mother died several years ago and never saw his historic home, he imagines she would be incredibly proud. “She was one of the people who swooned anytime he was on a magazine cover or on television,” Stewart explains.

Stewart uses the outdoor garden for entertaining.

 

Friend Jason Zuccari painted Stewart’s portrait and gave it to him as a housewarming gift – it hangs in the hallway outside his bedroom. Upstairs, he bumped the ceiling height to nine feet to fit his 6- foot-4 frame

Between his job as founder and managing partner of Capitol Seniors Housing, a real estate and equity firm the develops retirement properties nationwide, and his vacation homes in Martha’s Vineyard and Vail, Stewart spends a lot of time on the road. His travel schedule combined with his three daughters being out of the house made his decision to sell his McLean property an easy one. Last year, in Stewart’s attempt to downsize, he established his non-negotiables: three bedrooms, high ceilings (he is 6-foot-4), walkability and a functioning fireplace.

After Stewart visited a jam-packed open house for the storied property last year, he didn’t think he stood a chance, but as fate would have it, after putting in an offer and returning to the rowhouse to take measurements, he accidentally bumped into the sellers. Though the previous owners didn’t personally punctuate the historical connection, they were looking for a buyer who would celebrate it. The day after the chance meeting, his offer was accepted. True to his word, Stewart has Kennedy memorabilia scattered throughout the house, including two colorful John Stango paintings of the late couple in the entrance hall –the very room where they first laid eyes on each other. Later this year he plans to install a plaque on the house that reads “The Birth of Camelot.”

Stewart cherishes a rotary phone original to the house that the owners gifted him on the condition that he could get its old number back. (He had to fib a bit to the phone company to make that happen); Rugs are from Georgetown Carpet.

This article appeared in the May 2019 issue of Washington Life magazine. 

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