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The house where Camelot started

The tale of an East Boothbay couple, and a lovestruck Kennedy
Tue, 11/26/2013 - 10:00am

    East Boothbay residents Susan Lloyd and her husband Tom Frields are two retired FBI agents with a secret. Their home is where John and Jackie Kennedy first met.

    Lloyd and Frields bought their house in Georgetown in the northwest District of Columbia in 1987. The house has a redbrick facade, a black door and a big brass knocker. It’s 118 years old.

    According to Lloyd, in the early 1950s, the house was rented out to a man named Charles Bartlett, a reporter for the Chattanooga Times. Bartlett covered Capitol Hill, where he met a young and charming photographer from the Washington Times-Herald. Her name was Jacqueline Bouvier.

    Back then, Georgetown was not the swanky neighborhood that it is today, Lloyd said. John Kennedy was just a young congressman, elected in the same class as Richard Nixon in 1948.

    Bartlett would come home to his wife and rave about how wonderful and witty Bouvier was. His wife Martha suggested having her over for dinner. Better yet, Bartlett said, why not fix up Bouvier with Kennedy? After all, the young congressman was the most eligible bachelor in Washington, D.C.

    The Bartlett's had their dinner party in May of 1951. Eight people attended the party. Kennedy came first. When Bouvier got there, she parked in front of the house. Everybody drank cocktails out back in the tiny courtyard.

    According to Bartlett, for dinner there was chicken casserole, French peas out of a can, and raspberry sherbet. After dinner they played a game called “The Question,” similar to today's rendition of 21 questions.

    By the end of the evening, Kennedy was very taken with the beautiful, charming witty woman. He asked Bouvier if he might escort her home. She said no. She had driven her own car.

    Kennedy walked Bouvier to the front door and watched as she went down the stairs and crossed the street. Bartlett turned to say something to Kennedy, but he was too busy looking out the window with a wistful expression. He watched Bouvier open the car door, the dome light came on, and in the car was an outline of a young man. Apparently it was one of Bouvier's old boyfriends that had seen her car and decided to play a trick on her, so she jumped in her car and off they drove.

    At the time Bouvier was engaged to a New York stockbroker but the relationship ended shortly after. By late May, Martha Bartlett got a call from Bouvier who had been invited to formal gathering at the Cincinnati Club. She wanted to know if Bartlett thought Kennedy would go with her to the gathering.

    Bartlett told Bouvier to call Kennedy. “I know he would love to go with you,” she said.

    Kennedy and Bouvier started dating in the summer of 1951. Two years later they were married in Newport, R.I.

    The story of how the First Couple met at the little Georgetown house was mentioned in Time magazine's 1961 cover article. But it wasn't until 26 years later that Lloyd and Frields moved into the historical house. They had no idea about the secrets it held.

    Lloyd said, “One of the next door neighbors about one month or two after we moved in came over and said, ‘Did you know your house is where JFK was initially introduced to Jackie?’”

    Lloyd was skeptical. She began researching the house, and eventually wrote to Charles Bartlett, who still lives in the D.C. area. She also wrote a letter to Jacqueline Kennedy, who at the time was the editor of Double Day publishing company in New York City. Kennedy's close friend and confidant Nancy Tuckerman wrote back, confirming what Bartlett said, that the couple was introduced at their dinner party.

    “It feels like an honor. It feels like I'm in a footnote; a caretaker to history,” Lloyd said. “It's just amazing.”

    The original house was just 12 feet wide in 1951, and was later conjoined with the house next door. While the kitchen and bathrooms have been modernized, Lloyd said the historical feel is still there. The original fireplace, plastered walls and old windows are still intact.

    Over the years, Lloyd said many people have stopped by the old neighborhood. The house was featured in the Georgetown tour in 2004. Over 900 people came to the house to hear the story.

    Lloyd and Frields spend their summers at their home in East Boothbay, and head back to Georgetown every winter.

    “We'd like to say this is where Camelot began,” Lloyd said. “I'm still waiting for that democrat that just has to have this place.”