An aerial view of Red Gate Farm
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Red Gate Farm: Jackie Kennedy’s New England Idyll

The Martha’s Vineyard refuge that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis always dreamed of is ready for new stewards to continue its legacy

Even before its eponymous entrance signals your arrival at Red Gate Farm, you know you’ve arrived somewhere utterly singular. The gently curving drive, the dappled light breaking through a forest of mature trees, the earthy scent of moss mixed with salty ocean air. Calm, quiet, and private, it is a sanctuary for its residents—and is ideal for those seeking a secluded countryside retreat during the current health crisis.

Red Gate Farm rear exterior
Cape Cod-style architecture prevails at Red Gate Farm, with its cedar shingles that have weathered beautifully to a particular shade of light gray. Image: Laura Moss

Bought by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in 1979, the 340-acre (138 ha) estate was completed in 1981. It ultimately passed to her daughter, Caroline Bouvier Kennedy, who in 2000 commissioned Deborah Berke, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture, to oversee a renovation and extension in keeping with the home’s original New England style. With views of Squibnocket Pond from almost every room of the main house, this is a home at one with its surroundings.

Red Gate Farm family room
Red Gate Farm’s elegant family room is just one of the light and airy spaces that enjoy views of the richly biodiverse environment, as well as Squibnocket pond. Image: Laura Moss

A Private Outdoor Oasis

With more than a mile (1.6 km) of private Atlantic Ocean beachfront and dunes, two freshwater ponds, a vegetable garden, and a bountiful blueberry patch, Red Gate Farm’s stunning surroundings are testament to the family’s care, conservation, and stewardship.

Red Gate Farm patio
The grounds were created by horticulturist Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, who redesigned the Rose Garden at the White House when Mrs Onassis was First Lady of the United States. Image: Laura Moss

“Red Gate Farm provided [my mother] with the sanctuary she needed and the freedom to be close to nature, her family, her friends, and her books,” wrote Caroline Kennedy in an open letter about the property in 2019. “It was a perfect expression of her romantic and adventurous spirit. She loved the old stone walls, the blue heron that lived in the pond behind the dunes, the hunting cabin that was the only thing on the property when she acquired it, the clay cliffs, and the Wampanoag legends.”

Red Gate Farm hunting cabin
A hunting cabin was the only building in existence when Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis acquired the property in 1979. Image: Laura Moss

Constellations of white oaks, cedars, and beetlebung trees stud the scene. Occasionally a single tree pierces the horizon, shaped by the Atlantic wind. And across the dunes, you can find the cast-off shells of horseshoe crabs, abundant in their prehistoric armor.

A Unique Offering

“The history and provenance of Red Gate Farm speaks for itself, but it’s the natural beauty of this place that makes it one of a kind,” say Gerret Conover and Tom LeClair of LandVest, Inc. “This is a park-like space on one of the most spectacular parts of Martha’s Vineyard, and there’s the combination of naturally occurring elements—the two freshwater ponds, the trees and shrubs, and the rolling dunescape down to the Atlantic.

Red Gate Farm pool
Red Gate Farm comprises a five-bedroom main house, a four-bedroom guesthouse, and a caretaker’s house, as well as a swimming pool and tennis court. Image: Laura Moss

“What’s more, the architectural update was undertaken with a restraint that respects everything that was here already. We can’t think of anywhere else of this size and diversity, not just on the island but on the whole of the East Coast.”

An Incredible Location

At the peak of the summer season, Martha’s Vineyard’s population swells as visitors converge on this North Atlantic haven, just a short flight from New York or Boston. Indeed, the island has attracted presidential families for decades, including the Clintons and the Obamas.

We can’t think of anywhere else of this size and diversity, not just on the island but on the whole of the East Coast—Gerret Conover, Tom LeClair

Formerly known as Gay Head, Aquinnah, where Red Gate Farm is located, occupies the southwesternmost point of Martha’s Vineyard and has been home to the Wampanoag tribe for centuries. It is a place of fascinating Native American legends and traditions that center on the area’s colorful clay cliffs, now a protected National Natural Landmark.

Red Gate Farm sand dunes
The rolling dunescape down to the Atlantic is one of the aspects that make this property one of a kind, say Gerret Conover and Tom LeClair of Landvest, Inc. Image: Laura Moss

Edgartown, a former whaling town about 30 minutes’ drive east from Red Gate Farm, buzzes with independent boutiques, destination cafes, and an excellent selection of seafood restaurants. Martha’s Vineyard also boasts three yacht clubs and five golf clubs. Unsurprisingly, this scenic island—home to equestrian farms, organic agricultural farms, and flower farms—has also become a top wedding destination, with a bounty of venues and facilities on offer.

Banner image: Goldeneye Media