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Kennedy family transfers Hyannis Port home to institute

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his late mother, Rose, walking by the house in 1979.

AP File Photo

The late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his late mother, Rose, walking by the house in 1979.

The ownership of the fabled Kennedy home at the family’s Hyannis Port compound is being transferred to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, a move that brings to an end the family’s 84-year ownership of the 21-room house.

The Institute announced this afternoon it had taken over the waterfront homestead and will use it as a study center. It said the transfer ‘’fulfills a promise made by Senator Kennedy to his mother Rose that the home be preserved for charitable use.’’

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The $5.5 million property is the centerpiece of the compound, where some of the nation’s most dramatic modern political history took place. The compound also includes other Kennedy homes, including former President John F. Kennedy’s house, which will remain in the family.

The late senator, who died in the house in 2009, left it to his widow, Vicki, but with the wish that it would someday be used as a center where scholars and public figures could gather to ponder major policy issues. Her friends and associates said the house evoked too many sad memories of her husband and she never wanted to use it much.

“From our earliest discussions about the EMK Institute, Teddy and I dreamed of a place that would encourage public engagement and inspire political leadership in future generations,’’ Vicki Kennedy said in a statement announcing the transactions. “The acceptance of the gift of this historic home in Hyannis Port is a significant step forward in fulfilling that mission.”

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Initially, the proposal to remove the house at the heart of the compound raised concern from some Kennedy family members. Now, however, they seem supportive of the move.

“This house was my family’s epicenter, where my grandparents, father, uncles and aunts would retreat to connect with one another through heated political debates in the dining room and rousing games on the front lawn,’’ said Ted Kennedy Jr. today.

“Over the generations, we have returned to Hyannis Port in times of both happiness and pain,’’ he said. “We have come to celebrate baptisms and marriages, await election results, and grieve the passing of our relatives,”

“Even though my family still considers Hyannis Port to be our home, we recognize that this house is a unique and historic place that should be preserved so that future students of history and politics will better understand how this house helped to develop, define and sustain my family,’’ the late senator’s eldest son added.

The EMK Institute said it will put together a team of experts in historic preservation who will offer recommendations on how the home will be used and public access will be managed. It said that presidential historian Michael Beschloss will serve as an adviser.

The institute also said the Kennedy family will have “limited usage of the property.”

“There are long-standing easements on the property, granting beach access to Kennedy family members who own adjacent properties, which will remain in effect as part of the deed transfer,’’ the statement said. “It is also expected that the Institute will enter into a rental agreement allowing Kennedy family members limited access to the grounds for recreational purposes.’’

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