Wendy Northcross is tickled.
“We have one thing,” exclaimed the new director of the JFK Hyannis Museum, “an artifact on loan from the Waldorf Astoria New York.”
On loan for two years while the luxury hotel is undergoing a major renovation, President Kennedy’s iconic rocking chair arrived at Hyannis this week in a special shipping box that was insured but so large it wouldn’t fit through the front door.
“President John F. Kennedy used the custom-made rocking chair to relieve his chronic back pain and kept one in almost every room in the White House,” said Northcross.
Kennedy preferred the rocking chair, and its low seat and curved backrest, as it provided comfort to alleviate chronic back pain from World War II injuries. He eventually bought more than a dozen of them for use at the White House, Camp David, Hyannisport, and Palm Beach, sparking a resurgence in rocking chair popularity in the United States.
Every President of the United States from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama, along with heads of state and foreign dignitaries, stayed at the Waldorf Astoria New York, with many Presidents, including Hoover and Truman, making the hotel their permanent residence after the presidency.
Following the tradition that presidents donate a souvenir to remember their stays in the presidential suite, President Kennedy gave the rocking chair to the Waldorf Astoria in 1962.
“Jack gave a rocker because he liked to stay there,” said Northcross mischievously.
“It is so fitting that the rocking chair that brought President Kennedy so much comfort made it to his beloved Cape Cod, a special place where he has sought solace all his life,” she added. “Local visitors from all over the world will also appreciate this fascinating addition to the museum, which serves as a meaningful reminder of a beloved president.”
Another local connection: Larry Arata, an upholsterer with Marstons Mills, came up with the idea of making JFK’s rocker more comfortable by adding padded padding, Northcross said.
The Waldorf Astoria New York, which celebrates its 90th anniversary on Park Avenue in October, is currently undergoing a restoration that will also spawn a collection of contemporary residences above the iconic The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria hotel. When the hotel reopens in 2023, the rocking chair returns as a permanent exhibit in a gallery celebrating the hotel’s rich history.
The John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum on Main St. 397 in Hyannis is still one of the most visited cultural institutions on the Cape and attracts visitors worldwide. Opening times are Mon-Fri, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Masks are compulsory in the building. Stop during Open Streets on Sunday 19th September.
Also on display: Creation Camelot: The Kennedy Photography of Jacques Lowe, with intimate behind-the-scenes glimpses of John F. Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, and their children Caroline and John, captured by Kennedy’s personal photographer. This show will be packed in December and will return to the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas / Austin. More information at www.jfkhyannismuseum.org.