By Daniel Lovering
CAMBRIDGE, Mass (Reuters) - The main house at the Kennedy family's famous waterfront compound on Cape Cod in Massachusetts has been donated for use as an education center aimed at teaching leadership and inspiring public service, the institute receiving the donation said on Monday..
The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate said the house where the Kennedy family retreated from the public glare for decades was donated at the request of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his widow, Victoria.
The donation fulfilled a promise Senator Kennedy made to his mother, Rose, that the family house -- the largest of several structures in the compound -- be preserved and used for charitable purposes, the institute said.
A team of national historic preservation experts led by presidential historian Michael Beschloss will be assembled to guide the programming and operation of the home, the statement said.
The institute hopes to use the house to educate the public about the U.S. government and inspire citizens to get involved in public service.
The house at 50 Marchant Street was purchased by Joseph Kennedy and Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1928. For years it was the scene of Kennedy family activities, from swimming and touch football games to presidential meetings with dignitaries and administration officials.
"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," Ted Kennedy Jr. said in a statement.
The Kennedy family had returned to Hyannis Port during times of happiness and pain "to celebrate baptisms and marriages, await election results and grieve the passing of our relatives," he said.
In addition to receiving rights to the property, the institute said it received a $3.2 million donation from the Committee to Re-Elect Edward M. Kennedy campaign fund, as directed by the late senator's estate. The money will be used to support the house's maintenance and operation.
The institute plans to work with historic preservation experts and local officials over time to establish visiting hours for the public.
The Kennedy family will have limited use of the property, and longstanding easements that provide beach access to Kennedy family members who own adjacent properties will remain in effect, the institute said.
(Editing By Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)