John Burlingame Whyte
John Burlingame Whyte was born May 22, 1928, in Milwaukee, to Malcolm Whyte, a lawyer, and Bertha Kitchell Whyte. He attended Washington University in St. Louis for two years, studying fashion design, before moving to Manhattan in the early 1950’s. He stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel for several months while trying to establish a career as a model. The story goes that his good looks and prestigious telephone number helped him land his first job.
In the 1950s and 1960s, his face appeared regularly in advertisements that graced the back covers of magazines like Look and Life.
John Burlingame Whyte was able to accomplish his goals as a model with the help of his father who carefully watched John’s finances and invested his earnings in a secure bank account. By doing this John was able to retire at 30.
While still working as a model, he traveled to Fire Island in 1955 staying at Ocean Bay Park. Living there for several years he would walk to Cherry Grove. In 1958 he decided to move to the Pines because the walk to the Grove would be shorter. At that point in time the Pines was unknown to the outside world.
In the early 1960s he was one of the partners in the purchase of Yacht Club and Botel from former Ziegfeld star, Peggy Fears. He later bought them all out and parlayed his successful modeling career into a lifetime career of hospitality. Many of Whyte’s glamorous contemporaries flocked to his establishment, attracting wealthy vacationers who came to mix with the beautiful people.
The social life in the Pines revolved around the Tea Dance, which Mr. Whyte started at the yacht club in 1966. People would gather around 5pm and dance and drink until 8pm.
Mr. Whyte was a co-founder of the Pines Conservation Society in 1970. In 1984, he also founded From the Pines With Love, which enlisted celebrities like Peter Allen, Melissa Manchester, Dionne Warwick and Leslie Uggams to perform at events to raise money for AIDS research. He had homes in Trump Plaza NYC,LA,Palm Springs, and Acapulco.
In 2006, the Fire Island Pines Community House was named Whyte Hall with his donation, and in recognition of his years of service to the community.