|Home||First Posted July 27, 2007 |
Jul 28, 2010
Kykuit Rockefeller Estate
(U.S. National Historic Landmark)
Governing body: National Trust for Historic Preservation
Kykuit is a preeminent 40-room National Trust house in Westchester County, New York, built by the oil businessman, philanthropist and founder of the prominent Rockefeller family, John D. Rockefeller (Senior), and his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr. (Junior), enriched with art collected by a third-generation family member, the Governor of New York and Vice-President of the United States, Nelson A. Rockefeller. It has been the home to four generations of the family.
"Kykuit" (pronounced kye-cut) means "lookout" in Dutch (though currently spelled "kijkuit"), as it is situated at Pocantico Hills, on the highest point of the local surrounds near North Tarrytown, one hour's drive north of the city. It overlooks the Hudson river at Tappan Zee, as well as the Catskills - and, in the distance, the towering skyline of New York.
History and Construction
One of America's most famous private residences, the stone mansion was constructed by the architects Chester Holmes Aldrich and William Adams Delano (Aldrich was a distant relative of Junior's wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who was involved as artistic consultant and in the interior design of the mansion). Senior had originally purchased land in the area as early as 1893, inspired by his brother William's ostentatious 204-room mansion (Rockwood Hall), which had already been built in the spectacular natural setting of the area.
The Classical Revival Georgian mansion took six years to complete and was refurbished some years after initial construction, being finally completed in its present form in 1913. It is six-stories, with a mansard roof, and has two basement floors, with many interconnecting underground passageways and service delivery tunnels. It features interiors designed by Ogden Codman, Jr., collections of Chinese and European ceramics, fine furnishings and 20th-century art. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. In 1979, its occupant, Nelson Rockefeller, upon his death, bequeathed his one-third interest in the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As a result of that gift, Kykuit is now open to the public for tours. The tours are operated by Historic Hudson Valley.
The imposing local stone structure, fronted at the top with the Rockefeller emblem, is centrally located in an inner sanctum of about 250 acres, referred to as the "Park," in the expansive Rockefeller family estate. This inner area is fenced off, patrolled and guarded at all times around its perimeter, and has massive gates at its entrance. The rest of the estate is known as the open space; apart from the family residences, it has always been available to members of the public for recreational purposes.
Initial landscaping of the grounds was given to the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted, who had designed Central Park. Rockefeller senior was unhappy with this work however and took over the design himself, transplanting whole mature trees, designing lookouts and the many scenic winding roads.
One of many gardens. In 1906, the further design of Kykuit's grounds was completed by landscape architect William Welles Bosworth, who designed the surrounding terraces and gardens with fountains, pavilions and classical sculpture. These gardens in the Beaux-Arts style are considered Bosworth's best work in the United States, looking out over very fine views of the Hudson River. His original gardens still exist, with plantings carefully replaced over time, although his entrance forecourt was extended in 1913. The gardens are terraced, with formal axes, and include a Morning Garden, Grand Staircase, Japanese Garden, an Italian Garden, a Japanese-style brook, a Japanese Tea-house, a huge Oceanus fountain, a Temple of Aphrodite, loggia, and a semicircular rose garden.
Nelson transformed the previously empty basement passages beneath the mansion that lead to a grotto into a major private art gallery; the redesign of this space was overseen by the renowned architect Philip Johnson, along with Peter Ogden. It contained corridor upon corridor of paintings by Picasso, Chagall and Warhol, the latter two being amongst the many prominent visitors invited to the estate.
Over the period from 1935 to the late 1970s more than 120 works of abstract, avant garde and modern sculpture were added to the gardens and terraced grounds from Nelson's collection, including works by Pablo Picasso ('Bathers'), Constantin Brancusi, Karel Appel ('Mouse on Table'), Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Gaston Lachaise, Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi ('Black Sun'), and David Smith.
Posted July 27, 2007
View from entryway. The vast rambling estate, located 25 miles north of New York City, comprises a total of about 3,400 acres (14 km) and is known as Pocantico, or sometimes, Pocantico Hills. At its peak, the estate covered almost 3,500 acres -- some six square miles of property -- and was described as a self-contained world, with its resident workforce of security guards, gardeners and laborers, and its own farming, cattle and food supplies. It has a nine-hole, reversible golf course, and had a total, at one time, of seventy-five houses and seventy private roads, most of them designed by Rockefeller Senior and his son. A longstanding witticism about the estate goes thus: 'It's what God would have built, if only He had the money'.
Today, there are around ten Rockefeller families who live within the estate, both in the fenced-in park area and beyond. Much acreage over the decades has been given over to New York State, such as the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, and is open to the public for horse riding, bike trails and running tracks (Bill Clinton, who lives just north of the estate, in Chappaqua, has taken regular runs in the State Park).
In late 1946, a portion of the estate was proposed as the site of the UN Headquarters, when New York City was trying to beat off strong opposition from Philadelphia and San Francisco and secure the organization. Junior's sons, John D. 3rd and Laurance both offered their estate residences, Rockwood Hall and Fieldwood Farm, respectively, for the site of the building. Junior -- who was living in Kykuit at the time -- although appreciating the generous gesture, vetoed it on the grounds that the estate was simply too isolated from Manhattan. He subsequently sent a third son, Nelson, to buy a proposed 17-acre development site along the east river which he then donated for the headquarters.
Prominent officials to visit the estate over the years, for dinners hosted by Nelson and his wife, as well as David's lengthy list of illustrious guests, have included Presidents and their wives: Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. Other notable visitors, to cite just a few, have included: Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, King Hussein of Jordan, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Lord Mountbatten of England.
The inner park area was opened to restricted conducted tours of the mansion and immediate surrounds in 1994, but it is still occupied by and controlled by the family through the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which leased the area from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1991 and is the steward of what is now called "the historic area."
Public tours are conducted via shuttle van from the Visitor Center, located at Philipsburg Manor on Route 9 in Sleepy Hollow, New York; these tours are organized by Historic Hudson Valley, an organization set up in 1951 by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. " to celebrate the region's history, architecture, landscape, and material culture, advancing its importance and thereby assuring its preservation."
The Pocantico Conference Center of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund (RBF), in the Park, where regular conferences are held. Originally the massive "Coach Barn," a three-story complex ultimately redesigned and completed in 1913-14, in heavy stone from the local area, it was the first new structure built on the estate. It is three times the size of the Kykuit mansion. It still houses today an impressive collection of horse-drawn carriages, and an equally noteworthy collection of 12 family-owned vintage cars for public viewing, graphically illustrating the development of automotive design from the early to the mid-twentieth century. In 1994, with funding from David Rockefeller and brother Laurance, its lower floor was converted into a modern, fully-equipped meeting facility for the Fund's conferences, with limited overnight accommodation on the upper floor. The facilities, furthering the projects and objectives of the RBF through conferences, seminars, workshops and retreats for RBF staff, are also available to both domestic and foreign nonprofit organizations, including annual gatherings of all the major foundation presidents and UN Security Council officials, amongst many other dignitaries.
The "Playhouse" - The family seat. In the Park, this is the location, since 1994, of the regular biannual family meetings, in June and December. A rambling French Norman two-story structure completed by Junior in 1927, this structure is also three times the size of the Kykuit mansion. Standing alongside the nine-hole, reversible golf course, and an outdoor swimming pool and tennis court, it contains an array of sporting facilities, including an indoor swimming pool and tennis court, fully equipped gym for basketball, a squash court, a billiard room and a full-size bowling alley. It also has dining and living rooms, and a huge reception room resembling an English baronial hall.
The Orangerie - Housing citrus plants, this is modeled after the original at the Palace of Versailles. Breuer Guest House - A modern house that was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and transhipped and reassembled at the estate.
Underground Bomb Shelter - The location of cabinet papers and private telephone transcripts delivered to the estate in 1973 - and kept there for an unknown period of time - by the then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.
The Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture - Outside the Park, this was opened by David Rockefeller and Peggy Dulany in 2004 and was established in memory of Rockefeller's wife, Peggy. It is a not-for-profit agricultural and educational center on 80 acres (32 ha) of farmland, in the heart of the 1,100-acre (4.4 km) family-donated Rockefeller State Park Preserve, allied to the family-funded Pocantico Central School. It sells organic local produce, meat and eggs to the nearby public for-profit restaurant, Blue Hill, as well as to local businesses in the Pocantico Hills area.
The Rockefeller Archive Center - A voluminous three-story underground bunker built below the foundations of the Hillcrest mansion of Martha Baird Rockefeller, situated just outside the Park area. This is an impressively equipped repository of 150-plus years of Rockefeller papers, memoribilia and other outside organizations' collections. It is staffed by ten full-time archivists who patrol forty-foot-long shelves on rails, and it contains, for researchers, the publicly restricted and expurgated family history. In addition, family members over the generations have had a profound impact on the township of Pocantico Hills which is situated in the open space of the estate and is completely surrounded by family-owned land. The Union Church of Pocantico Hills, now owned by Historic Hudson Valley, was built by the family, who commissioned the famous stained-glass windows by Matisse (memorializing Abby Aldrich), and Chagall (the theme, the Good Samaritan, memorializes Junior); they also helped finance the construction of the local Pocantico Hills School.
Residences of other family members on the estate