The Rockefeller Family Home: Kykuit

Overview


Kykuit-the country home of John D. Rockefeller Sr., John D. Rockefeller Jr., Nelson A. Rockefeller, and their families-stands majestically atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Built between 1906 and 1913 by architects Delano and Aldrich, it has just recently been opened to the public. But visitors will never see the estate in as intimate a way as it is presented in this volume. To preserve the memory of what Kykuit was like when it was a private home, photographer Mary Louise Pierson, granddaughter of ...
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Overview


Kykuit-the country home of John D. Rockefeller Sr., John D. Rockefeller Jr., Nelson A. Rockefeller, and their families-stands majestically atop a hill overlooking the Hudson River. Built between 1906 and 1913 by architects Delano and Aldrich, it has just recently been opened to the public. But visitors will never see the estate in as intimate a way as it is presented in this volume. To preserve the memory of what Kykuit was like when it was a private home, photographer Mary Louise Pierson, granddaughter of Nelson Rockefeller, spent years photographing the estate: the Big House-as family members call the main residence-and its interiors, designed by the renowned Ogden Codman; the outbuildings, including the Coach Barn, which now houses an impressive collection of horse-drawn carriages and an equally noteworthy collection of vintage cars, the orangerie, and the Playhouse, a Tudor-style mansion containing an indoor swimming pool, tennis court, fully equipped gym, and bowling alley; and the magnificent gardens, from the formal gardens designed by William Welles Bosworth to the golf course to the Japanese garden, and all the sculptures that three generations of Rockefellers installed on the grounds.
The text, by Ann Rockefeller Roberts, Governor Rockefeller's daughter, recounts the history of the magnificent estate, from its founding early in the century through its recent transfer to the National Trust, focusing on how each successive generation left its stamp on the decor, the gardens, and the painting and sculpture collections. Illustrated with dozens of historical photos, ranging from the construction of the house to snapshots of family members, the text includes never before published reminiscences of five generations of Rockefellers. Complete with a family tree, a map of the gardens, and visitor information, The Rockefeller Family Home: Kykuit offers a deeply personal look at the country residence of one of America's most distinguished families.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Kykuit, which in Dutch means "high point" or "lookout," is the name of the Rockefeller country home, an immensely opulent estate with a main, Normandy-style mansion, beautiful gardens, and many outbuildings, including a coach barn, greenhouses, a Japanese teahouse, and a "playhouse"--a Tudor mansion with indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, and bowling alleys. Roberts, daughter of the late vice president Nelson A. Rockefeller, narrates the building of the estate by John D. Rockefeller Jr. and places special emphasis on how each of the next five generations of Rockefellers has added distinctive touches to this property. Photographer Pierson, Roberts's daughter, has taken beautiful pictures, each one advocating how wealth can lead to the development of beauty. Yet the book never gets beyond being a souvenir that one can purchase at a gift shop after visiting the estate, which was donated to the National Trust and is open to the public for viewing. The only reason one would want to buy this book is to see how super-rich Americans live in their "secondary" homes. Very marginally recommended for those interested in how wealth is transformed into an opulent lifestyle.--Glenn Masuchika, Chaminade Univ. Lib., Honolulu
Booknews
Dozens of color and b&w photographs, ranging from the construction of the house to snapshots of family members, illustrate the text which recounts the history of the estate from its founding early in the century through its recent transfer to the National Trust. It tells how each successive generation left its stamp, and includes never before published reminiscences of five generations of Rockefellers. Contains a family tree, visitor information, and a map of the gardens. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780789202222
  • Publisher: Abbeville Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/28/1998
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 10.12 (w) x 10.16 (h) x 1.06 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

Roth John D. Rockefeller (JDR) and John D. Rockefeller Jr. (Jr.) loved beautiful views and had an inherent sense of the land and its spirit, although they might never have expressed it in quite that way. The land they chose at Pocantico is a testament to this innate sensibility. Located on a wide sweep of the Hudson River known as the Tappan Zee, it was formed when ancient glaciers carved out a great rift and rounded the mountains into hills. These full, rolling hills stretch back from the river; morning mist drifts among them, storms bear down along the river with sudden speed and power, evenings can be still and sweet or brilliant with the riotous colors of the setting sun. Gazing at the uninterrupted vistas, one has a startling sense of how this land must have looked before the first European settlers arrived—miles of deciduous and evergreen forest, the river a ribbon of undulating silver cutting through it.

The character of the land is felt in the many elements that comprise it: the rock ledges that form a massive crust underneath, barely hidden in spots, rising up through the earth in others; the mantle of earth over the rock, deep and rich in many places, shallow in others, but always full of loose stones (used by early settlers to form miles of walls, and reused by JDR and Jr. for house foundations, garden walls, and terraces); the wide variety of deciduous trees, including oak, elm, maple, butternut, walnut, and tulip; evergreens, such as pine, hemlock, and spruce; and myriad other native flora—dogwood, laurel, azalea, wildflowers, mosses, grasses, shrubbery, vines. The wildlife of the area was also originally very rich and varied; now itconsists of creatures that can coexist more easily with humankind and that we are willing to tolerate in our midst: white-tailed deer with their large ears and bobbing tails, possums, raccoons, rabbits, mice, the occasional fox, hawks, owls, and a variety of songbirds, as well as the ubiquitous crow.

On this natural matrix the built elements were laid out and a great, parklike estate was developed. The land became highly cultivated in every sense of the word, reflecting the character and spirit first of the father and son and then of succeeding generations.

Each of the seasons is etched in color, form, and texture all around Pocantico. In the early spring the melting snow reveals the browns and grays of the sleeping land, and the architectural forms of the gardens and buildings stand out starkly. Then a pale green haze of tender new shoots and leaves sweeps over the trees and manicured lawns. Before long spring bulbs, shrubbery, and flowering trees all burst into bloom in the gardens. In the summer it is a tapestry of leaf textures and shades of green, the gurgle of water in fountains, the dappled patterns of sunlight through leaves, the music of wind through the trees, the purring of lawn mowers over the greensward of the golf course. In the fall color manifests itself again in the riotous turning of the leaves, in swaths of chrysanthemums, and in the last roses in the gardens. Then winter sets in, stripping everything of its last hues, returning the earth to browns and grays, and finally cloaking everything in the white of snow or the silver of ice, glittering in the pale sun on statues, garden walls, and plants.

The acquisition, development, and occupancy of Pocantico is intertwined with the lives of six generations of the Rockefeller family. It was intended to be—and always remained—a private home, the beloved country retreat of JDR and his wife, Laura Spelman Rockefeller, their children, and their children's children. The estate was developed between 1893, when JDR made the first purchase of land, and 1913, when the main house and its extensive gardens were largely completed. Since then there have been many more change—additional land was acquired, other buildings were built, and each succeeding generation left its distinctive touch.

Until the last quarter of the nineteenth century JDR and his growing family lived exclusively in Cleveland, Ohio, where he developed the oil business that made him a wealthy and famous man. As the business expanded, however, he found himself spending more and more time in New York City. Eventually he began to bring his three daughters and young son, John Jr., with him on these extensive trips. By 1877 they were spending the entire winter in a New York hotel suite. But they still considered Cleveland home, and in 1878 JDR bought more than seven hundred acres of land at Forest Hill, just outside of Cleveland, which he gradually developed into a country retreat, where the family spent the summers. Inevitably, JDR's center of operations shifted to New York City, and in 1884 he bought a furnished brownstone at 4 West Fifty-fourth Street. The family lived there from October to May, returning to Forest Hill for the summer.

In 1885 JDR's brother and business partner, William Rockefeller, bought a large estate on the Hudson River just north of Tarrytown. He spent $3 million transforming it into the most sumptuous estate in the area, complete with a huge Gothic stone house—Rockwood Hall—elaborate gardens, large stables, and liveried footmen at the door. William loved the Hudson River valley and began extolling the virtues and beauties of the area to his brother. JDR would spend summer weekends there when he could not join his family in Forest Hill and finally was persuaded to take a look around for himself.

In the summer of 1892 he and eighteen-year-old Jr. went to explore the land along the Pocantico, a stream that abutted his brother's property. In their characteristically meticulous fashion they first bought maps of the area and then walked all about until they came upon a hill rising some four hundred feet above the Hudson River to the west. Ascending to the top, they discovered that the views from it were magnificent. In the seventeenth century Dutch settlers had aptly named this hill Kykuit, meaning "high point" or "lookout." In earlier times it had apparently been used by the local Tappan Indians to survey the area or send signals. The highest hill in the region, it holds a commanding position along the ridge of land separating the Saw Mill River from the Hudson. There are clear views from it in all four directions, including west to the Hudson River just as it opens up wide into the Tappan Zee. In contrast to many of the other fine Hudson River valley estates, which are lined up one after the other right along the riverbank, the site is set back several miles from the river.

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Table of Contents

Rockefeller Family Tree

Introduction

The Big House

The Outbuildings

The Gardens

Author Biography: Photographer Mary Louise Pierson is the granddaughter of Nelson A. Rockefeller. A painter, she lives on a farm in Vermont with her husband and children.

Author Ann Rockefeller Roberts is the daughter of Nelson A. Rockefeller and the mother of Mary Louise Pierson. A graduate of Wellesley College, she has a master's degree in landscape architecture from the University of Virginia. The author of Mr. Rockefeller's Roads: The Untold Story of Acadia's Carriage Roads and Their Creator, she is founder and president of the Fund of the Four Directions, a private fund with a focus on indigenous peoples. She lives in New York City.

Cynthia Altman, author of the captions and additional text, is the curator of Kykuit.

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