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Kykuit (/ˈkkʌt/ KY-kut),[3] known also as the John D. Rockefeller Estate, is a 40-room National Trust for Historic Preservation house in Pocantico Hills, in Westchester County, New York, built by order of oil tycoon, capitalist and Rockefeller family patriarch John D. Rockefeller. Conceived largely by his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and enriched by the art collection of the third-generation scion, Governor of New York, and Vice President of the United States, Nelson Rockefeller, it has been home to four generations of the family.

Kykuit (John D. Rockefeller Estate)
Kykuit, Tarrytown, NY - front facade.JPG
Front facade
Kykuit is located in New York
Kykuit is located in the US
Location 200 Lake Road, Pocantico Hills, Mount Pleasant, New York
Coordinates 41°05′23″N 73°50′40″W / 41.08972°N 73.84444°W / 41.08972; -73.84444Coordinates: 41°05′23″N 73°50′40″W / 41.08972°N 73.84444°W / 41.08972; -73.84444
Area 3,400 acres (1,380 ha)
Built 1913
Architect Chester Holmes Aldrich and William Adams Delano (house)
William Welles Bosworth (landscape)
Architectural style Colonial Revival, other
NRHP reference # 76001290
Significant dates
Added to NRHP May 11, 1976[1]
Designated NHL May 11, 1976[2]

Kykuit, derived from the Dutch word Kijkuit meaning "lookout",[3] is situated on the highest point in the Town of Mount Pleasant hamlet of Pocantico Hills, overlooking the Hudson River at Tappan Zee. Located near Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, it has a view of the New York City skyline 25 miles to the south.



Kykuit was designed originally as a steep-roofed three-story stone mansion by the architects Chester Holmes Aldrich and William Adams Delano. Aldrich was a distant relative of the younger Rockefeller's wife, Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, who was involved as artistic consultant and in the interior design of the mansion. The elder Rockefeller had purchased land in the area as early as 1893 after his brother William had built a 204-room mansion, Rockwood Hall, in the area.

The initial eclectic structure took six years to complete. Before being occupied it was substantially rebuilt in its present four-story Classical Revival Georgian form. Completed in 1913, it has two basement levels filled with interconnecting passageways and service tunnels. The home's interiors were designed by Ogden Codman, Jr., and feature collections of Chinese and European ceramics, fine furnishings and 20th-century art.

It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.[2][4] In 1979, its occupant, Nelson Rockefeller, bequeathed upon his death his one-third interest in the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. As a result, Kykuit is now open to the public for tours[5] conducted by Historic Hudson Valley.

The imposing structure, of local stone topped with the Rockefeller emblem, is located centrally in a 250 acres (100 ha) inner compound (referred to as "the Park") within the larger Rockefeller family estate. This gated compound is guarded at all times. Save family residences, the rest of the estate (known as the open space) is open to the public for recreational purposes, as it always has been.


Southwestern exposure of Kykuit
One of several gardens
Kykuit's tea house

Initially, landscaping of the grounds was given to the company of Frederick Law Olmsted, who had designed Manhattan's Central Park. Rockefeller Senior was unhappy with this work however and assumed control of the design himself, transplanting whole mature trees, designing lookouts and the several scenic winding roads. In 1906, the further design of Kykuit's grounds was undertaken by the 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 terraced gardens include a Morning Garden, Grand Staircase, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese-style brook, Japanese Tea-house, large Oceanus fountain, Temple of Aphrodite, loggia, and semicircular rose garden.

Nelson transformed previously empty basement passages beneath the mansion that lead to a grotto into a major private art gallery containing paintings by Picasso, Chagall and Warhol, the latter two having visited the estate. Between 1935 and the late 1970s more than 120 works of abstract, avant garde and modern sculpture were added to the gardens grounds from Nelson's collection, including works by Picasso ('Bathers'), Constantin Brâncuși, Karel Appel ('Mouse on Table'), Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Georg Kolbe ('Ruf der Erde'), Gaston Lachaise, Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi ('Black Sun'), and David Smith.

Kykuit was renovated and modernized in 1995 by New Haven architect Herbert S. Newman and Partners. Included were major infrastructure changes enabling the estate to accommodate group tours of the first floor and art gallery, as well as a reconfiguration of third and fourth floor staff quarters into guest suites.

Public toursEdit

The inner park area was opened to restricted conducted tours of the mansion and immediate surrounds in 1994, but remains occupied and controlled by the family by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, which leased the area from the National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1991 and serves as steward of what is referred to as "the historic area".

Public tours are conducted by Historic Hudson Valley, an organization established 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."[6] Shuttle vans run from a visitor center located at the Philipsburg Manor House on Route 9 in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Pocantico, the family estateEdit

View from Kykuit's entryway
The Dining Room
The Music Hall

The vast estate, known as Pocantico or Pocantico Hills, occupies an area of 1,380 hectares (3,410 acres). During much of the 20th century, the 1,420 hectares (3,510 acres) estate featured a resident workforce of security guards, gardeners, and laborers, and had its own farming, cattle, and food supplies. It has a nine-hole, reversible golf course, and at one time had 75 houses and 70 private roads, most designed by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. and his son. A longstanding witticism about the estate quips: "It's what God would have built, if only He had the money".

In 1901, John D. Rockefeller, Sr. hired golf course architect Willie Dunn, the designer of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, to build a golf course on the grounds.[7]

In late 1946, two of Junior's sons, John D. Rockefeller III and Laurance Rockefeller, each offered their respective residences, Rockwood Hall and Fieldwood Farm, as headquarters for the then newly formed United Nations. Family patriarch Junior vetoed the proposals as the sites were too isolated from Manhattan. He tasked second son, Nelson, to buy a 6.9-hectare (17-acre) site along the East River, subsequently donated for the construction of the UN Headquarters.[8]

Among guests hosted by Nelson and his brother David have been Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Ronald Reagan, and their wives. Other notable visitors have included UN President Kofi Annan, President of the Republic of South Africa Nelson Mandela, Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, King Hussein of Jordan, President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and Lord Mountbatten of Burma of the United Kingdom.[9]

Presently, 10 or so Rockefeller families live within the estate, in the central compound and beyond. Much land has been donated over the decades to New York State, including the Rockefeller State Park Preserve, and is open to the public for horseback riding, biking, and jogging. Bill Clinton, who lives just north of the estate, in Chappaqua, has taken regular runs in the State Park.[10]


Within the park:

Outside the park:

  • "Abeyton Lodge", home of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., demolished when he occupied Kykuit after his father's death.
  • "Fieldwood Farm", home of John D. Rockefeller III.
  • "Hillcrest", a Rockefeller University property, formerly the mansion built for Martha Baird Rockefeller, second wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., and current location of the 3-story underground bunker housing the Rockefeller Archive Center
  • "Hudson Pines", home of the late patriarch, David Rockefeller, just north of the Park (177 acres or 72 ha), originally built for and occupied by his only sister, Abby
  • "Hunting Lodge", second home of Nelson
  • "Rockwood Hall", home of Laurance Rockefeller, originally the 1,000-acre (400 ha) property of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.'s, brother William Rockefeller. It was sold to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., in 1937, who had the mansion and its outbuildings razed. Later he deeded the property to Laurance who, in 1970, sold 80 acres (32 ha) to IBM for its Americas/Far East headquarters; this is now owned and occupied by New York Life Insurance. Subsequently, Laurance leased the rest of the property to the State of New York as a public park for one dollar a year, underwriting the maintenance costs. He donated this property outright to New York State in 1999, as part of the Rockefeller State Park Preserve.

Notable outbuildingsEdit

The Pocantico Conference Center
Originally the "Coach Barn"' a three-story complex ultimately redesigned and completed during 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 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.[11] In 1994, with funding from David Rockefeller and brother Laurance, its lower floor was converted by the New Haven architects Herbert S. Newman and Partners 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, among numerous other dignitaries.[12]
  • The "Playhouse", the family seat. In the park, this is the location, since 1994, of the regular semi-annual family meetings, in June and December.
A rambling French Norman two-story structure completed by Junior during 1927, this structure is also three times the size of the Kykuit mansion. Standing alongside the nine-hole, reversible golf course, an outdoor swimming pool and two tennis courts, it contains an indoor swimming pool and tennis court, fully equipped basketball gym, squash court, billiard room and 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, then disassembled, shipped to, and reassembled at the estate.
  • Underground Bomb Shelter, the location of cabinet papers and private telephone transcripts delivered to the estate during 1973 - and kept there for an unknown period of time - by the then Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.[13]
  • The Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, outside the park, this was opened by David Rockefeller and Peggy Dulany during 2004 [14] and was established in memory of Rockefeller's wife, Peggy. It is a not-for-profit agricultural and educational facility on 32 hectares (79 acres) of farmland, in the middle of the 445-hectare (1,100-acre) 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, memorabilia 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.[15]

Additionally, family members have had a profound effect on the hamlet of Pocantico Hills, which is situated in the open space of the estate completely surrounded by family-owned land. The Union Church of Pocantico Hills, now owned by Historic Hudson Valley, was built by the Rockefeller family, which commissioned stained-glass windows by Matisse (an abstract rose window, memorializing Abby Aldrich), and Chagall (the remainder of the windows, emphasizing Biblical prophets and some New Testament themes, and memorializing various members of the family and others). They also helped finance the construction of the local Pocantico Hills School.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b "John D. Rockefeller Estate (Kykuit)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. 2007-09-11. 
  3. ^ a b Smardz, Zofia (September 2, 2009). "Rockefeller's Beautiful Kykuit Mansion Has a Homey Feel". The Washington Post. 
  4. ^ James Sheire (February 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination: John D. Rockefeller Estate". National Park Service.  and Accompanying 22 photos, exterior, undated. (5.68 MB)
  5. ^ New York Times, 2003: The Estate Next Door
  6. ^
  7. ^ "All For One". Travel & Leisure. 
  8. ^ Harr, John Ensor Harr & Johnson, Peter J. (1988). "Estate offered as site for the UN headquarters". The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 432–33. 
  9. ^ Prominent visitors to the estate, including Chagall and Warhol -- Roberts, op.cit. (p.34).
  10. ^ "The Ex-President Next Door". The New York Times. June 8, 2003. Retrieved May 7, 2010. 
  11. ^ Coach Barn and vehicles illustrating auto design - Ibid., (p.98)
  12. ^ Pocantico Conferences and the Coach Barn - Ibid., (pp.13-14, 47-48); See also the Rockefeller Brothers Fund official website list of Conferences in External Links.
  13. ^ Kissinger's cabinet documents delivered to the estate - see Walter Isaacson, Kissinger: A Biography, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992, (updated, 2005) (pp.231-32); Seymour Hersh, The Price of Power: Kissinger in the Nixon White House, New York: Summit, 1983 (pp.112, 316, 479).
  14. ^ Stone Barns Official Site
  15. ^ The vetted and expurgated family archives available to researchers in the underground bunker - see Cary Reich, The Life of Nelson A. Rockefeller: Worlds to Conquer, 1908-1958, New York: Doubleday, 1996. (pp.774-75)

Further readingEdit

  • The House the Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in the Twentieth-Century America, Robert F. Dalzell and Lee Baldwin Dalzell, New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2007.
  • The Rockefeller Family Home: Kykuit, Ann Rockefeller Roberts (Text), Mary Louise Pierson (Photographs), and Cynthia Altman (Captions and additional text), New York: Abbeville Publishing Group (Abbeville Press, Inc.), 1998.
  • Abby Aldrich Rockefeller: The Woman in the Family. Bernice Kert, New York: Random House, 1993.
  • Pocantico: Fifty Years on the Rockefeller Domain, Tom Pyle, as told to Beth Day, New York: Duell, Sloan and Pierce, 1964.
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr, Ron Chernow, London: Warner Books, 1998.
  • Memoirs, David Rockefeller, New York: Random House, 2002.
  • The Rockefeller Century: Three Generations of America's Greatest Family, John Ensor Harr and Peter J. Johnson. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1988.
  • Great Houses of the Hudson River, Michael Middleton Dwyer, editor, with preface by Mark Rockefeller, Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, published in association with Historic Hudson Valley, 2001. ISBN 0-8212-2767-X.

External linksEdit