A Visit with the Rockefellers

Well, their house at least!

Just a short train ride up the Hudson River to Tarrytown and tucked away in Sleepy Hollow sits Kykuit, one of the Rockefeller family estates that was home to four generations before it was transferred to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Now anyone can experience the grandeur of a bygone era.

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At the front door where light fixtures by Tiffany are featured over the original gas lights welcoming family and guests.

The mansion, while large, retains an intimate graciousness without ostentation. The early Rockefellers were devout Baptists and upheld a strict adherence, despite their great wealth, to restraint. There is no grand entry hall or formal staircase. Instead a small vestibule invites you into a home with rooms that are scaled, proportioned and comfortable.

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A side view showing a smaller garden off of the French doors on the first floor.

A special highlight of the interior is the basement art gallery, displaying significant mid-century works that are arranged to be viewed from settees or chaise lounges—it’s a quiet, reflective space in which to engage with the art and the extensive collection would fit in at any major New York museum.

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Charming little alligators guard the corners of a fountain!

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Perfectly manicured trees frame an inviting walkway.

The real gem of the property is the extensive acreage and gardens, also displaying extraordinary artwork and sculpture. With unadulterated views of the Hudson, the land seems to stretch all the way to the water’s edge. And while the family did not own the entire land parcel it was designed to appear as such. The Rockefellers even went to the extent of acquiring the land directly across the river in New Jersey so that it could not be developed, leaving them with an unspoiled vista. It truly is idyllic.

In addition, the property includes a recreation house, two swimming pools, a nine-hole reversible golf course, an enormous garage (with gas pump!) for their car collection and a beautiful horse stable including a large range of historical carriages.

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Important works of sculpture dot the property at every turn.

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A square gazebo offers an afternoon respite.

The best part is the guided tour which provides extensive information about the family and the home, including the fact that the mansion was not the original. The family did not like the first house they built on the property so at its finish, they had it torn down and the present mansion was newly built in its place. It’s a perfect anecdote to understanding the level of wealth they enjoyed and what it meant to be a Rockefeller.

Tours are available May through November and more information is available at Historic Hudson Valley.

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The perfect vista across the Hudson!