Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate: A Historical Background

Words: Sa Bal

Words: Sa Bal
Photos: fdastudillo, OlegAlbinsky

Kykuit is the magnificent Rockefeller estate in the beautiful Pocantico Hills of Westchester County, present some twenty-five miles north of NY City. The word kykuit is a Dutch word with the meaning 'lookout,' which perfectly reflects the estate. This colossal estate offers an incredible view of the Hudson River and the Rockefellers' expansive land. 

The Rockefellers landscaped and constructed this vast estate to create a haven for their family members. Four generations of the Rockefeller's lounged around in the estate. However, John D. Rockefeller Sr., John D. Rockefeller Jr., and Nelson A. Rockefeller are the most distinguished family members who contributed to the history of this fantastic architecture.

Since 1905, Kykuit has been the epitome of intellectual, innovative, and creative endeavors. However, the design and construction of this estate changed in 1960 when Nelson A. Rockefeller gained ownership. Moreover, according to the former Vice President's will, in December of 1991, the Kykuit was gifted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Eventually, the Rockefeller estate was opened for the public to look around and appreciate. This historic site boasts a rich history, a beautiful interior, and an even more beautiful exterior. If you go to the Historic Hudson Valley, you can enjoy an insightful tour with a closer look at this estate's construction and historical significance.  

You can even enjoy listening to stories about the Rockefeller family, look at vintage 20th-century architecture, a beautiful and green garden, and exciting modern art. Have we caught your attention? Let's take a closer look at what makes the Kykuit a unique real estate and its history: 

A Dive in the History of the Rockefeller Estate

The stunning Rockefeller estate is the perfect combination of intellectual with aesthetic designs and philosophies envisioned by three different generations of Rockefellers. The vast estate was constructed with one thing in mind; that the building should appear sophisticated yet simple.

Thus, the construction of the Kykuit began in the late 1800s. Unfortunately, all the structure and mapping out was only inside the mind of John D, Rockefeller Sr., aka, the founder of Standard Oil.

After that, he finally bought the land in Pocantico Hill (1893). Finally, after many disputes, discussions, and talks between John D Rockefeller Sr. and John D Rockefeller Jr. and the skilled architects in the project, the estate's construction kick-started in 1905. 

John D Rockefeller Senior had wanted to fabricate a comfortable and serene refuge from all the political and economic endeavors of the outside world. He drew a T-shaped building that focused on benefitting from the beauty of the Hudson River maximized the entrance of afternoon sunlight. Moreover, there was a classy office and a drawing-room near the entrance. You could also locate a spacious and sophisticated central space, an aesthetic library, a cozy tea room, and an elegant dining room. His main idea was to focus on the house of the estate. However, John D Rockefeller Junior and his wife had decided to reconstruct the Rockefeller as a building perfect for family life while preserving its classical beauty.

Southwestern facade of the Kykuit (John D. Rockefeller Estate), Blue Sky and Garden with Trees in Autumn Colors (Foliage) in Pocantico Hills, Mount Pleasant, Hudson Valley, New York. Canon EOS 6D (full frame sensor). Polarizing filter.

The Construction and Architecture of the Rockefeller Estate 

The architects who played the most prominent part in constructing the beautiful Rockefeller Estate from a combination of stone and bricks were Chester Holmes Aldrich and William Adams Delano. Having studied at Columbia and Yale, respectively, both went on to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where they learned to preserve the aesthetics and architects of the Classical period. 

William Welles Bosworth was hired as Kykuit's landscape architect. He worked alongside Freddrick law Olmsted to map out the design. Both were highly-trained and highly-skilled American architects. With their extensive education and expertise, they tailored the design according to the Rockefellers, especially John D Rockefeller Sr.

Ogden Codman Jr. played an integral role in designing and patterning each room a different era of English style when talking about the interior. There's also a classy dark wood-paneled office dedicated to JDR where Nelson added a TV and stereo. On the other hand, there exists a lighter, somewhat feminine room for Mrs. Rockefeller in the Adam style.

In 1906, the land and oversight of the Kykuit were bestowed to Junior. He then hired the talented landscape architect William Welles Bosworth. Bosworth re-designed the Rockefeller Estate loosely around Italian gardens with spatial terraces, enrapturing fountains, pavilions, strong axes, and classical ornamentation. The expansive terraced gardens include a large Oceanus fountain, Morning Garden, Temple of Aphrodite, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese Teahouse, and a beautiful semicircle-shaped rose garden.

A flight of meticulously crafted stairways takes you to each level, whereas the garden revitalizes you and offers sights of greenery and beauty.

Lastly, when Nelson Rockefeller gained ownership of this estate, he gave the estate a splash of his architectural intellect and creativity. Today Kykuit is full of his massive collection of contemporary art. While he kept the original art pieces and furniture within the house alongside the portraits of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, he added modern art as well. 

Nelson placed a T'ang Dynasty marble bodhisattva before a huge window that overlooks the landscape and Hudson River. Even today, this gigantic mansion fabricated from local stone and embellished with the Rockefeller emblem stands tall and proud. The 250-acre gated inner compound welcomes everyone to look at the rich history and innovative construction of the estate.

The Bottom Line 

All in all, John D. Rockefeller Sr. desired to live a frugal life after offering a significant part of his fortune to someone else. However, most people agreed that by doing this, Senior was ignoring higher and rich cultural values. The fact is that it was the duty of the rich to promote that one cannot live simply by bread. This view was not merely by critics but by his son as well. 

Junior believed that wealth and democracy were compatible. The Kykuit should be a high-end yet modest palace representing beautiful structural and architectural designs while keeping noble values at the forefront.

The family had hoped that their values would be universal, and the estate looked as though it did not house money-hungry individuals. But instead, those civic-minded people resided inside the mansion. 

The Kykuit, Rockefeller state is an expansive microcosm of the legacy of the Rockefeller family. Here you can enjoy looking at a unique and diverse collection of artistic expressions that represent the perfect balance between tradition and its rejection. Each eye-catching sculpture and painting found in the Rockefeller building has its exciting back-story. 

The intricate structure of the Rockefeller is complemented by the exciting interior furniture and the beautiful landscape. It also serves as a physical representation of the intellect and innovation of the Rockefeller building. All in all, Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, is a treasured, rich, and beautiful historical building sitting atop the Hudson Valley.

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