A Day with the Rockefellers

by Dee Davis on June 2, 2011

So this past weekend, in celebration of Memorial Day, we rented a car and headed out to Sleepy Hollow.   Yes, the very same place that inspired Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  But instead of ghostly non-headed riders in the night, we were in search of history.  Specifically, the Rockefeller’s Mansion Kykuit (a Dutch word meaning lookout). Home to four generations of Rockefellers, the house was finished in 1916.   Six stories, (including a subterranean tunnel for deliveries) it was originally built by John David Rockefeller founder of Standard Oil and was ultimately the home of NY governor (and Vice President to Gerald Ford) Nelson Rockefeller. 

Warmer and more intimate than many of the mansions in Newport, Kykuit, a classic revival Georgian structure, is filled with family furniture, keep-sakes, art and collectables that give it a lived in feeling even today.  Downstairs in Nelson Rockefeller’s gallery you can find art by a variety of modern artists including Picasso and Calder.

The house, built to command a magnificent view of the Hudson River and the palisades beyond,  is surrounded by elegant gardens designed by William W. Bosworth, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, a tea house, Rockefeller’s amazing collection of sculpture, and numerous fountains.  In addition there is a nine-hole reversible golf course (as in two sets of tees, so that after nine you can play the course backwards for the full eighteen).

After touring the house and gardens, we headed for the magnificent stables, which quite frankly were as ornate as the house.  Oh to have been a horse stabled there.  In addition to a large collection of carriages, there is also a wonderful car collection including a Ford Model T and S.  An electric car dating from 1916.  A fabulous Rolls and Governor Rockefeller’s Limousine from the day.

The home is open for visiting from early May to late October, every day except Tuesdays.  Tours offered vary according to the amount of time one wishes to spend as well as one’s interest.  We chose the Classical Tour with a concentration on the house and inner gardens as well as the stable.  All in all it was a beautiful day spent high on a hill overlooking the Hudson in a house built for one of America’s most philanthropic families.  Well worth the visit!

What about you?  What are some cool places you’ve visited recently (or even long ago)?  What’s your idea of a dream house?  And where would you build it?

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon June 2, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Ooh, Dee, I loved Kykuit when I went there. I actually took a boat up the Hudson to the estate which was fabulous although the tour guide got a few things wrong. Did you get to see any of the red squirrels?

Any trip to see the Roosevelt mansion at Hyde Park has to include a trip to the near by Vandebilt mansion if only to compare and contrast how two families, both wealthy, could live so differently. It’s a clear difference between old money and new money.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 2:16 pm

We saw chipmunks and black squirrels but no red ones :(

Reply

CateS June 2, 2011 at 12:12 pm

If you’re ever in Ashville, North Carolina area — go to the Biltmore! It’s wonderful to tour. Tours of the house, the house behind the scenes via servants stairs, gardens, winery. You find out that the rich did really live different from the rest of us [and probably still do!]. It was intended to be a working estate, similar to country estates in the UK. http://www.biltmore.com/visit/default.asp

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I’ve heard the Biltmore is fabulous! And we really do want to visit Ashville. Have heard it’s gorgeous.

Reply

nissie June 2, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Biltmore is awesome! I really hope you can get there, Dee. Not only is it jaw-dropping gorgeous, the atmosphere is just so dreamy and romantic. To me, anyway. The gardens are a sight to behold in the summer, but I really want to go at Christmas. I hear there’s nothing like it.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 2:19 pm

My grandmother loved it! So one of these days definitely.

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 9:52 am

Dee, great recap and it’s a very lovely place. Recent places that I’ve visited are L.A. which was fun, haven’t done it in a long time but didn’t get to do any tourist things. Alas. We’re talking about a drive up to Maine this summer for a long weekend, because that’s on the list of places for us to see.

As for dream homes, I never wanted grand mansion (except for a cool library. Would love that). I think where we’re at is pretty much the dream house (assuming we finally reach Master Renovation Plan: Phase 10). We’re currently on Phase 4, and have done quite a bit. Homey feel is important to me.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 10:12 am

KNow just what you mean. And LOVE your house. So I agree you’ve got the whole dream home thing in a bag. And you’ll love Maine. Go to Boothbay Harbour. Great little town. I’d move there in an instant if the commute weren’t so long to NY and the winter’s weren’t so cold there.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 11:11 am

I love Maine. Ogunquit, Wells, and Portland. Lobster, chowder, clams.

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm

NOMNOM…

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 12:02 pm

I think Boothbay is on the list, but if not, it is now. :)

Reply

Karen June 2, 2011 at 9:40 am

We have visited Heart Island (at least twice) which is the home of Boldt Castle. It was built by a man for his beloved wife who died before it was finished. On the day she died, he stopped all construction and it was never finished. It is part of the Thousand Islands of the St. Lawrence River. I love castles.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

Oh me too! Sounds fabulous!

Reply

Julia London Julia London June 2, 2011 at 8:48 am

We are taking my mother to NYC this fall for her first visit. She said she wanted to see: “Empire State Building, Ground Zero, Central Park, The Bronx, and Connecticut.”

Maybe, instead of the Bronx or Connecticut (I honestly think she is thinking of All in the Family and the Mary Tyler Moore shows), I could take her on the train up the Hudson Valley to see this place, Dee. What a great idea!

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 8:56 am

There’s also an old colonial plantation there (the visitor center is actually for both). It’s a small working farm. So it makes for a great day to visit both. And you can take the train to Tarrytown and then a taxi to the visitor center (about 4 bucks) and you’re all set. Another cool town to train too along the Hudson is Cold Spring. Fabulous little victorian village. With little shops to poke around in.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 8:57 am

Ct is gorgeous though. A drive up the coast is fabulous! And there are loads of little towns with village greens and lots of cute shops there too.

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 9:45 am

I think you should DEFINITELY take her up here. :)

There’s Kykuit and Lyndhurst (both grand and big), there’s the Sleepy Hollow Cemetary and Sunnyside (Washington Irving’s Home, small, but restored). About an hour north (a little above Cold Spring) is the home of FDR which has a more home-like feel and nature-loving feel, but is still one of the great houses. As a bonus, the Culinary Institute of America is in Hyde Park (reservations a few months in advance are pretty much required).
:endtourguidemode.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 10:51 am

But in CT, you could bring her to see ME! And we could see the Mark Twain house.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 10:52 am

I think Julia’s mother is going to have to plan a second trip or to stay longer.

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm

When’s moving day, Sherri? And I would love to see the Mark Twain house. Love Mark Twain.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Twain’s house is in Hartford, not far from me. Next door to Harriet Beecher Stowe’s house, actually. They must have been fascinating neighbors. June 15 is the closing, but probably moving in the week after that. We have some cleaning and painting to do.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 8:37 am

My dream house used to be a cozy but elegant beach house. But then, I don’t know, I like living in a neighborhood with grass and trees and quiet streets to drive. And I also have dreamed of living in a posh Manhattan apartment. But then, I like living in a neighborhood with grass and trees and quiet streets to drive. I always thought our dream house would be a huge Colonial in a lovely old neighborhood, but then touring open houses, we started to fall in love with Contemporary styles. And now I think I really am buying my dream house ( a contemporary in a beautiful neighborhood). Which is pretty cool. But obviously, my dreams change so I’ll keep dreaming and come up with new ideas.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 8:54 am

Hey, I think the very fact that you’re moving to a dream house is FANTASTIC. That’s always been a dream of mine. Have lived some very cool places but never anywhere that felt like “the” place. Can’t wait for you to move in!

Reply

Ti Colluney June 2, 2011 at 9:21 am

See living on the ocean with beaches is lovely until you get hit by monster hurricanes. Never again!

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 9:47 am

LOL, Ti. Exactly. Don’t mind living NEAR the ocean, but thank you, I prefer not to leave on the beach. Or in a flood zone. :)

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 10:49 am

Yeah, I think that’s why that dream died a little. That, and rats. I’m very scared of rodents and I hear they are problems on the water, and in big cities like NY. So… rethinking the whole dream home concept all the time.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 10:50 am

Maybe lots of dream vacations. Maybe my home should be on the road. I love hotels.

Reply

Kathleen O'Reilly Kathleen O'Reilly June 2, 2011 at 12:03 pm

LOL, don’t like rats either.

Reply

Ti Colluney June 2, 2011 at 8:35 am

In Ormond Beach, just north of Daytona Beach, Florida, is another one of their houses called The Casements. Rockerfeller built a Grand Hotel across the road that has since been pulled down. He is the reason they had a railroad from Jax to Key West.

Places we have been recently??!! Well my mom was just here visiting from Florida and she had never been to the UK. We went to soooo many places. Caernarfon Castle in Wales (Where Prince Charles gets his title Prince of Wales from) was impressive. White Tower in the Tower of London was awe inspiring. Stonehenge. Chatsworth (owned by the infamous Bess of Hardwich who’s husband was one of Mary Queen of Scot’s jailors.) York, the entire city is mouth dropping divine. Everywhere is history..from Iron Age Roman Viking and Medieval. Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is the oldest pub in England and its in caves UNDER the castle in Nottingham. (I live near this!) It has a small haunted galleon that anyone who has touched it has died. It was blessed by a white witch and encased in glass. I have to say the British Museum…I could live there. There and York. Everywhere you turn there was something that made your jaw drop. Well wait…a house..where would I have a house and what kind….

My idea of a dream house is a small but comfortable 15th century thatched roof cottage; possibly in the Cotswold’s or some where quiet, villagey and mountainy. Maybe in Derbyshire Peak District or Montsale Dale. Beamed ceilings and huge fireplaces. Different level floors. And room for all my animals. OH and plenty of garden space outside for flowers and fruit trees and veggies!

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 8:53 am

I’m a total anglophile! Love everything about the country and have been to several of the places you mention. And yes, a thatched cottage with an english garden–what heaven!

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 8:17 am

My idea for a dream house is somewhere on a hill with a view. With money as no object top three contenders are Lake Bellagio in Italy. Hallstadt in Austria. And the West coast of Ireland. On a more practical level would love a house overlooking the valley near Creede Colorado.

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 5:50 am

Magnificent! I love touring grand old estates. I love that this one has a lived-in feel. And a view!

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 5:55 am

Oh, tornado update. We made it without any personal or property damage. Others, not so lucky. Four deaths. Some destruction- not whole cities or towns, but here and there scattered across western Massachusetts (some very close to me). Lots of communities have schools closed this morning. And I’m not sure my daughter’s graduation will go off tonight as planned. We’re waiting for news on that.

Reply

Dee Davis Dee Davis June 2, 2011 at 8:15 am

Just finished reading about it. So glad that you’re okay. Too close for comfort though. Fingers crossed on graduation!

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

Just got word that it will all go off as planned for tonight, yay!

Reply

Ti Colluney June 2, 2011 at 8:36 am

YAYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY! I bet you are all relieved! Take pics Sherri! And congrats to you and her!

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 8:47 am

Very relieved.

Reply

Jacquie D'Alessandro Jacquie D'Alessandro June 2, 2011 at 9:17 am

Glad all is well with you and that the graduation will take place, Sherri!

Reply

Sherri Browning Erwin Sherri Browning Erwin June 2, 2011 at 10:47 am

This just in: Postponed until Sunday. But it’s only a few days. No problem really. The city needs the time to get back into shape. No surprise, really, since that was a hard hit area and some buildings crumbled, blocking roads.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: