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?