The Kykuit mansion: from private residency to national trust

Image courtesy of Kris at

Imagine for a moment that you are an oil tycoon with millions and millions of dollars. Imagine you can do whatever you want with that money. Imagine you can build the house of your dreams and know that generation after generation will live there until the end of times, or until something very strange happens. Or until the government looks at your house and considers it “a national trust house”. In fact, to make it easier, imagine you are John D. Rockefeller and you can actually do anything and build anything. What would you do? What would you build? Donald Burns knows what he would do.

Well, as we all know, John D. Rockefeller was the wealthiest man in the united states and he could do anything. In fact, he built one of America’s most famous private residences in 1913 in Pocantico Hills, near to the Hudson River. The Estate is located near Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow, and you can see the amazing skyline that New York has to offer from there. Let’s take a look at his private residency and what has become of it.

First, why the name? Kykuit means “look-out” in Dutch and the name fiuts perfectly with the house because it is located in a very high place along the Hudson river in the Pocantiuco Hills. In fact, the view is so amazing that you can see the river and the palisades from the house and the skyline in New York City.

And the design: The designs started years before the 1913 because in 1908 William A. Delano and Chester H. Aldrich designed the first layout. Then, Rockefeller’s son, John Junior, was the one that was in charge of building the estate. Father and son soon disagreed on what should be done and things did not go well. Then, they decided to reach a middle point by calling several architects and make them work together. The mansion was finished two years later and the result was a total mess. These were the problem it had: the house was ugly, the windows were just not big enough, the ceilings looked like they were trapping and coming down on people, smoke went into the house through the windows and the plumbing was noisy. Then, in 1913 the building was redesigned a little bit to make it as special as it is today. With 204 rooms, gardens, underground basements and tunnel connections for the basements. It also has a 30-foot replica of Giambologna’s Oceanus Fountain that is fed by underground pipelines that were the trendy thing to do at that time for multimillionaires.

The new house, the one built after the firs disaster, included state-of-the art telephones and telegraphs, ticker tape, refrigeration and even a central vacuuming system. Rockefeller´s son contributed to the house with decoration and gardens that did not impress his father. Rockefeller junior installed a fountain in the forecourt (the granite bowl had an astonishing weight of 35 tons) and a marble statue of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. The cost of the house soon doubled due to all of the thing that Rockefeller junior included. In fact, the gardens and sculptures were more expensive than expected with a budget that fluctuated and increased as time passed.

Image courtesy of Kris at

The house was built thinking about all the family and the generations to come. Rockefeller’s wife died just after 1 year and did not have the chance to fully enjoy all the house and its state of the art technology for the time. Rockefeller father continued to live in that house until he passed away in 1937 and left the house to his son Rockefeller Junior, and his wife Abby. They added a lot of art pieces and sculptures that can still be seen today. At the time, the contributions this couple made to the house were controversial and lacking taste, but it is what now attracts many tourists and local visitors. After Junior’s death in 1960, the house went to his son his son Nelson who made it a more family and friends type of place and built two swimming pools and an ice cream parlour in the ‘Teahouse’. Nelson also installed an eclectic mix of modern art, including statues by Henry Moore, Picasso, Alexander Calder and Andy Warhol

Nelson died in 1979 and left the legacy to the government who converted the house into a national trust house with tours and guides that show people how things were, and some interesting stories, in the time when the Rockefeller family lived. These tours are made in the summer months and are enjoyed by everyone.

This is how Rockefeller, once again, leaves an amazing legacy for the country and its people.

Be sure to take a look at this amazing article on where and when to visit amazing castles in the United States