Clio Logo

The home for four generations of the Rockefeller family, Kykuit was built for John D. Rockefeller, Sr., scion of Standard Oil and richest man in the world during his lifetime. The house and extensive gardens are the design of architect William Welles Bosworth, who worked collaboratively with John D. Rockefeller Jr.on the construction. Completed in 1913, the estate contains several outbuildings including a Coach Barn, Playhouse and an Orangerie. The home contains collections of Asian ceramics, fine furnishings and 20th century art. The last family occupant, Nelson Rockefeller, bequeathed his portion of the estate to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. His two brothers David and Laurance did the same at their deaths.

Birds Eye View

Birds Eye View

John D. Rockefeller Sr with John D. Jr and family

John D. Rockefeller Sr with John D. Jr and family

On a hilltop overlooking the Hudson River, the Dutch settlers in Philipsburg Manor named this spot Kykuit which means "outlook." It was part of the 400-acre estate that John D. Rockefeller purchased in 1893. The Rockefellers adopted this Dutch name for their house. John Sr. continued to acquire land until it eventually totaled over 3,000 acres. Rockefeller lived in another house on the property until it burned in 1902 and serious plans began for a new house.

He delegated the planning and construction supervision of the house and gardens to his son and namesake, John D. Rockefeller Jr. The architects Delano and Aldrich built the first version of the house, but John Sr. and his wife Cettie were not satisfied with the result. John Jr. had architect William Welles Bosworth, who was designing the gardens, take over the renovations. While the first house was a modest eclectic mix of styles, Bosworth created a much more imposing structure, of local stone and classical ornamentation. It is located centrally in a 250 acre inner compound within the larger Rockefeller family estate.

The elaborate gardens of Kykuit with their terraces, fountains, pavilions and classical sculpture eventually cost more than the house. These gardens in the Beaux-Arts and Italianate style are considered Bosworth's best work in the United States.

After the death of JDR Sr. in 1937, his son JDR Jr. and his family lived in the house until 1960. It then passed to his second son, Nelson, who made it his residence as well as a private museum for his renowned collection of 20th century art. Following his death in 1970, his third of the estate with the house, gardens, coach barn and collections were bequeathed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Subsequently, his two brothers Laurance and David Rockefeller have left their portions of the 250 acre compound to the National Trust. These portions include additional building such as the Playhouse, Orangerie, guest houses and more. Other portions of the larger estate were left to New York State as public park and to the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture.

Roberts, Ann Rockefeller. The Rockefeller Family Home Kykuit. New York. Abbeyville Press, 1998.

Lederman, Larry . The Rockefeller Family Gardens. New York. The Monacelli Press, 2017.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Rockefeller Archives