The mansions of the Gilded Age in New York City were certainly something to behold, but where did the uber-wealthy people of that time go when they wanted to be surrounded by nature? The Rockefellers, for instance, went to Kykuit, an incredibly stunning estate in Pocantico Hills in lower Westchester. I recently toured the estate and the gardens with my family and was impressed by the informative tour and the lush outdoors, which included an unforgettable view of the Hudson River. NY Day Trip Idea: A Tour of the Rockefeller Estate in Westchester
Kykuit (pronounced Kai-kit) is Dutch for “lookout” or “high place” and is very fitting for the estate as it is high up in Pocantico Hills near Sleepy Hollow. It was built by oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller and had 4 generations of the Rockefellers living there. JDR wanted a place in the country where he could work in peace on his philanthropic work. He purchased 400 acres which grew into 4,000 acres. The 40-room house is 6 stories high (two of them being underground).
JDR died in 1937 and his son, JDR jr. also lived there until his death in 1960. JDR Jr. had six children. One of which was NY Governor and Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who lived in Kykuit with his second wife and their two boys, Nelson Jr. and Mark.
The Music room:
The basement houses a gallery dedicated to modern art. Here is artwork by Andy Warhol of Nelson Rockefeller and his second wife, Happy Rockefeller:
Our tour guide, Carole, was informative, interesting and charismatic. She’s a great storyteller and each room had its own story and tidbits. I felt like I had first-access to what was going on behind the scenes. She was very patient with my kids and even got them involved by helping her hold photographs of the family.
Four generations: Left to right: JDR Jr., JDR Sr., Nelson Rockefeller’s oldest son from his first marriage, Rodman, and Nelson.
JDR Jr’s six children. Nelson is fourth from right:
Nelson Rockefeller was a big fan of modern art (his mother, Abby, founded the MOMA) and brought many modern pieces to the estate, especially to the gardens. There are over 100 works of modern art inside the estate and over 70 pieces of modern sculptures outdoors.
View from the front of the house:
As mentioned, there are numerous modern sculptures in and outside the estate.
And a not-so-modern sculpture:
A good part of the gardens was designed with English and Italian landscaping in mind:
Whimsical dragon fountain:
Side view of the estate:
Stunning views of the Hudson River:
The gardens were very peaceful.
The tour also included the coach barn which houses carriages, stables and antique cars that were used by the family. It is now a conference center for non-profit organizations but still has the cars and carriages on display.
Tips: You cannot arrive at Kykuit by car. You first have to pick up tickets at the visitor center and then take a shuttle. It’s recommended to arrive at the visitor center 30 minutes prior to the tour. Leave any backpacks and diaper bags in your car or a locker at the visitor center, as you will not be able to take anything with you. The shuttle will leave right before the tour begins (they will tell you when to take it) so you don’t want to be late and miss it because the tour starts right away. The tour is recommended for age 10 and up but all my kids really liked it.
Click here for more information on tours and to purchase tickets.
Interior photos courtesy of Jaime Martorano.
I was not compensated for this post. I received complimentary tickets to the Classic Tour.
Senior Reviewer Maytal Wichman has also written for The Huffington Post. She has been living in New York City for fourteen years and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature as well as a Law Degree, but blogging is her true passion. Maytal is a stay-at-home mom to three kids (ages 10, 8 and 4) and loves finding great products that make her family’s life easier. S