The 40-room Rockefeller mansion before the murders …

What the heck’s a Kykuit?
Kykuit (rhymes with “die-cut”)  is a 40-room estate built by one of America’s most storied family dynasties,  the Rockefellers.  I went in the early summer and for $18,  my luffer and I (hi Chris!) took a 2 hour tour of the main house, the formal gardens and the garage.  The tour guide was a tetchy old queen straight out of central casting:  Tommy Bahama button down, linen slacks and a James Lipton goatee.  His first “moment” involved hissing at someone in our group who was taking pictures, “what don’t you understand about ‘no photographs’?!”  Meee-ow.

How old is it?
What am I, the Oracle of Delphi?  Haha just kidding, just preparing you for the bitchy tour guide.  John D. Rockefeller Sr. bought the land in 1893 and finished construction on the six-story building in 1913.  It became a public museum in 1979 when Nelson Rockefeller, the fourth generation of Rockefellers who called Kykuit home, died and willed his share of the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

How do I get there?
It’s in Sleepy Hollow in the lower Hudson River Valley, about an hour north of New York City by car.

What other nerdy things do I need to know?
Well, John Jr.’s wife was a founder of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC, so there’s a pretty thorough art gallery in the basement.  I found it boring, but maybe because I was all juiced up on how old rich people live.  The one cool thing though were huge tapestries of Picasso paintings created with his approval when he was alive.  There’s a pretty cool butler’s pantry and dumbwaiter and a nice display of fancy old china.  There’s also an incredible view of the Hudson River from the property, one of the finest I’ve seen from a Hudson Valley estate.

They don’t mention this on the tour, but Kykuit is at the heart of a 3,400-acre Rockefeller state within a state called Pocantico Hills.  Ten Rockefeller families live within the compound still, but a lot of the land has been donated to the state as parkland.  According to that last bastion of truth and accuracy, Wikipedia, locals describe Pocantico as “what God would have built, if only He had the money.”  Bless.

The logistics:
Tickets are $15 to $38 per person and tours last from 1 to 3 hours.   You have to buy your tickets at the Kykuit Visitor Center on Route 9 in Sleep Hollow and then take a shuttle up to the site.  Leave enough time for a visit to Philipsburg Manor, an old Dutch farmstead right behind the Visitor Center that has real live animals.


Nerds in Paradise!


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