Monday, August 24, 2009

Kykuit Rockefeller Estate, Daytrip from NYC to Historical Hudson Valley Sites Part I

PART I, Kykuit
Today's excursion to Kykuit and Philipsburg Manor, a Metro North One-Day Getaway package, puts you on the honor system: you'll have to count on walking most of your 10000 steps getting from home to the railroad and back, since we clocked only 2 miles on the old pedometer during the visits to both sites. See below for location map, visiting tips and photos and description of attraction highlights.

  • BTW, if you reserve tickets online either from Metro North, or from the Historic Hudson, you do get a discount, but tickets are available also once you reach the Visitor's Center. The only way to see Kykuit is with an official tour group. The walk through Philipsburg Manor is less formal, but a time is assigned as numbers of visitors dictate.

Once you arrive at the Tarreytown Station on Metro North, you can take a 5 minute taxi ride to the Visitor's Center at Philipsburg Manor (The ONLY WAY TO SEE KYKUIT!!) There, your prepaid ticket is validated and you are scheduled for your selected tour. We had visited once before with the Classic Tour which includes the interior first floor rooms and basement art galleries, and the Coach Barn with its classic cars and antique carriages. Our tour this time, The Selected Highlights, features just the first floor of the interior and much more of the gardens.

Kykuit (from the Dutch word for "lookout") is a magnificent example of the Classical Revival Georgian style. This 40-room hilltop mansion and museum was built by oil magnate John D. Rockefeller and finished in its present form in 1913. The 6-story house and its gardens are full of art in many forms, including, sculpture, painting, and decorative pieces.

Photos of the interior are not allowed. The Historical Hudson Valley site shows a representative view.

International in scope, the sculpture collection's 70-plus pieces, reflects many of the major trends of modern sculpture. It was Nelson, son of John D., Jr., 3rd generation to occupy the house, who collected the 20th century sculpture, and we will find it interspersed amongst the classical structures. In fact, he is credited with being one of the originators of today's concept of sculpture garden.
The one above by Constantine Brancusi stands just outside the entryway of the mansion.

"Oceanus and the Three Rivers", which stands opposite the main entrance, was created in 1913 and is based on a 16th-century scuplture by the Italian artist Giambologna. A painting of this scene by American artist John Paul Sargent hangs just inside the mansion's vestibule.

William Welles Bosworth designed the many beaux arts gardens at Kykuit, such as this field of cone-shaped topiaries.

Aristide Maillol's "Bather Putting Up Her Hair." In the background is the Teahouse, which contained a cafe and ice cream parlor for the delight of the family's children.

And another, not sure about the swim?

Nelson's sculpture collection includes works of Picasso, Moore, David Smith, Nevelson, Brancusi, Giacometti, Noguchi, Calder, and above, Peter Chinni.

The Temple of Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty.

A closer look reveals perhaps the early 20th-century taste for modesty.

Look up at the temple's ceiling and you'll be treated to a panorama of angels doing whatever it is angels do.

Behind the Teahouse is a less formal, morning garden. This playful imp controls the water in the fountain where the children often splashed about.

This angel was once owned by famous New York architect Stanford White. Does the statue remind you of another sculpture posted previously on this blog? Does the "Angel of the Waters" at Central Park's Bethesda Fountain come to mind?

Phlox flowers are one of the many plantings that bring the gardens to life. These fragrant perennials are valued for their ability to attract butterflies, to the delight of the young'uns.

This quietly running brook, just steps from the phlox, seemed to appear from nowhere.

An avenue of Linden trees shows the way to the mansion.

\ne of four grottos, this one with it's toadstool-like table and stools, reminded us of a scene from "Alice in Wonderland."

A brass sculpture by Henry Moore.
This whimsical mask-like work got someone singing, M-i-c-k-e-y M-o-u-s-e... (What can you do? It's a random tour group!)

And this piece evoked the question: Oh -- do you get it?

Gaston Lachaise's nudes, all tangled up in desire. The sculpture is called "The Couple," but we prefer the French name "Dans la nuit."

Another LaChaise bronze sculpture. She seems to be caught in a moment of surprise.

The back of the mansion, seen from the stone-carved pool below.

The principles of classical symmetry play out everywhere on the estate. This sculpture, which overlooks a natural-looking swimming pool full of croaking frogs, is centered on a carved rock formation.

To one side of the pool stands this pavilion and free-form sculpture.....

...and voila -- directly opposite stands its mirror image.

The classical theme is carried through with this statue of Hercules, completing one of his twelve labors, this one slaying the nine-headed Hydra.

Leaving the gardens, visitors are given a final treat, this colonnade, which runs along the rose garden.

The mansion looks west toward the Hudson River. One hates to leave this hilltop paradise.

But leave we did, to spend the rest of the afternoon at a nearby part of the Rockefeller Estate which will take us into the 18th century. Watch for Part II at Philipsburg Manor... , and Part III at Van Cortlandt Manor.