It’s been reported that Southern Tier native and founder of Standard Oil John D. Rockefeller had two great ambitions: make $100,000 and live for 100 years. He far exceeded his financial goals, becoming the first American worth more than $1 billion while transforming (and monopolizing) the oil industry during the second half of the 19th century. While he missed his 100th birthday by just over two years, he and his family together made a lasting legacy throughout the country and in New York State. He defined modern philanthropy and established the Rockefeller Foundation in 1913, donating $550 million to public health, medical training and the arts. Today, NYSOM is celebrating what would be Mr. Rockefeller’s 174th birthday and planning a day where we can walk in the Rockefellers’ footsteps.
Mr. Rockefeller’s tradition of giving extended to his offspring and created a family legacy of benefaction with a major impact over many generations. He made a name for himself as an oil and charity pioneer whose humanitarianism helped eradicate once-prevalent diseases like hookworm and yellow fever, and laid the foundation for modern philanthropy as we know it today. His son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., financed and built NYC’s Rockefeller Center between 1930 and 1939. And his grandson, Nelson A. Rockefeller, served as the 49th Governor of New York between 1959-1973 (then as the 41st Vice President of the United States from 1974-1977). As New York State Governor, Nelson A. Rockefeller helped expand the State University system and built the Empire State Plaza in Albany. Prior to his life in politics, he was trustee, treasurer and president of the Museum of Modern Art and amassed an extensive art collection currently on display at Kykuit, where four generations of Rockefellers lived.
With this in mind, it’s time for a Rockefeller field trip.
STOP ONE: Rockefeller Center in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, home to NBC, Radio City Music Hall and 200 flags of United Nations member countries. One of NYSOM’s favorite summer treats at Rock Center is the Greenmarket, open Wednesdays to Fridays from July 24 to August 23. To get there: Hop on the B, D, F or M train to 47-50th Streets - Rockefeller Center.
STOP TWO: Kykuit, a 40-room Rockefeller estate in the hamlet of Pocantico Hills. It is a historic landmark in the Hudson Valley with sweeping views of the Hudson River and, on a clear day, the skyline of Manhattan twenty-five miles south. The six story home boasts underground art galleries complete with Picasso tapestries, a Coach Barn housing classic automobiles and horse-drawn carriages, and lavish terraced gardens with 20th-century sculptures. Visitors can tour Kykuit on Wednesday-Sunday through November 11 (and Wednesday-Monday in October). Tickets start at $25 and should be ordered online in advance. To get there: Take the Metro-North’s Hudson Line from Grand Central to Tarrytown. From there, hop in a cab to Philipsburg Manor to pick up your tickets and begin the Kykuit tour. If coming by car, Kykuit is off the Tarrytown exit on Route 9.
STOP THREE: Rockefeller State Park in Sleepy Hollow, a mere 1.3 miles from Kykuit. There, 1,600 acres of forests and meadows, 25 miles of trails and a 24-acre lake encourage visitors to explore, jog, birdwatch or horseback ride. President Bill Clinton has even been spotted running through the park. To get there: Either drive, cab or walk from Kykuit.
STOP FOUR (If you’re feeling adventurous and want to extend your Rockefeller exploration beyond NYC and the Hudson Valley): Head to the Capital-Saratoga Region to visit Nelson A. Rockefeller’s Empire State Plaza in Albany. This complex includes several state government buildings and is part of the old New York State Capitol, which was built in 1899 and houses the state legislature. Nelson A. Rockefeller doodled his vision of the plaza on the back of a postcard. The design was modeled after Brasilia, Versailles and Chandigarh with the goal of having it dominate the Albany skyline. To get there: Visit Albany via plane, train or bus, or drive yourself. The city is accessible via Route I-87 and Route I-90.