The House The Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste and Power in Twentieth-Century America
Standard Oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller Sr. became rich through hard work, simple living and vigorous acquisition of failing companies that were in no position to bargain. Living by strict Baptist principles, the Rockefellers saw no conflict in Senior’s ruthless business methods and Junior’s “Christianity in Business” talks at the YMCA. Eventually, magazine exposés, a government anti-trust suit, and the loss of the family home by fire soon led to changes, one of which became Kykuit, the new Rockefeller home overlooking the Hudson River. Junior wanted “his father’s house” to befit his standing. Senior preferred simple design. Conflicts abounded. Although the family was involved in philanthropy on an immense scale (founding the University of Chicago, etc.), on a personal level Senior was a miser with his workers, equating their wages with charity. This contrast adds a powerful background to the story of getting Kykuit built. Several generations later, however, in December 1991, the Rockefellers would celebrate their final family dinner there, when Kykuit became part of the National Trust. The Dalzells have researched and written an enjoyable and compelling account of a home and its monumental family.