Initially, landscaping of the grounds was given to the company of Frederick Law Olmsted, who had designed Manhattan’s Central Park. Rockefeller Senior was unhappy with this work however and assumed control of the design himself, transplanting whole mature trees, designing lookouts and the several scenic winding roads. During 1906, the further design of Kykuit’s grounds was undertaken by the architect William Welles Bosworth, who designed the surrounding terraces and gardens with fountains, pavilions and classical sculpture. These gardens in the Beaux-Arts style are considered Bosworth’s best work in the United States, looking out over very fine views of the Hudson River. His original gardens still exist, with plantings carefully replaced over time, although his entrance forecourt was extended during 1913. The terraced gardens include a Morning Garden, Grand Staircase, Japanese Garden, Italian Garden, Japanese-style brook, Japanese Tea-house, large Oceanus fountain, Temple of Aphrodite, loggia, and semicircular rose garden.
Nelson transformed previously empty basement passages beneath the mansion that lead to a grotto into a major private art gallery containing paintings by Picasso, Chagall and Warhol, the latter two having visited the estate. Between 1935 and the late 1970s more than 120 works of abstract, avant garde and modern sculpture were added to the gardens grounds from Nelson’s collection, including works by Picasso (‘Bathers’), Constantin Brâncuși, Karel Appel (‘Mouse on Table’), Jean Arp, Alexander Calder, Alberto Giacometti, Gaston Lachaise, Aristide Maillol, Henry Moore, Louise Nevelson, Isamu Noguchi (‘Black Sun’), and David Smith.
Kykuit was renovated and modernized during 1995 by New Haven architect Herbert S. Newman and Partners. Included were major infrastructure changes enabling the estate to accommodate group tours of the first floor and art gallery, as were as a reconfiguration of third and fourth floor staff quarters into guest suites. Read more