David Rockefeller’s Hudson Pines

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A family home with a special place in history.

In 1998, when President Bill Clinton awarded David Rockefeller the Congressional Medal of Freedom, he succinctly captured the man’s legacy when he said, “David Rockefeller is a gentleman, a statesman, a scholar, and most important, a genuine humanitarian of the likes our nation has rarely seen.”

The last surviving grandson of the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller, David was the former chairman of Chase Manhattan and was also instrumental in building the World Trade Center, of which one of the twin towers was nicknamed “David” in his honor.

Rockefeller’s collection of impressionist and modern works of art featured pieces by Matisse, Cezanne, Gauguin, Seurat, and Picasso, and he was a board member and chair of the Museum of Modern Art for many years. He was among the first to sign a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to charitable and philanthropic causes.

Rockefeller was married to Margaret “Peggy” McGrath for over 55 years, and together they raised their six children in New York City and at Hudson Pines, their country home in Pocantico Hills in Westchester County, New York.
At the time of his death (in his bedroom at Hudson Pines) at the age of 101 last March, Forbes noted that he was the world’s oldest billionaire, with a worth of $3.3 billion, most of which he had planned to donate to charities.

Six months after David’s death, his children decided to put Hudson Pines on the market.

The home was designed and built by Mott Schmidt and is considered one of the finest examples of his country residences. In a letter to Schmidt written in 1970, David Rockefeller described the special qualities of his architecture: “I know of no one in the country who can design Georgian houses with the style, warmth, and quality that you do. Our house could have been there for a couple of centuries rather than a few decades. It is both elegant and friendly, and it fits perfectly into the landscape. I am happy to have this opportunity to tell you once again how much we have enjoyed living in it during the past quarter century.”

Hudson Pines is sited high on more than 75 acres with far-reaching Hudson River views. The main residence offers 11,343 square feet on three levels. A gracious entry features Mott Schmidt’s signature floating staircase. Magnificent specimen gardens, broad lawns, and arboretum-worthy woodlands, reminiscent of the creations of England’s Capability Brown, are complemented with a round heated pool, a playhouse for gatherings of any age, a large carriage house, a three-bedroom gate house, a six-stall barn with tack room and office, three greenhouses with potting benches and an office, a mature apple orchard, and a private helipad. Horses and riders can enjoy adjacent Rockefeller State Park with over 30 miles of riding, walking and carriage trails.

Equestrian Living has visited David’s daughter, Eileen R. Growald, both at her home in Maine and her farm in Vermont (see EQ Living’s 2014 Summer and Winter issues). We spoke with her about her life at Hudson Pines.

Why did you and the other the children decide to sell Hudson Pines?

We have no plans to live there, especially now that so many of our memories have been shipped away. I just can’t imagine going back now.

Is this where you grew up?

Yes, I grew up here every weekend throughout the school year, all of June, and half of July.

Did you have horses as a child here?

When I turned 8 years old, we had Christmas here, and my favorite memory as a child was being brought to the front hall on Christmas morning, and there was a little black Shetland pony with four white socks there. We named him Tiny Tim, and he had a big red bow, a ribbon around his neck.

And he was in the house?

They brought him right into the front hall!

That’s like a dream! 

Oh, it was a dream. It was wonderful. So, Tiny Tim was brought into the front hall, and I was very excited. He was my pony for a number of years. I rode him, and I also learned to drive with him. We had a little basket cart, and at the age of 8 I was driving him. He was just the most wonderful pony. Then after that, I went away to school, but I ended up having another horse that was an Anglo Arab. He was a very beautiful horse, and I had him at school with me. My mother had an Arabian stallion for a while who was also really lovely. We always had at least six horses here. Both my parents rode, and then as my mother reached her 60s she shifted to driving, and she drove until she died at the age of 80. Then after that, my father, amazingly having never driven a horse in his life, picked up the reins—not just of a single, but of a pair—and he started driving them immediately, and he kept driving until he was 100 years old.

The gardens look really elaborate. Were they early farm-to-table vegetable gardens? 

Yes. My parents always prided themselves on having home-grown food. Every spring, my father would look so forward to the first peas of the year, which usually happened on his birthday. So, we would have them, and every year he would say, “These are our own peas!” He just enjoyed that so much. In more recent years, all the gardens were transferred over to organic. There is an extraordinary apple orchard there too. And all the flowers. We used the flowers for cuttings to create flower arrangements in the house.

You must be a little sad to see it go. 

It is very sad, yes, I have to say. I just hope somebody buys it who really appreciates its beauty. My parents had a very keen sense of aesthetic, and I feel like they passed that down through their children and grandchildren. So, it deserves an owner who loves beauty, both in the natural world as well as the human created one.

NOTE: Hudson Pines sold for $33 million, 50 percent higher than the 75-acre property’s listing price of $22 million according to David Turner, associate real estate broker with Houlihan Lawrence who handled the listing. Turner said the sale price soared in a multiple-bid situation, although he would not say who were the bidders.