The House the Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in Twentieth-Century America

Robert F. Dalzell, JR., Author, Lee Baldwin Dalzell, Author
Robert F. Dalzell, JR., Author, Lee Baldwin Dalzell, Author . Holt $30 (333p) ISBN 978-0-8050-7544-1
Reviewed on: 06/04/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007
Paperback - 333 pages - 978-0-8050-8857-1
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-4668-5166-5
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This closely researched history of Kykuit, the Hudson Valley mansion built “to make the Rockefeller name and fortune stand for something other than unbridled greed” is too narrow in scope for most readers. The Dalzells (George Washington's Mount Vernon ) cover five generations of Rockefellers, focusing on the patriarch (called Senior here) and his son (Junior), at least as far as the mansion is concerned, while taking a stab at linking it to issues surrounding American country houses of the Gilded Age. What was different about Kykuit, the Dalzells claim, was the Rockefellers' “moral aspirations,” their insistence that the house be not only useful and fashionable, but good. Clean prose keeps things moving, but only the most serious Rockefeller devotees will pore over long passages detailing the process of drawing up blueprints, hiring interior decorators and strategizing housekeeping. The Dalzells chronicle every tussle over control of the house's planning between Junior and Senior and, later, between Nelson and his four brothers over Nelson's overflowing art collection. Several fine biographies exist to satisfy readers' curiosity about the Rockefeller family, and it's questionable whether there's nearly as much inherent interest in Kykuit as in Mount Vernon, the George Washington home that draws 20 times as many visitors. (Aug.)

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