Expansion of The Pocantico Center Will Nurture Arts, Philanthropy, and Local Community

  • The Playhouse at The Pocantico Center. (Photo Credit: Russ Beckley)

Rockefeller Playhouse and Guest Houses gifted to the National Trust for Historic Preservation to support the work of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund

The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announced today the expansion of The Pocantico Center with the addition of the “Playhouse,” a large Tudor-style building built by John D. Rockefeller Jr. in 1927 as a venue for family recreation and events, as well as several Guest Houses and their surrounding land from the historic Rockefeller estate.

At the bequest of David Rockefeller, who passed away in March 2017 at the age of 101, the properties will be transferred to the ownership of the National Trust for Historic Preservation to join Kykuit—the historic home of John D. Rockefeller and one of the National Trust’s portfolio of 28 Historic Sites around the United States—as part of The Pocantico Center, managed by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. In addition to Kykuit, the Center currently encompasses the Marcel Breuer House, the Coach Barn, the Orangerie, and the encircling gardens and landscapes under a similar agreement.

The Pocantico Center hosts philanthropic and public programs of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund that have local, national, and global impact. More than 32,000 visitors—many of them area residents and their guests—enjoy public tours of Kykuit and its extensive art collections each year. A regular calendar of community programs at Pocantico includes a biannual lecture forum, a dinner series, garden symposia, and other talks on the Center’s art and sculpture collections, as well as an actively-cultivated school garden. The Center also hosts the Pocantico Center Preservation Fellowship in collaboration with the National Trust, which furthers ideas critical to the future of historic preservation.

“Saving, using, and sharing historic properties like Kykuit and now the nearby Playhouse and Guest Houses help us to understand and appreciate the past, engage with the complex issues that define our present, and come together in a beautiful space to imagine and create a better future,” said Stephanie K. Meeks, president and CEO of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “With a 70-year reputation for excellence in stewardship, the National Trust is honored to protect these historic places and committed to the long-term sustainability and success of both these properties and the entire Historic Hudson Valley. We are deeply indebted to the Rockefeller family for this remarkable gift, just the latest in their exceptional multi-generational commitment to preserving America’s past.”

Since 1994, Pocantico has hosted more than a thousand conferences, meetings, and retreats for nonprofit and public-sector initiatives. The Center has been the site of high-level diplomatic agreements, the birthplace of social movements, and the breeding ground for ideas and research that drive progress on issues from voting rights to climate change. In 2007, for example, a convening of the Kosovo Unity Team at the Center resulted in the Pocantico Declaration, which brought the Kosovo independence process back from the brink of collapse.

The Center’s multidisciplinary artist residencies, which host dozens of dancers, musicians, playwrights, poets, and visual artists each year, culminate in a summer performance series that brings New York City arts and culture to the doorstep of Westchester. A fixture in the county’s arts ecosystem, the Pocantico Center was recognized in April with the ArtsWestchester President’s Award.

The addition of the new properties will allow The Pocantico Center to expand these programs. In the future, the Playhouse will provide increased rehearsal and meeting space to support cultural performances, conferences, presentations, and other public programs; tours will be offered by special request. The Guest Houses will dramatically increase the Center’s capacity for artist residencies and will create for the first time the possibility of concurrent programming.

“As stable, affordable space for artists to live and work becomes increasingly scarce, the expansion of The Pocantico Center will be critical in helping to safeguard the creative process and sustain the robust cultural life that has for decades drawn groundbreaking artists and diverse audiences to New York,” said Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. “The unique resources provided by the former Rockefeller residences at Pocantico ensure Westchester County’s preeminent position not only in the greater New York arts scene, but also in the global social, political, and environmental discourse that the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and its grantees advance through their work at The Pocantico Center.”

The Playhouse at Pocantico has long-served as the Rockefeller family seat, and the more than 270 members of the Rockefeller family today will continue to gather there twice annually under a lease with the National Trust. Before his death, David Rockefeller and other members the family established a fund to support the preservation and maintenance of the storied family building.

“For over a century, the Rockefeller family has found a home in Pocantico Hills and the surrounding community, for which we will always feel deep respect, gratitude, and love,” said David Rockefeller, Jr. “It was there that my father and his brothers cultivated their passions: the environment, historic preservation, international engagement, and the arts. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, founded in a meeting at the Playhouse, is one way in which their extraordinary legacy lives on. It seems only fitting, then, that my father would leave this place, which nurtures each of these passions, under the care of the Fund for both the local community and the global good.”

The National Trust and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund accepted the final operational responsibility of the additional buildings and land on July 15. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and launch event will take place at The Pocantico Center in September.

# # #

For media inquiries, please contact: 
Sarah Edkins Lien, Rockefeller Brothers Fund:
[email protected], +1 646-897-1672

Juvenio L. Guerra, National Trust for Historic Preservation:
[email protected], +1 202-588-6030