Saturday, August 04, 2007

Pg. 69: "The House the Rockefellers Built"

Today's feature at the Page 69 Test: The House the Rockefellers Built: A Tale of Money, Taste, and Power in Twentieth-Century America by Robert F. Dalzell and Lee Baldwin Dalzell.

About the book, from the publisher:
What it was like to be as rich as Rockefeller: How a house gave shape and meaning to three generations of an iconic American family

One hundred years ago America’s richest man established a dynastic seat, the granite-clad Kykuit, high above the Hudson River. Though George Vanderbilt’s 255-room Biltmore had recently put the American country house on the money map, John D. Rockefeller, who detested ostentation, had something simple in mind — at least until his son John Jr. and his charming wife, Abby, injected a spirit of noblesse oblige into the equation. Built to honor the senior Rockefeller, the house would also become the place above all others that anchored the family’s memories. There could never be a better picture of the Rockefellers and their ambitions for the enormous fortune Senior had settled upon them.

The authors take us inside the house and the family to observe a century of building and rebuilding — the ebb and flow of events and family feelings, the architecture and furnishings, the art and the gardens. A complex saga, The House the Rockefellers Built is alive with surprising twists and turns that reveal the tastes of a large family often sharply at odds with one another about the fortune the house symbolized.
Among the early praise for The House the Rockefellers Built:
“This is a book about a great house, to be sure, but more about the conversations taking place inside it, which the Dalzell’s have recovered with perfect pitch – conversations about what to do with the greatest fortune in American history.”
—Joseph J. Ellis, author of the upcoming American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic

“The creation of a house is not unlike the raising of a child. Lee and Robert Dalzell have brilliantly brought to life the complexities, constraints, and compromises that underlie the drama surrounding the building of Kykuit and have continued the story through the years that followed with equal finesse.”
—Pauline C. Metcalf, author of Ogden Codman and the Decoration of Houses

"The Dalzells ... do an astonishing job of placing Kykuit in historical context while weaving the larger-than-life Rockefeller personalities into its very walls and hallways."
Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times
Robert F. Dalzell is Ephraim Williams Professor of American History at Williams College, and is the author of Enterprising Elite: The Boston Associates and the World They Made and Daniel Webster and the Trial of American Nationalism. Lee Baldwin Dalzell was for many years the head of the Reference Department at the Williams College Library. They previously collaborated on George Washington’s Mount Vernon: At Home in Revolutionary America.

Read an excerpt from The House the Rockefellers Built.

The Page 69 Test: The House the Rockefellers Built.

--Marshal Zeringue