Cattle Farm on Rockefeller Preserve in Sleepy Hollow to Disperse

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by Elaine Marranzano

cow cattle bull farm farming landIf you are accustomed to walking in Rockefeller State Park Preserve and enjoy seeing the cattle, say goodbye while you can. The cows are going.

Once described as “Bonanza meets Downton Abbey,” Hudson Pines, the cattle farm in Sleepy Hollow owned by the late David Rockefeller, will host a “complete dispersal” sale on November 1.

“It is with indescribable sadness that I am writing to inform you that, in the wake of my grandfather’s death, Hudson Pines Farms will be dispersing,” wrote Miranda Kaiser, the farm’s executive director and Rockefeller’s granddaughter, in a March 31 Facebook message.

David Rockefeller was the last surviving grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller. He died at home on March 20, 2017.

The cattle-breeding enterprise was the legacy of David’s wife, the late Peggy Rockefeller, who was committed to the preservation of agriculture. For decades, cattle buyers from across the country came to the twice-yearly sales at Hudson Pines. Some gushed on the internet about the unexpected opulence.

Photo by Tara Shannon - cows - stone barns
Photo by Tara Shannon

“What a presale party. Had butlers/waiters everywhere – just like the parties you see on TV!”

The farm is home to approximately 200 head of cattle, and not part of the Preserve, though it is hard to tell. More than 50 miles of carriage trails, designed and built by David’s father, seamlessly connect the park to private land and have been open to the public since the day they were built.

The house at 180 Bedford Road, Sleepy Hollow, where Rockefeller lived, is also being readied for sale. No one has announced publicly that the house and land are for sale, but multiple off-the-record sources say potential buyers, including Bill and Hillary Clinton, have toured the property. Inquiries to Hudson Pines seeking confirmation were not answered.

Local tax records indicate David Rockefeller owns 169 acres along Bedford Road with a market value of approximately $13 million. According to his will, his five surviving children have the first option to buy certain properties at fair market value, but others, such as “the Playhouse,” where those swanky cattle-sale parties were held, will be donated to historic preservation trusts, land preserves or sold off to fund his philanthropic gifts.

If Hudson Pines is sold, the Rockefeller heirs are unlikely to sell to just anyone. In a 2002 New York Times interview, David Rockefeller related the following story about his childhood home, Abeyton Lodge, once located on the estate.

“Grandfather died in 1937, and not long before the war began mother and father moved to Kykuit. After the war, it became apparent that none of the children wanted to live in Abeyton Lodge; it was very big and comfortable, but required a pretty big staff to run. All of us had our own homes, in Tarrytown and elsewhere, and we really wouldn’t have wanted non-family members living inside the fence, so it seemed more logical to tear it down than just leave it there empty.”

At its height, the Rockefeller Estate comprised 3,400 acres, nearly half of which was donated to the State of New York to establish the Rockefeller State Park Preserve; 80 acres now belong to the nonprofit Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, 300 belong to Kykuit and the rest, including David Rockefeller’s land, remain in the Rockefeller family.

The poster announcing the final cattle dispersal mentions a farewell party at the Playhouse after the sale. What a bittersweet party it will be.

Photo by Tara Shannon
Photo by Tara Shannon
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