House History

ABANDONED: Rockefeller Mansion

June 5, 2018

Back in 2015 I decided to go on a little adventure, find the abandoned Rockefeller Mansion in Fort Bragg. And quite the adventure it was! We knew going in that it was on military property, but we were assured by several people in the military that we would be okay. A man stationed at Fort Bragg texted me the directions. We got lost twice back in the woods. The directions went something like this, turn on dirt road at electrical box. At fork in the road, turn right. Turn left at fallen tree. Pass one road and take next right. It took us awhile, but we did find it!!! And guess what?? Soldiers were there mapping coordinates. They were as nice as they could be though, and let us stay. They even pointed out some things we had to go see. Again, this was back in 2015. Not sure if things have changed out there. I heard through the grapevine that it might be fenced off now.

What was this place?? This was part of the Overhills estate. They had a golf course designed by Donald Ross, horse stables, tennis courts, polo field, kennels for all of the fox hunting dogs, indoor pool. The biggest house was the Rockefeller Mansion. It was built by Percy Rockefeller. They used it mainly as their Thanksgiving retreat. They did a lot of fox hunting on the grounds. The Rockefeller Mansion even had a dormitory floor for all of the nannies.

Close to the Rockefeller Mansion was the Harriman Cottage. Who was Averell Harriman? He was Secretary of Commerce under President Truman and later governor of New York. Percy and Averell had a big falling out over hunting. Percy preferred fox hunting, while Averell preferred bird hunting. Apparently Percy’s dogs interfered with Mr. Harriman’s bird hunting on several occasions. Mr. Harriman left, sold his house,  and never went back. We did go inside Mr. Harriman’s cottage on our visit. We preferred that one over the grander Rockefeller estate.

Percy died at the young age of 57 following a stomach surgery for ulcers. His wife continued visiting Overhills after his death. Upon her death the family still visited here and there, with the last ones visiting in the 1990’s. The Army ended up purchasing the property in the 1990’s. At one point there were plans to turn it into a southern Camp David. Eventually it was used for special training. When you are inside you can see bullet holes in some walls. Like I said, the day we were there soldiers from the Air Force were there on ATV’s. They said they were mapping coordinates.

It’s really sad when you think about how iconic the Rockefeller family is and to see a part of their past sitting in ruin like this. Seems a better use could have been found for this property.