Built 200 years ago on land granted to Colonel Pieter Schuyler by the Crown in 1688, Rokeby has remained in the family ever since. It developed as tenant farms by Palatine German emigrant families in the early 18th Century, during which time the landlords were successively Colonel Henry Beekman, Margaret Beekman Livingston and Alida Livingston. The latter and her husband General John Armstrong bought out the surviving tenancies, consolidated the farms, and built the main house.
Armstrong, keenly interested in farming, named the property La Bergerie (the sheep-fold) in honor of a herd of Merino sheep presented to him by Napoleon. A few years later, his daughter Margaret, at the time of her wedding to William B. Astor, persuaded her father to change the name to Rokeby after a Poem of that name by Sir Walter Scott. In 1836, William B. Astor (the son and principle heir of the original John Jacob Astor) purchased the property from his father-in-law and for the following forty years it served as the family’s much loved country seat where they raised their six children. During this time, the house was substantially enlarged with a mansarded third floor, service wing, five-storey tower (with its notable octagonal Gothic library) and elaborate front porch.
Upon the death of William B. Astor in 1875, Rokeby was left to his granddaughter Margaret Astor Ward, niece of Julia Ward Howe (author of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic") and wife of Congressman John Winthrop Chanler. The Chanlers died shortly thereafter, leaving the place to their ten children who ranged in age from six months to twelve years old. For twenty years, Rokeby served as a private orphan asylum for the rambunctious heirs. By 1899, Margaret Livingston Chanler had bought out the interest of her siblings, and had started a dairy operation at Rokeby. In 1906 she married Richard Aldrich, music critic for the New York Times, and they had two children.
Fifty years ago the three current elder owners inherited Rokeby from their grandmother and have subsequently taken their children into partnership. Six members of the family live here full time, while the others come and go frequently