Precise figures are impossible to come by, but it is believed that Rockefeller is the richest U.S. senator from the second poorest state in the country moving into the most expensive single-family home in Washington.
There are six bedrooms, an exercise room, a flower room, two pantries (kitchen and butler's), five maids' rooms (they share three maids' baths) and a senatorial dressing room with an icemaker.
Some, but not all, of the baths have marble floors.
The 6-foot-6-inch "Jay" Rockefeller and his wife, Sharon Percy Rockefeller, daughter of former Republican Sen. Charles Percy of Illinois, declined to comment on their new house. As did their contractor, their decorator and their landscaper.
"This is a very private matter and I don't think they want to be forthcoming," said the Rockefeller press secretary, Timothy Gay. "Don't hold your breath," he said.
No one would talk about the cost of the repairs. But, combined with plans to build a 50-foot swimming pool in a new pool house (with kitchen, washer, dryer, whirlpool and another icemaker), tennis courts and equipment building, it would be not even slightly surprising if the final fixup bill vastly exceeds the purchase price. The Rockefellers paid cash for the house.
Though the 21,300-square-foot house, built in 1927 and featuring four immense white columns at its entrance, is not conveniently located to the subway system that serves the city, that is not likely to pose a problem.
Plans call for construction of a two-story 2,013.4-square-foot garage with rooms on the second floor for the gardening staff.
"It's a godsend they came in," said Hans Larsen, head of the neighborhood advisory panel that enthusiastically, unanimously endorsed the Rockefeller
purchase of and plans for the property. It had become rundown and was in danger of being divided into smaller lots for many, many new houses, Larsen said. (The house is on a lot 92 times the minimum size required for a single- family home in the capital.)
Asked how much the Rockefellers were spending, Larsen declared, "It's quite a bit, but they have quite a bit to spend."
Last year, Forbes magazine said that Rockefeller, the former two-term governor of West Virginia, was worth at least $200 million, which would make him the ninth richest person in the Washington area. He is the great- grandson, namesake and an heir to the fortune of the founder of Standard Oil. Other informed estimates put his fortune at around $150 million.
Rockefeller candidly dismisses the irony of such a rich man representing such a poor state. West Virginia, with an annual per capita income of only $10,012 last year, is 49th in the country, just ahead of Mississippi.
"The people of West Virginia know I'm wealthy," Rockefeller said in an interview last year with the Washington Post when asked about spending so much money on a house.
Indeed, Rockefeller's friend, Joe Bob Goodwin, the former Democratic state party chief in West Virginia, said, "I don't think they care" when he was asked if West Virginians were unhappy about how much the former governor was spending on his new home.
"They're very used to the fact that the Rockefellers have some money. It's not an issue. . . . West Virginians are very independent and think it's his business and his money and he can do what he wants with it."