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In 2014, I attended an Instameet at Duke Farms, then a newly reorganized park open to the public. The history of the estate is an interesting one. The 2700 acres was purchased and developed in the late 1800s by James Buchanan Duke, who founded the American Tobacco Company.
After Duke’s death in 1925, his 12-year-old daughter, Doris Duke sued her mother for the estate and took ownership of it by the age of 15. She further developed the property using sustainable farming practices and then designed a botanical garden that was opened to the public in 1964.
After her death in 1993, Doris Duke’s charitable foundation closed the gardens, demolished them and then renovated the estate to be a modern example of environmental stewardship. Non-native, invasive plant species were removed and the energy efficiency of the greenhouses was improved.
The mansion that Doris Duke lived in was torn down and a visitor center placed in the Farm Barn. There are extensive paved paths where you can bicycle or stroll past the network of man-made lakes and landscapes originally created by James Duke.
A curiosity is the maze-like foundation for a mansion that was never built. Speculation has it that James Duke chose not to complete that project because of the dissolution of The American Tobacco Company under anti-monopoly laws.
The estate is noted for being home to four of New Jersey’s ten oldest trees as well as two champion trees (the largest living of their species in the United States.)
An unexpected snow storm began during our visit, so we explored only as long as our frozen extremities would allow.
Location: 1112 Dukes Pkwy W, Hillsborough Township, NJ 08844
Designation: Public Park owned by a charitable foundation
Date designated or established: 1998
Date of my visit: 1/25/2014