Duke Farms a piece of North Carolina in New Jersey
Duke Farms - Hillsborough - NJ Travel Blog› entry 913 of 1090 › view all entries
James Buchanan Duke was a wealthy and successful business man. He founed the American Tobacco Company and also invested in the power business. Duke, who grew up in North Carolina ended up near Hillsborough in New Jersey. In this region he started developing a unique landscaping project.
Starting in 1893 he purchased land near the Raritan River, about 11km² (2700 acres) in total. He turned this, slightly hilly, but mostly flat farm land into a land with nine artificial lakes, artificial hills, 18 miles of carriage road, a conservatory for his orchid range, an artificial brook, impressive bridges, 1.5 miles of stone walls, 35 fountains, and even several waterfalls! Fake waterfalls of course! In order to realize this artificial water landscape he had to construct a pipeline and a pumping station which pumped one million (!) gallons of water per day from the river to the highest lake, Duke Reservoir, 25 meters (81 ft) above the river level.
Duke thoroughly designed everything in detail, employing the best gardeners and landscape architects. He called it Duke Farms, modeled after a piece of farmland in his home state, North Carolina. He, of course, also built a mansion, a coach barn for his coaches (and later for his cars) and several barns. He even planned the construction of an even more impressive mansion. The construction was started on a carefully selected and strategical place on the estate, but was halted just after the foundations had been laid.
When Duke died in 1925 his daughter Doris took over the management of the land. She kept restoring and maintaining everything, also the artificial water flows.
Doris Duke died in 1993 and left the estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation which should keep it maintained with a special mission. The DDCF does many great things with the area. The lands are maintained, hiking trails are constructed, information panels are placed, exhibitions organized and there is even a free tram. The only controversial thing they did is discontinuing Doris' beautiful gardens. As per May 2012 the estate is open, for free, to the public again.
Barb, one of the members of my quintet had given me an article of the NY Times about the newly opened Duke Farms. A visit had been on my list for a long time, and today I finally managed going there. The whole site still breathes the wealth and atmosphere that Duke put into it. The artificial ponds are very realistic, the fountains and waterfalls look very artificial but still impressive. The old bridges give an almost European feeling. The foundation of the unfinished mansion is creepy, so are the (drained) fountains.
The greenhouse of the Orchid range is nice but cannot be compared to the beautiful gardens of Doris Duke. It is extremely sad and a shame that these are gone. The greenhouse buildings are still there, but the interior is destroyed forever. See the before-and-after pictures here.
Despite the freezing conditions and a biting wind chill I had a great 15-km (9-mile) walk on the estate. Thanks Barb!
More info on the Duke Farms is here, more pictures are below!