Duke Farms a piece of North Carolina in New Jersey

Duke Farms - Hillsborough - NJ Travel Blog

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One of the many fountains, in the backyard of the mansion

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.

The mansion, as proposed, and as far as it got realized
From here the water flowed from pond to pond, sometimes via the fountains or the waterfalls.

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.

Some of the orchids in the Orchid Range
When a hay barn burnt down in 1915 she turned its ruins into a sculpture gallery. In 1958 she initiated an impressive greenhouse with several exotic gardens, the Duke Gardens. The impressive gardens were opened for the public in 1964.

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.

The Hay Barn is now a sculpture gallery

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!

cicie says:
Awesome pictures:)
Posted on: Feb 12, 2013
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One of the many fountains, in the …
One of the many fountains, in the…
The mansion, as proposed, and as f…
The mansion, as proposed, and as …
Some of the orchids in the Orchid …
Some of the orchids in the Orchid…
The Hay Barn is now a sculpture ga…
The Hay Barn is now a sculpture g…
The stair to the (to be) mansion
The stair to the (to be) mansion
The unfinished foundation of the m…
The unfinished foundation of the …
One of the many fountains, in the …
One of the many fountains, in the…
For the fountain
For the fountain
An artificial stone wall
An artificial stone wall
A pet cemetery. What an unusual na…
A pet cemetery. What an unusual n…
Wood Duck Lake, 8 meters (27 ft) a…
Wood Duck Lake, 8 meters (27 ft) …
Great Falls, currently not flowing
Great Falls, currently not flowing
Great Falls, currently not flowing
Great Falls, currently not flowing
One of the European style bridges
One of the European style bridges
One of the strange fountains
One of the strange fountains
Inside the Orchid Range greenhouse
Inside the Orchid Range greenhouse
Some of the orchids in the Orchid …
Some of the orchids in the Orchid…
Some of the orchids in the Orchid …
Some of the orchids in the Orchid…
Some of the orchids in the Orchid …
Some of the orchids in the Orchid…
The Coach Barn
The Coach Barn
The Coach Barn in Dukes time, and…
The Coach Barn in Duke's time, an…
The Coach Barn
The Coach Barn
The greenhouses that once housed t…
The greenhouses that once housed …
The Hay Barn in 1905, before the f…
The Hay Barn in 1905, before the …
The Hay Barn is now a sculpture ga…
The Hay Barn is now a sculpture g…
The visitors center just before su…
The visitors center just before s…
GPS tracking of my hike on the gro…
GPS tracking of my hike on the gr…
Duke Farms - Hillsborough - NJ
photo by: mdalamers