Posted in The Trials of Doris

ToD, Part XIII: Eco or Ego?

Yes, there have been strides of energy conservation, environmentally-conscious innovation, and attention to modernized detail taking place at Duke Farms. What has DORIS brought to the surface this time? The litter on the property is surprisingly high, reportedly ‘new’ technology for the LEED standards of buildings have been used before, and plant life is not solely indigenous as they say.

First off, we begin with the litter problem. This is probably the most visible problem for the general public to identify, but not without truly observing the landscape. Duke Farms has a curious attitude toward people staying on the path most traveled by. While they encourage guests to learn and become better stewards of the land, they do not indicate that all guests are to remain obediently on the paths, ask no curious questions, and refrain from all research about the history of the land aside from what they produce for you. Upon a very light inspection of the lakes, hills, and other locations that stray less than 10 feet from most paths, any guest can identify flakes of plastic from previous research tents, construction efforts, and other additional work done by the foundation. Litter of any kind can become fatal for wildlife such as fish, turtles, waterfowl, and land-dwelling creatures. If ingested, animals can suffer organ damage or failure, and suffer tremendously. For some reason, the environmental stewards at Duke Farms find it acceptable to leave bits and pieces of their projects behind. No self-sustaining habitat has a place for plastics, construction materials, or waterlogged tarp. While the technology and green building that the site is known for are used extensively across the property, the more basic protocol for the environmentally conscious seems to be cast aside. Does no one pick up after themselves? Do the staff at Duke Farms perceive themselves as ‘above’ providing such a service to the land?

Next, the technology that Duke Farms uses is indeed state-of-the-art, but it is not the first time it was implemented. According to research, while these technologies like geothermal heating apparatuses and solar powered waterfalls are indeed environmentally conscious, they have been used by other locations before Duke Farms applied the concepts in their ‘revival’ of the sprawling estate. Geothermal energy specifically, has an extensive history dating back as far as the 1800s. Click Here for Info about Geothermal Energy
Let’s keep in mind that these changes to the now-visitor’s center took place in 2012, not 1904.
Another powerful component of Duke Farms’ energy conservation and renewable energy is their expansive use of solar panels. But, these two have been used for years prior to their renovations. Although discovered in 1876, solar cell energy didn’t gain practical applications until 1953 when the industries began using the energy source in toys and radios. For another history synopsis, please Visit The Site Here

So let’s move on to the plant life: the very mission statement from article 2A1-2 in Miss Duke’s will delegates that the ‘parks area’ should be used to protect and encourage the growth of endangered flora and fauna. Why then, is this so viciously cherry-picked too? Instead of seeing the estate as Doris maintained it, (with her and her father’s choice of plant life), it has been left to indigenous weeds… or so the foundation claims. Upon closer inspection from those who have a horticultural background, dozens of trees, shrubs, and other assorted foliage have no such roots in New Jersey: and that’s the way the Dukes wanted it. Hosting foreign plants in the Gilded Age was a way to display wealth, describe travels, and learn about nature as it occurs in different localities. In a vicarious way, these non-native plants served to educate visitors and guests of the Dukes about faraway places.

Much has yet to change at the Duke Estate. We look forward to following the journey it will take to bring back similar splendor to the property. Until next time, stay curious, darlings! We hope to see some of you at the Afternoon with Doris event this Saturday at the Somerville United Reformed Church at 2pm. For more information, please email



For over 8 amazing years, it has been an experience, a pleasure, and a journey to be a revivalist. I love all things retro and antique. Writing has been a passion of mine since middle school and throughout my professional career. For all those who are inspired to be vintage, challenge the norms in the name of tradition! We write for a better, more inspired tomorrow <3

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