There was a lot of discomfort in the small group of people congregated on the steps to the lost mansion at Duke Farms today. I half anticipated to see tourists thrilled at the sight of newly-opened acres, but instead I saw some empathy of the experience settle in. Faces of disappointed and mourning visitors looked toward me, half confused and half desperate for the answers to the absurdity beneath our feet.
It was gone. There was nothing quite the same since then, and I admit it was some relief to know I wasn’t the only one feeling this way. Despite everything, there was some glimmer of hope, some indications that the ownership was ashamed of their actions, and some sense of direction to protect what remained.
Today I share with you Operation ORCHID, the loosely-knit organization advocating for the accurate and fullest amount of information on the Duke history, and encouraging change of methods at the property’s executive level. As one of the cornerstones of our mission, Op ORCHID wants to acknowledge the intricate level of horticultural design preserved in the meditation gardens area just southwest of the mansion’s memorial, but we would also like to identify that there are no paths in the area where the house stood, meaning that there was literally nothing that the mansion was in the way of.
Of particular interest is that the Duke Farms social media outlets don’t seem to share information on the reopening of these acres. Why, if after more than two years of arguing that their decision to demolish was the correct thing to do, would the foundation forget to publicize one of their biggest ‘accomplishments’? Maybe after seeing the landscape without the house, someone realized that it wasn’t what they were hoping for. It’s a very sad reminder, but that’s not something we can put back and get a ‘re-do’ on. Another fascinating component of today’s wandering brings us back to the Duke Gadens greenhouse structure. It seems as though its ancillary structure, the visitor’s center (which now houses an empty vending machine and bathrooms), has been liquidated of its files, records, furnishings, and any other affects that suggested it was used in recent years. These empty shelves can be found through the windows of the visitor’s center, which is in sharp contrast to the previous observations made of a room heavily stocked full of papers and boxes, office furnishings and file cabinets.
We took some photos of the somber scene as time stands still at the Duke Estate. Want to know more about what you can do to promote preservation at this historic paradise? We are available 24/7 now by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Start holding these exectives accountable for the extreme display of demolition and neglect. There are several fountains, structures, statues, and a series of greenhouses from Duke Gardens that still need to be cared for, not forgotten.