Upon walking through the towering gates, the newly opened site formerly containing Doris Duke’s home, the winding path let to the remnants of Ms. Duke’s home, some stone steps and what could be summarized as an otherwise mostly vacant field. Walking up the path revealed some stone fixtures; the leftover parcels of the structure of the Duke Mansion in Hillsborough NJ. Even with snow decorating them they reflected a grace, age, and majesty that these stone fixtures had led to before the adamant efforts of the Duke Farms Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation to demolish the beloved home of their founder. These organizations were claiming a decade of research into alternative uses for the home was made, bringing no documentation or proof of these efforts, only providing a powerpoint made by someone hired by the foundation, to trials determining the house’s fate.
Walking up the stairs I couldn’t help but tell my wonderful companion that maybe we should try to knock where the doors would have been, just in case. You could likely guess that there was no invisible Duke Mansion there, but there is an entire field with some circular fountain beds with freshly painted birds in the middle of the fountains, while looking new not in any way matching the patina of the rest of the property. In the case of the Garden of Nations remainder, there’s too much patina, wood rot, and gaps in the outer integrity of the structure. Oh the irony.
I could be quoted saying “You know what would be really nice here? A HOUSE!”. Walking around the grounds previously occupied by the home of Doris Duke, there was a somber feeling in my chest as if the nearly vacant space was reflective of the hole I felt in my chest. It feels as if I’m visiting the grave of someone whom I had been trying to save, but couldn’t be saved because of the slow train coming that had no intention of stopping with this person in the way of the tracks they have laid. On a gentle slope going away from the plain at the center of the location, there is a bit of a grotto, a pleasant small body of water that I could imagine was a peaceful and serene spot for Ms. Duke when her home was on the grounds of her estate.
Most upsetting for me is the gall of all parties involved in the previous and concurrent attempts at assassination of the Duke family history and the legacy of Doris Duke. A plaque on the site of Doris Duke’s home reads (in reference to this site) “Doris Duke’s seasonal residence”, an improvement to DFF’s use of the phrase “Former main residence” (when referring to the two story hole in the ground as the main residence). Upon this plaque are images of other homes that Duke would visit when she wasn’t in her home and main residence in Hillsborough NJ (the one that’s not a large hole in the ground). Below these images are the words to the effect of; Doris Duke left specific instructions for her other properties, Shangra La, and Rough Point. This is the boldest of the falsehoods shared by DFF in their failure to honor their founder’s mission and purpose for founding the DFF and DDCF. According to Christie’s Auction, “it was Duke Farms she truly considered ‘home’ “.
It is important to note that during proceedings in attempts to preserve the Duke mansion the DFF had the copy of the will of Doris Duke submitted into evidence struck from the record. In the will, that they fail to correctly reference on the plaque commemorating the demolished home of their founder, it states that she expects her organizations to maintain and preserve all of her properties, stating the term “preservation” and other words to that effect several times while there is a single demolition clause much later in the will which is not quite specific either, clearly Duke had hoped her foundations would honor her legacy.