Posted in Operation ORCHID, The Trials of Doris

Op Orchid: Reflections on Doris

Apparently three years later we still must be reminded that the actions of the Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Commission were ‘justified’ on the night of the vote to demolish Duke Mansion. I woke up to such a post today and wished I could just fall aslseep and start over. Of course, the internet captures the best and worst of people, and no amount of sleep can change that.

So let’s jitterbug into this junk. Retro revivalism, just as a recap, is centralized onto the idea that what is old can be integrated into what is new- and here lies Duke Estate in Hillsborough NJ, whose historic signfiicance (though debated) is a prime (and continuously missed) opportunity to create new ideas upon while honoring those roots. With the post occuring nearly three years later, this raises serious eyebrows regardless of what our readers’ positions are on the matter. Here is the quote as it appeared, as sharp as a razor. We have respectfully omitted the name of the post writer.

“Life’s little ironies”, indeed. This house has been sold. The new owner has handed over the restoration to an architect and a general contractor who have each won awards for their work restoring and preserving historic buildings. They have said that they NEVER see a brick house from this time period (1803) in such beautiful condition. I am predicting this restoration will win a preservation award from Somerset County when it is complete.

By the way, if you read to the end of the article please make note, Doris Duke had several mansions, not one, two of which she specifically wished to be preserved – Newport and Hawaii.”

First of all, credit is given where credit is due; honesty is a cornerstone of our retro life. Yes, Miss Duke did have several mansions. Specification to ‘preserve’ is too ambitious of a claim for this person to make because the will of Miss Duke was arbitrary according to testimony, which is most likely due to modifications made when Doris was incapacitated and left her care to her seedy butler. This too, was dismissed many years ago. The problem we have here is that Duke only had one estateThere were two other structures that she maintained in her will (Hawaii and Newport), but only one location was all-encompassing. While Shangri La of Honolulu and Rough Point of Newport both boast architectural significance and historic designation as individual residence structures, Duke Farms of Hillsborough boasts dozens of significant, contributing structures that created New Jersey’s last intact estate.

To compare the estate, (which was residence to two significant figures, hosted guests of significance routinely, and offered a fascinating model for estate life that included private residences, staffing, public programs and access, as well as commerce), to a single-family residence from almost 80 years prior in its time of construction is liek comparing the talent of a singer to the talent of a needlepointer. They are similar, but their compositions are simply different.

Seeking validation in this manner is not exactly what we would expect, particularly if something wasn’t weighing heavily on someone’s mind. Especially after so much time has passed, it becomes a curiosity that these committeemen still attach to the topic. The good news is that it remains clear that the actions that were made clearly won’t be forgotten any time soon.

Maybe someday the Duke Estate will find its way to its former glory. Until then, the memories of its demise still taste like vinegar to us all.

Posted in Operation ORCHID, The Publications, The Trials of Doris

Op. Orchid: Bringing Down The House

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.



Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Trials of Doris: Operation Orchid

On December 11th, the flavor of the Duke legacy shifted under our feet. It has been a year since the permission was granted to demolish Doris Duke’s beautiful and unique mansion on her New Jersey property. Doris herself was celebrated at Rough Point in Rhode Island during her 105th birthday this past month. Members of the Hillsborough and Somerset County communities still feel the palpable wounds left behind in place where her home- the principle domicile of the richest girl in the world, the main residence of the billionaire baroness Doris Duke- once stood empty and waiting for its fate to be determined.

In Hillsborough, once known as South Somerville, changes and empowerment are brewing into a flavorful stew. Instead of observing the property as it experiences crumbling balustrades and pets’ headstones, a rapidly-decaying glass house, and other seemingly forgotten artifacts; I decided that it was time to incite new determination to the public to demand a greater exhibition of the fullest known Duke legacy at Duke Farms. With the help of a great book, The Duchess of South Somerville, we brought the discussion into public forum for the first time since the court hearings over two years ago. No taboo, no beating around the bush. December 11th was a night of total transparency and awareness- it already felt like I had done the right thing.

In reflecting back on the evening’s discussions, I have to thank the attendees and patrons of the library for making it such a great success. There was so much fascination with the estate, the Dukes, and how much they belong in our darling central Jersey story. It seemed like everyone left with some inspiration, some direction, and some hope for the future visions for the property. Going forward, the public has interest in seeing the greenhouses awarded their status as a preserved structure with an appropriate title: The Trumbauer-Abele Greenhouses. The plant life inside was dearly beloved by all, and we are all staggered by the decision to end their display (myself included).

Despite the harshly-felt absence of the Duke Mansion, it felt like people still cared deeply for the rest of the property, which was uplifting. Operation ORCHID kicked off on a high note with guests attaching to the idea of greater education available to the public, with interest to creating meaningful dialogue with staff and executives. The ORCHID (Organized Reform Coalition to Honor the Intent of Doris) wants to start seeing a more deliberate presence of the Dukes on their property and potentially into the community outside the estate. For a nonprofit with the net worth of the DDCF, this seems relatively feasible with some thrifty new concepts and innovative ideas. The question of how to get to this point with diplomacy and reciprocal regard is the next journey.

And so the story continues into another year as it evolves from a story of demolition and salvage into a revitalized legacy of preservation, integration of ideas, and strong new concepts with all the greatest people coming forward to share their stories and offer their alliances to Operation ORCHID. At this time, RetroRevivalBlog will be recognizing the new articles under OpOrchid instead of the Trials of Doris, which seem to have concluded as of earlier this year. We look forward to a new year full of excellence in public relations and outreach, history education and research, as well as amazing advances as we are able to share! Stay tuned!

Posted in The Trials of Doris

Trials of Doris: Hide N’ Seek

Hello darling readers! This weekend marks a long-overdue reveal at the Duke Estate in New Jersey: the 50-or-so acres that housed the iconic, likely-historic mansion of the late tobacco baroness, Doris Duke. Once the richest girl in the world is now the victim of her own foundation’s ethical debacle. It is still hotly debated whether the mansion’s demolition was an act of honest decision or to pursue personal interests of the foundation’s executives. The grassroots movement, DORIS (demolition of residence is senseless) maintains that the entire motion was a rude notion to erase Duke’s memory from the very property she called home.

The full article, provided by Mike Deak of the Courier News, is available here:

So what will be on the site of the ‘ramshackle’ mansion? Nothing. The oldest and possibly most historically valuable building (as defined by the foundation’s criteria, not the criteria of the National Trust), the boathouse, will be used as a bathroom. Care to stay classy? The former Japanese gardens, whose specimens of plants were not indigenous to New Jersey as the mission statement boasts, has been altered from its intended, modified, cultural landscape.

It is critical to note that the mansion, whose only real damage was its reputation, was not a pastiche or ramshackle, but instead a treasure trove of styles from select masters of architecture. This timeline of styles and craftsmanship was the only one of its kind, and was lost to the very foundation entrusted to care for the property in late March 2016.

What can be done from here? What can be salvaged from this seemingly-systematic decomposition of a cultural landscape, historic estate, and home of one of America’s most elite families? The answer is surprising, but there is much to be done and a whole landscape still in jeopardy while in the ‘care’ of those who ‘maintain’ it. The half-truths can’t hide their other halves forever. So it’s a precarious game of hide and seek.

Stay tuned for the latest in learning how (and how not) to integrate modern life, green living, and historic integrity through the model of the Duke Estate through the efforts of Operation ORCHID~ Stay curious, darlings!


Posted in The Trials of Doris

Trials of Doris: Cracks in the Cornerstone

So as usual I find myself (Harpie, this time) compelled to wander the lavish Duke Estate on the hottest and most isolated day of this week. Thankfully, I was in good company. Despite starting the day out without a tram service (which is fine, not many people were there, admittedly, but still…) This particular day was the first time either of us had been to visit the cemetary that Miss Duke kept for her beloved animals, which included her camels, Princess and Baby. There was a common theme that emerged on this crispy September day: it appeared rather clearly to both of us that the stonework incorporated into the landscape has become broadly neglected… or at least profoundly disregarded either on purpose or otherwise.

Since our first stop was the Fox Hollow hill where the pets were laid to rest, it was a shady and cool walk. I noticed right away as we rounded the curve that these stones were mostly made of slim black stones with names stenciled into them in weatherproof white ink. What struck me in this area of the property was the sadness of each stone left in pieces in the grass, some with portions of the headstone still standing and the broken fragments sitting at their base. Perhaps with too much empathy, I thought of my own parakeet’s little marker and how devastated my family would be if something happened. Needless to say, it would be rapidly replaced or fixed. I’m not seeing the same sense of immediacy here, which is troubling since this is the illustration of Miss Duke’s love for animals- it was only the greatest devotion she had at Duke Farms besides plant life.

In walking back from the cemetary, I wondered if our old friend, Mr. stone balluster was ever fixed. Then, I realized, most likely not if this is a pattern of behaviors. I could argue all my life that this is a maneuvered landscape and that these stones that Mr. Duke himself laid are respectfully integrated into any environmental concepts to be applied, I’m still falling on deaf ears and cold feet.

Time to go home already? Sadly, yes. Today was a shorter-than-normal visit. We cut through the stairs to the old foundation and here is where I may have gotten most frustrated. Not only were the stones previously mentioned in need of serious love and attention, but the edges of the old foundation’s series of stairs were separating from one another at the seams. This one really tugged on both our heartstrings because of just how much this old foundation was used for in its lifetimes. It has the mark of James B Duke, Doris, the staff, James Cromwell, and a bunch of stories attached to each of them. It feels like the very essence of the Dukes is crumbling, literally away in the very property it was meant to be heralded at. This wasn’t just one instance: these fractures in the stone work were evident on each set of stairs we walked down.

Now really, I get it. It’s an expense. Everything in the world costs something if it’s worth doing. Trust me, we are young people who cringe at the word ‘afford’. But let’s change the perspective and the lens for a moment and put that cognitive therapy education to good use: What if you were alive during the estate’s most magnificent years when Miss Duke was in residence? How would you feel after years of natural decay occuring to a place you once called home? It hurts! People feel for this place and there are dozens of instances where historical integration into the landscape is an environmentally appropriate approach (consistent with the status quo at the farms today). Take fiscal challenge on and take a little extra to keep the property from falling apart… gradually. Last I remember, this is called neglect.

Losing more roof panels and watching that bowing occur…. Very sad stuff

Stay curious and stand against wrongful erasure of out history. #RetroLife #VintageLife

Posted in The Trials of Doris

Trials of Doris: Is it Collusion?

This week in the Trials of Doris, we learned of a ‘leak’ in local documents that led the DORIS group to discuss a curious case from April. This April, the Hillsborough Historic Preservation Commission held its status quo meeting on the 27th, but with some oddities. Duke Farms was present and recieved unanimous votes from the commission to pass pre-application approvals for a series of ‘minor’ projects at Duke Farms. While this is acknowledged as a private property, the accessibility is public; therefore the public should and/or could have had better notice of their requests and the date of this HPC meeting. We have elected to videodocument this case because of the lengthiness and details regarding these three projects as well as the unusual, if not outright sneaky, conduct of the HPC that month. Readers can view our clip below.

While the RRBlog is not currently placing accusations on the Farms or the township’s historic preservation commission, we are considerably concerned for the methods that were used… and how long it took for anyone to notice. That doesn’t scream ‘transparency’ to us. Stay curious!

Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Trials of Doris: *Another* Nomination

This week in the Trials of Doris series, we are thrilled to announce that the latest piece of literature covering the Duke Estate’s story, The Duchess of South Somerville, has been nominated three times for the IPPY Awards 2018!

In the midst of all things retro, out antiquated antics summer series, and our 100th post; this comes as a humbling and exciting piece of news for the grassroots. While the mansion at the iconic Duke Estate was lost to the bulldozers hired by Duke Farms Foundation (it’s owner) and the parent charity, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in 2016, the story of the fight lives on as a testament to the original intent of Doris Duke. While it may seem like a lost battle, the IPPY-nominated book serves to chronicle the lesser-known chapters of history at the estate; memoirs of those whose lives were touched by the Dukes, former employees’ stories, and the efforts of the DORIS group have all been chronicled for the first and only time in this unique read.

For more information on The Duchess of South Somerville, or to obtain your own copy, please visit the Duchess Bookstore website:

Through December 31st of 2017, the book will be discounted to $19.95 to celebrate the amazing nominations!

Posted in The Publications, The Trials of Doris

How History is Quite Green; A Special Pensive Article from the Trials of Doris

Somewhere in the depths of the internet, I remember reading about how someone compared their grandparents’ lifestyle choices to those of modern ‘green’, or eco-friendly living. Usually we at the RRBlog like to take summer as an opportunity to learn and research and experience new old things, like configuring Clicks the camera or traveling with our picnic basket… but this is too good to pass up.

So about this article… In the classic style of Harpie, I have no idea where it was and didn’t think to save it to a file. But here’s the basics: history’s economics have made goods that we take as commodities today the luxuries of yesteryear. Take for instance paper towels: these can be purchased very easily today in almost any store. Back in the 1940s, paper towels were not logical. It is too wasteful to have single-use towels in an average setting.

…So with the ideology in mind from this article, my mind wanders back to where I wander often: The Duke Estate. I envision a place where green living is taught and inspired by historical roots; a revival of sorts in its own league. Picture if you will, a place that is absolutely a nature sanctuary full of species rare and diverse of all kinds, that teaches all about renewable home resources and residential methods of growing foods and spices year round. This is a most exemplary location to teach these and other values like the pricelessness of cultural and artistic features in seamless fluidity with nature’s bounty.

Why is it important to work these parallels? Green living is one of the most powerful shifts that this society is experiencing right now. With the changing of political tides, especially in America, green living is really just a vehicle to illustrate the greater desires we have. I’ve said it dozens of times: our actions and wants reflect a deeper need for wholesome, traditional life (with some new twists). Some of us identify rather strongly with the retro culture already; that is, we actively seek out ways to live a life free of overconsumption or disposables. Others either reject these notions or want something entirely new; but this population might forget that recycling milk glasses and selling rags for cleaning were things of the past. Green may come with new inventions and technologies like wind turbines, but the notion of using things over and over again? Timeless.

The Duke Estate, which runs a similar message, ‘to be good stewards of the land’, should take notice of these parallels. They, of anyone, have the greatest potential to show how eco is antico! Grow pineapples and sell the rinds to the interesting artisans that make it into a new type of biodegradable and sustainable leather or host mid afternoon high society tea with tea leaves harvested in a greenhouse. Teach people the uniqueness of life in an era bygone. Highlight it in green. History may show up in black and white, but there were hints of green in every direction. Stay curious, darlings.

Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Trials of Doris: Another Historic Win (Updated)

This week marks an excellent award for the DORIS group’s ongoing efforts to bring a historical and cultural homage component back to the beautiful, timeless Duke Farms Estate in Hillsborough NJ.

Nancy Piwowar, a devoted member of DORIS and a historian in her own right, has attempted for several years to nominate the Trumbauer-Abele Greenhouse structure on the property for New Jersey’s 10 Most Endangered Historic Structures. This year, she was successful and attended the announcements at the State House in Trenton on Thursday, May 18th.

Piwowar was also a memoir contributor to the independently-published success, The Duchess of South Somerville. Her contributions to the DORIS group and the subsequently published book have been able to shape the stories of how the Duke family has continued to influence generations of people, even after their unfortunate passings. She has been with the group for years.

Horace Trumbauer (Click here for full bio) was one of the greatest architects of the 19th and 20th century in America. His work, based out of Philadelphia was considered masterful, which resulted in many of his creations being preserved for future generations. He hired a gentleman named Julian Abele (Click here for background) who would later create the campus landscape at Duke University. Abele was one of the first and arguably the most profound African American architect there has ever been. Due to the year that he began working under Trumbauer, evidence suggests that his signatures in design reflect the construction of the Greenhouse complex at Duke Farms.

The Trumbauer-Abele Greenhouse structure was initially constructed in 1909 by James Buchanan ‘Buck’ Duke as a way to produce fruits and vegetables for his family and staff on the property. Luxuries like oranges and watermelons were cultivated year-round. In 1917, the greenhouses experienced their first major additions, which accomodated more plants and more employees. Later on, Buck’s daughter Doris (‘The Richest Girl in the World’) decided to pay respect to her father’s love of nature by recreating the interior of the structure in 1958.

For 6 years, the interior was designed and grown into the iconic, award-winning Garden of Nations, also known as Duke Gardens. This wholly separate foundation was responsible for opening its doors to the publicly-accessible series of internationally-inspired gardens to fascinate its visitors for years until its closure by the Duke Farms Foundation in 2008. The garden complex and foundation located on the property of Duke Farms was also responsible for selling plants to visitors and offering events like easter egg hunts for children on a yearly basis.

In 2008, the argument for its permanent closure was defined by the executive director, “The era of display gardens is over”, despite its annual yield of over 100,000 visitors. No plants have been sold since in an attempt to create an environmentally-friendly property. In a recent printed article in the Star Ledger (5/17/17), executive director Michael Catania states that restoration and reuse for the complex will begin “in a few years”. In the same article, a representative from Preservation New Jersey (the organization that recognizes the 10 most endangered each year) stated that the selection of the greenhouses for this recognition was, “A no-brainer”. Since 2008, the structure has suffered severe decay: chipped paint, extensive wood rot, and multiple broken panes of plexiglass compliment the missing French garden wing that was identifiable by its encompassing green trellises. (Author’s note: the French Garden was almost entirely destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and was not restored.) A few more years may yield another demolished structure on the estate that could cost too much money to restore (sound familiar yet?). This state of disrepair was the very reason that the Dukes’ own home was deemed unpreservable by the property’s overseers. The display gardens once housed in these greenhouses can be considered the most visible depiction of the beauty and value of Duke’s vision for inspiring others through nature’s wonders. Is it really being maintained? Will the proprietors of this space allow enough decay to occur to make the building irreparable?

The Doris Duke insignia still perches atop the front entryway, which has lost some roofing (replaced with rotting plywood, est. 2015), hopeful that someday the complex welcomes guests again. As of now, the only publicized use for the structure is partial, with only a segment of the overall greenhouse complex still active for propagating seeds for neighboring farms leased through Duke Farms. Several decaying or partly-living plants linger behind the glass curtains. Fragments of window panels, which were transitioned to plexi-glass decades ago, lay strewn about the edges of it’s stately façade, with its rampant wood rot complimenting what shadows remain of a once-lush indoor paradise.

The future is still hopeful for this amazing, unique, and signature of Trumbauer and Abele’s. The overall integrity of the structure is uncompromised yet: it can be saved! With a little love and attention to restoration and some impetus for change, this greenhouse would be perfect to teach guests about orchid care, residential greenhouses, and the values of biodiversity (just examples, the imagination is limitless) and more!

Due to the recent history at Duke Farms, it is difficult to speculate whether or not a historic nomination will be sent in for the greenhouses. The strict adherence to a mission statement of environmental stewardship may overpower any protective status the staff could seek for its buildings. Perhaps help, support, or encouragement will help save the historically significant Trumbauer-Abele Greenhouses: featured as a staple of the Duke Farms lifestyle- which has how spanned more than 100 years.

(Photos courtesy of & RRBlog)

***More on Abele, courtesy of “There is uncertainty and just a little fear on that handsome face. Being black in racist turn-of-the-century America, he very probably felt both, even in Trumbauer’s world of rich and cultured clients. Abele took credit for the design of only one building during his entire career, the Duke Chapel in Durham, NC.
He never made the claim himself, but the Wildenstein Gallery on East 64th Street is generally attributed to him as well. Trumbauer spotted Abele in 1902 when he was fresh out of the University of Pennsylvania’s architectural school. Abele was not only its first black graduate, but also the president of the university’s Architectural Society.
Trumbauer subsequently underwrote three years of study in Paris for Abele. In point of fact, Abele did a great deal of Trumbauer’s heavy lifting. When the Depression hit and business collapsed, Trumbauer descended into alcoholism. After his death in 1938, it was Abele who kept the firm alive.”

Posted in The Publications, The Trials of Doris

Is Duke Farms Avoiding History Discussion? Online Timeline Disappears from DFF Website

We at the Retro Revival admit that history is sometimes a gruesome thing. Seriously- take a look at Hernan Cortez and his obliteration of the Aztec culture, the history of slavery in the United States, or even the recent chapters surrounding violence at the Dakota Access Pipeline. There are hundreds of thousands of accounts of history that each have a given topic phrased uniquely; some go as far as using ‘alternative facts’ and opinions that drastically skew the truth. The worst of all tampering occurs when people deliberately or inadvertently omit factual information. Whether they believe it is unimportant or otherwise, removing tidbits of information can dramatically change the way we learn.

Read this for context:

Aprons are significant because they’re an amenity. Ladies should wear dresses that make them feel radiant with an apron over top because it is a protective look that is both stylish and convenient around the home. Pockets for all the things a woman needs often come included.

Let’s take a look at this paragraph from an old blog post:

What’s more important to the vintage consumer in 2015 is what the significance of an apron is. These garments are both an amenity and a convenience. Everything we purchase today requires a purpose. The apron is now stylish, and protects your equally stylish wardrobe, for one. Any stains that are otherwise cause a total wreck no longer warrant fear. So ladies, wear that dress that makes you feel radiant just because! Handsome gentlemen, indulge yourself in that classy sweater or those contouring cotton shirts with buttons intentionally missing! The apron will forever protect you. Aside from the culinary implications, aprons are also one of the very few garments I’ve found whose pockets are large enough for the smartphones not to fall out of. Girl jeans suck at this in comparison (I’ve heard boy pockets aren’t nearly as phone prejudiced). The authentic vintage ones are exceptionally roomy for whatever other treasures you need to hold close.

Pretty different right? Can you imagine what history books would look like without accurately explaining the significance of slavery or the Holocaust, or even forgetting to talk about Betsy Ross or Abraham Lincoln? Who has ever learned about the Industrial Revolution without hearing the name Carnegie or Rockefeller? Now we are getting somewhere…

So now we have the ongoing lack of transparency at the Duke Estate, (no that didn’t stop just because the mansion was razed in 2016). What threat are they posing by modifying or omitting an entire section of the property’s history? Just because a mission statement doesn’t explicitly include history does not make it ethical, moral, or excusable to eradicate the events and creation that occurred within the stone walls. Check out their new website here: With the assistance of my colleagues, we were able to dig into the information shared versus the information available; summarily we found a couple inconsistencies. So here’s what’s specifically missing that contributes to the land:

Let’s start with the obvious: There’s no tab here for history accessible from the homepage. If you recall a while ago we posted an updated and comprehensive Duke family and DFF timeline (found at Well fortunately for you all we have screencaps from when we made that article, and our history and will be keeping the history (the good, the bad, and the ugly) of the DFF and DDCF alive.

What is also rather stifling on this version of their website is their use of the term ‘maintain’ as it pertains to volunteers who could give their time to take care of ‘preserved’ areas. This leaves us all with some serious food for thought in the form of questions, much like any of our visits to the estate. First, what areas are restored? Next, why isn’t the whole property restored? Are you intending on working toward that? Or will there be more cherry-picking? Finally, why don’t you use that community engagement in the form of volunteers to restore other locations across the property to have a fuller effect of historic preservation among an environmental esplanade? We are definitely staying curious as things heat up once again at the Duke Estate! Stay tuned and raise awareness!