Posted in The Trials of Doris

Trials of Doris: Emptiness

On a whim I opened my laptop today and decided to see what Google Maps looks like around my favorite places to picnic (and then I decided to find new places to go). But before I could follow my own intentions, a big, dirt mound-like space stopped me dead in my tracks. In some last hope, or maybe even remembering a once-mentioned promise from trials past, the silhouette of a billionaire’s home (although imperfect) can be seen amid the environmentally-conscious demolition site at Duke Farms.

I can’t decide if this qualifies as an intended outcome of a senseless demolition or if this can become a respectful headstone to the late Duke Mansion. What now sits as a gravesite of architectural uniqueness, the Duke Mansion’s site has an open ended future IF the foundation begins a dialogue with people outside their circle.

Please let’s not forget. Perhaps I’m showing my age, but let’s remember what the Lorax said (after all, the darling Seuss character “spoke for the trees” so maybe Duke Farms or Charitable Foundation if you’re reading, you’ll listen to him better since he’s more environmental): He placed brick before lifting himself from the wreckage of the truffula trees which read, “Unless”.

The whole update
A Fond Memory
Posted in The Trials of Doris

A Billionaire’s Valentine

This year is a year of hopeful change. Fact. So what does a couple of amateur authors have to do? Simple: instigate change with tradition in mind. Yellow roses have been a symbol of friendship for many generations, and just happen to be the known favorite flower of our local Duchess. How better to spread the love and unity than to deliver unto her lovely home a dozen or so such gifts just in time for an early Valentine’s Day.

We designated a day to create a scavenger hunt for all our devoted T.o.D. readers as we left yellow roses for Miss Duke across her property. Much like an I Spy book, we welcome all of you to find them hidden in our latest picture album below, or check out where this rose made its pit stops. There’s a lot that will be posted about the beautiful Estate this year, so be sure to subscribe, like us on and follow us on Twitter @TheRetroRevivalist to stay updated on each of our latest adventures and columns.

For now, I think the world is realizing that the Dukes have plenty of friends around here, after all- this is what yellow roses mean. Perhaps she loved these charming flora in hopes they would surround her with real friends. Be sure to scroll over the photos for their descriptions.

Leave your comments if you can name each of the pit stops these honorary roses made!

The good news is that even Duke Farms is fostering a sense of humor in this politically-fueled time….

An electric box along a path… Boogie Woogie Woogie, Dukes. 
Posted in The Trials of Doris

Trials of Doris: Another Controversy

Hello darlings! Welcome to our first embedded weekend update broadcast. Let’s get controversial, let’s ask the hard questions while Duke Farms addresses new allegations against a contract livestock farmer. The DORIS group is following your story! Pay attention to the similarities. Care for history, #JusticeForDoris, and in the wise words of Phil Collins, “Put your faith in what you most believe in”.

Please give special attention to the quotes toward the end of the report. This property is renowned for its environmental stewardship, just as a reminder.


Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Trials of Doris: Literature

In lieu of our regular, monthly articles, this month reveals something exquisitely special for the Trials of Doris. In the wake of what has been called “the tragic loss of one of New Jersey’s greatest historic gems”, the writers of The Retro Revival are proud to unveil the project of a lifetime.

The Duchess of South Somerville is the latest publication available exclusively through the Duchess Bookstore online here:

This brand-new, timeless book chronicles the Duke history on an overview, then dives into a series of never-before-recorded memoirs of the people of Somerset County that lived among the ‘richest girl in the world’. Following these memoirs, the grassroots overtake! While the mansion was lost, the newest chapters of the Duke Legacy are still unfolding. Take a look at what has made the press this time and get your copy today!

Check out the Retro Revival on and Follow us on Twitter @TheRetroRevivalist for updates on pop-up sales, book signings, and all the latest from the DORIS group’s progress. For any questions, reviews, and feedback, feel free to email us at

Posted in The Trials of Doris

Going ‘Green’ at the Estate

We have still been hard at work researching and working behind the scenes at The Retro Revival to bring you the latest updates and observations from the Duke Estate. It is a challenge to resist the temptation to stray from the path and explore past the guests’ areas, but rest assured, all of our photographs conform to rules and have been collected from publicly-accessible locations.

So what have we found this time? Here are some of the themes of the day: Green things, indigenous species, and a perfect opportunity to mesh environmental stewardship with history. What a treat it would be to see people working together to preserve the integrity of the estate’s remaining gems….

Check out what our findings have been:



Posted in The Trials of Doris

The ToD: Gone, But We’ll Never let you Forget!

Just this morning as we sipped our tea and went about business, there was a spirit of yesteryear lingering close. Just this time last year, we spent Thursday nights piled in houses and resraurants trying to devise a good enough strategy to appeal to boards in Hillsborough Township to prevent the senseless demolition of the Duke Mansion. Whether in hindsight you agree with the environmental-focus of this destruction or you opposed the removal of Miss Duke’s main residence, the facts are that the mansion is no longer standing for a variety of curious reasons.

Of course, one would think that it’s all over. Perhaps our posts following the Trials of Doris are less frequent, but the spirit of the Dukes has only become stronger in the time we have been idle. Just today, Mark DiIonno of the Star Ledger published this gem of an article reminding us all what inconsistencies and curious cases pass through the doors of Hillsborough Township (and elsewhere) all the time. Take a look at what he’s got together:

Let’s take a look at some highlights real quick. He’s right, from our perspective. You have our support from The RetroRevival.

“And while the $2 billion Duke Foundation successfully argued their mansion was in disrepair and beyond restoration, and that it was a hodgepodge of insignificant architectural add-ons over the years, the sisters could not convince commission of either. Instead, the commission ruled the “house was in good condition, considering its age” and that “renovations can be performed in a manner consistent with the structures historical significance.”But the main reason for the denial, according to the commission’s official denial resolution, is that the farmhouse is only one of four brick homes of that age in the township. This fact was mentioned not once, but twice. On the flip side, there was only one Doris Duke mansion.But who’s counting?” (DiIonno).

You had ONE chance, and it doesn’t appear that you will be forgotten. Ususally when people ask to be remembered, they hope it would be for a good reason. I regret to inform you that the destruction of the Duke Mansion in Hillsborough New Jersey and every name of those who acted in ways to permit its demolition won’t ever be forgotten. We simply won’t stand aside for injustice.

While the RRBlog does focus its energy on the asesthetics and concepts of years ago, we don’t live in 1951 anymore and we do not, nor will we ever, be bystanders to any sort of social injustice, even toward someone postmortem. #JusticeForDoris


Stay tuned, darlings; and always stay curious.

Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Comprehensive & Honest Duke Family & Estate Timeline

After a lovely visit to Duke Farms today I thought I would check their “Detailed Timeline” for a comprehensive record of all of their activities on the estate in the last decade.

You can check their timeline out at

The ‘Detailed Timeline’ neglects to discuss anything about the 1909 conservatory since its retirement from the name, “Garden of Nations” following its closure and subsequent rot in 2008. It is also inaccurate to call the greenhouses 1917, because they were only modified in 1917 and again in 1958. They were erected under J. B. Duke’s direction in 1909.

The Hollywood wing was overseen by Nanaline, actually, not Doris- who was far less interested than her mother and husband in adding to the estate mansion

1947- Doris Duke Marries Porfirio Rubirosa(I found this info on WIKIPEDIA, first thing that comes up when you search Ms. Duke’s name, it took about 20 seconds of total research to find out this basic fact).

Photo from in 2013

2008- The Garden on Nations is dismantled, and the historic greenhouse is abandoned. Earliest allegations of open windows at the Duke Manor come to our attention.

July 30 2015- Duke Farms seeks permit to have the home of their founder demolished. Citizens group DORIS fights for the preservation of the historic home as the foundations founded by Doris Duke continue fighting for permission to demolish it. Emily Cooperman and Michael Catania present testimony without evidence of a written record of the claimed “mothballing” as well as no documented proof of a claimed “decade of research for adaptive reuses”. The meeting runs late because the line of people opposed to the demolition of the home of Doris Duke is around the wall to the door.

September 24th 2015 – Professional testimony was provided by members of DORIS accompanied with point by point elaboration as to how testimony applies to legal statutes which are supposed to guide the reasoning by which all preservation commission members ought to use. Public comments were limited to 3 minutes per person. Ed Henry speaks publicly regarding the opposition to their permit to demolish, stating that he is moved by peoples concerns about the preservation of the residence, but that the interest to demolish is also held by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

October 15 2015 – Hillsborough ‘s historic preservation commission votes 6-1 in favour of demolition despite very clear public opposition.

March 4th 2016- Demolition of Doris Duke’s home begins after nearly a year of legal resistance by a citizens group.

March 6th 2016- A Court Mandated Cease Work Order was Issued to prevent further demolition of the Historic Home of Doris Duke.

April of 2016- The historic home of Doris Duke is demolished by The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation & Duke Farms.

Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Magnitude of the Dukes

Certainly, it is fact that the DORIS group has made international headlines on several occasions since July of last year when their fight to save Duke Mansion began. From seeking the aid of the Monet house to the friends and colleague’s support in Hawaii and the other great States, the DORIS group may not have succeeded in their initial mission to save the historic house but they sure have accomplished more.

The house is rubble. The estate qualifies as a national historic landmark for recognition across the USA. There are so many more facets of wrongdoing or lackluster conduct that pervade this Gilded Age, 2,700-acre, lavish, and gorgeous estate. The DORIS group will be continuing their efforts to seek transparency and #JusticeForDoris.

Recently, The RetroRevival Blog received a beautifully written letter from a student in the Carolinas, the land of JB Duke’s roots. We wanted to take the opportunity to share his message with you. It is important to remember that this fight is not limited in its demographic, and that the generations to follow will feel the destructive aftermath of every decision that those in charge are allowed to make.


Doris Duke Charitable Foundation,

In the world we live in today it’s hard to see the beauty in things. Through a stroll through the Duke Estate would bring you back to a time of opulence, elegance, and industrial power like no other. Now while these times are long gone and have now been taken over by banking and software tycoons, there is still history to be shared and seen of this now-forgotten decade. Parallels of the conservation of this amazing history can be seen at places like the Biltmore and Newport. These places only bring dreams of grandeur like nowhere else can. We imagine ourselves as dignitaries strolling these homes and attending their grandest parties. The imagination, excitement, and awe this creates in people ages 5 to 95 is unparalleled. This history creates something among generations like nothing else can: they fuel imagination and wonder. When properly conserved and displayed these landmarks become hot spots for tourism and learning. The towns and cities where these illustrious manors lie are lucky to have such a critical piece of history in their bounds. This of course brings me back to the Duke estates in Hillsborough New Jersey. A prime example, I would even say it’s one of the grandest. While the full grandeur of the estate was  never realized to due several reasons within the Duke family and business, a quick stroll around one can imagine what it would have been like if fully completed. From the old foundation to the grand lakes, bridges, fountains, and gardens oh how grand it could have been, that to the likes of the Biltmore.

What many don’t know and fail to realize is that there was a grand homeon the estate, one tucked away; hidden from the eye of the public for many years, and allowed to fall into disrepair. Why hide such a wealth of history and knowledge from the public. Why not display the litany of antiques and artifacts collected by Doris Duke and her father? That is a question I cannot even begin to rationalize an answer for.

Entrusted with millions of dollars to provide a learning experience to better the world, the people willed this money failed miserable to fulfill a dying heiress wishes. Instead they sold all of her possessions and allowed her beloved home to fall into disrepair, or so they claim it to have become. The few that were able to tour this home shortly after Doris’ death have nothing but great things to say about it.

Again fueling imagination and wonder of the family and its great past. It has been nothing short of a failure by the Duke Farms organization; the town of Hillsborough, and state of New Jersey to let such an interesting piece of history get erased forever. How can one argue this place was not able to be a registered landmark? It was amazing! What is even more surprising is the lack of respect for a family and person who left nearly all she had in the hands of an organization she hoped to only better her family’s name. Arrogance, greed, and utter disrespect have demolished on of the greatest attractions that never was. For this, we should not only apologize to Doris herself but to the world as everyone has been robbed of a golden opportunity at an amazing look into the past and one of the most known families of this time.

Posted in The Trials of Doris

Two More Ironies at the Duke Estate

Strange how such a darling parcel of the world can cause such a stir in our modern world. During the Retro Revival’s field trip to the Duke Estate this past weekend, we couldn’t help but document two rather ‘big deal’ questions:

  1. Why does Duke Farms take pride in their famous Phalaenopsis Doris, yet display none of the three they allege to have?
  2. If one of the arguments from the trials of the mansion from the Duke Foundation was that a structure has to “convey the work of a master” architect to be significant, why is the Horace Trumbauer Greenhouse suffering wood rot, extensive damage, and obvious neglect?

So let’s start with part 1. The phalaenopsis Doris, as described by its very caretakers from decades past, is an all-white orchid with round petals. Sounds easy right? See them in shoprite all the time? Not exactly, dears. The difference between the P. Doris and a common white orchid is that the middle, near the stamen is also moth white. A common orchid that you can find both in the stores for your home and in the orchid range at Duke Farms has a distinctive yellow center to each of its flowers.

Another curious marker that we foind at the orchid range during our media escapade was the labels on individual plants that were similar to the P. Doris we sought after. Take a look at these fine flora to see the differences:

Now let’s shift our attention to another section of the property. The Garden of Nations was torn apart in 2008 because (according to the executive director at the time explained that the time of display gardens is behind us, or something to that nonsensical effect. The structure that encased the spectacular gardens, however, is still standing. It was built in 1917 following the design of the renowned Horace Trumbauer. Commissioned by James B. Duke, the plans were initially carried out to house crops for the family to eat at their estate home. Upon his death, Doris found great solace in her father’s creations and during the middle of teh 20th century, she modified the conservatory to become a series of display gardens to honor her father’s legacy at Duke Farms. The gardens were first opened to the public in 1964, and continued in such a fashion until 2008. It is well known that many individuals of significance visited the gardens.

Of course, following the dismantling and closure, the struture was left in a state of extreme decay. Following Hurricane Sandy, most of the remaining Italianate Garden was destroyed to a point where the foundation had it removed completely. It is currently used in part for storage of the farms’ spare electric buggies. Foliage has been left to grow rampant, and some of the glass has either fallen in and shattered or is missing altogether.

Dr. Emily Cooperman’s testimony on the mansion on the property cites that in order for a struture to qualify for historic significance, the structure “must convey the work of a master”. Well, Dr. Cooperman… We found one. And both Duke and Trumbauer would be sickened at the way that its treated. The cherry picking ends with the house. We can’t allow this to go any farther. “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” (Closing Time, Semisonic). Please help us bring Justice to Doris.

Posted in The Trials of Doris

The Trials of Doris, What’s Next

Many of you are wondering where an activist movement can go from here once the mansion is demolished. Suggestions have been made and while the DORIS group is continuing their good deeds, the Retro Revival has made some contributing decisions of its own. In addition to reporting on the progress of the beloved estate, the authors of the RRBlog have committed to several mini-causes. Here is a brief synopsis of each:

A Dance for Doris: Every so often, the Retro Revival will take a request for a song and a charity in need that fits into the Duke legacy (animals, conservation, botanical education, medical research, etc) and we will choreograph a dance to perform at the estate. Sponsorship will be accepted and all proceeds will go to the charity.

Pastiche Picnics: Due to the infamous quote of the architect historian from the Trials of Doris, the mansion was frequently referenced as a ‘pastiche’ of different styles. In the same respect, the staff of the Retro Revival will join with members of DORIS to host picnics in the park (Duke Farms or Duke Island Park). These will feature food, entertainment, and networking capabilities for community members and DORIS in fair weather.

In the meantime, we have noticed several new signs have popped up across the property’s gates. As if in reflection of the magnificently unflattering work of the foundation in the demolition of the residence, these signs now include “Private Propery” and “No Drones” as well as “Out of Order”. Charming, really. Post your pictures of the signs on our Facebook page! We will be reading up on whether or not the foundation purchased the airspace above the estate to discourage legally-operating drones. Fortunately, the photographs from the excellent remote pilot are still available from his previous airtime excursion via

Various other events and volunteer opportunities will be announced as they arise. Stay tuned~ we will be posting the Letter To Doris in a few days! At the end of the weekend, we will also be publishing an analysis of Trumbauer’s work and some other oldies but goodies!!! Stay Curious and stay involved! #JusticeForDoris