Duke Farms
South Hillsborough, New Jersey
May 2008

Duke Farms, the 2700 acre estate of tobacco and hydropower heiress Doris Duke, is undergoing massive changes. On May 25, 2008 the greenhouses that constitute Duke Gardens and are the main visitor attraction, will be closed indefinitely. The entire site is to become an “environmental showcase and learning center” according to their press release.

For now, the visitor center is in a lovely carriage house.

visitor center

What they’re new policies will be is anyone’s guess. When we visited, all tours were by “appointment only”. The only tour we could get was “Walk on the Wild Side”.

walk on the wild side sign

The mile-long walk takes you through a variety of habitats and allows you to see some of the restoration work that the Farm is doing.

You enter through a deer fence and stroll through a woodland research area.

deer fence

The woods are badly degraded by deer and restoration work and research are on-going.

degraded woods

I hate to say it, but as a visitor experience it was pretty ho-hum. The habitats were very ordinary and there was not enough interpretation to make what they were doing interesting. Although we didn’t take it, I’d recommend the “Estate Park & Nature Tour”. This is the kind of place that is much more interesting for what they are doing than for what you can actually see. Having a guide to tell you what they are doing and show you the work would make it much more interesting.

There was a nice allee of sycamores, which gives you an idea of how magnificent the estate must once have been.

sycamore allee

The greenhouses look nice from the outside. I hope they will reopen in some fashion in the future.


Click here to see some Duke Farms photos.

here to visit the official Duke Farms website.

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