An Afternoon at Duke Farms
The history of the Duke Farms estate in Hillsborough New Jersey is long and fascinating. I love a good history lesson, especially when it involves titans of industry. If you live in New Jersey you have probably heard of or at least driven by the many acres established by the Duke family however, I find that few of my fellow Jerseyans have taken the time to stroll around this sprawling park that is now open to the public.
James Buchanan Duke was an entrepreneur in the 1800s who migrated from North Carolina after the Civil War and founded the American Tobacco Company. When his millions from the tobacco trade began rolling in, Duke began buying up property in New Jersey along the Raritan River. This property eventually amassed to 2,700 acres of land that included sprawling meadows, lakes, waterfalls, and farmland. “Buck” Duke died in 1925, but his only daughter Doris Duke, the sole woman who inherited this vast fortune, had grown up on Duke Farms, and decided to preserve the land. Doris Duke renovated and revised the property that included over 45 buildings, and opened a Botanical Garden as well known as Duke Gardens, which unfortunately has been closed to the public since 2008. The farms, however, are open and ready for hikers and adventurers alike!
Doris Duke died in 1993, but the legacy she left is thousands of acres of property, known as Duke Farms, that is “a model of environmental stewardship for the 21st century.” Duke Farms is open 6 days a week to the public. My boyfriend and I took a stroll through the property this week, and it is absolutely breath-taking!
Almost the entire property is open for hiking, strolling, and even cycling. There is a tram that will take you to three separate stops throughout the estate, in case you want a head-start on this sprawling land that can take miles to cross. The entrance is a beautiful stone Welcome Center that houses maps, general tourist information, and a video. Everything throughout Duke Farms is state of the art and extremely environmentally friendly, including a beautiful community garden.
While it was much too hot a day to enjoy all of the land, I fell madly in love with what I saw. An Orchid Range in a beautiful glass building houses the most stunning collection of orchids.
The sculpture garden is a photographer’s dream! I had fun trying to take great artistic shots!
1112 Duke Parkway West, between Route 206 and Roycefield Road, Hillsborough, N.J.
(908) 722-3700, dukefarms.org
Trails are open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily; closed Wednesdays. Free admission.