J.B. Duke’s priorities and interests at Duke Farms were focused on the land and agricultural buildings, rather than on his personal residence. The buildings he constructed on his estate can best be understood as elements of the landscape.
After her father’s death, Doris Duke would make various architectural additions to the estate, some in collaboration with her mother and first husband, but most of her own design.
By 1899, Duke’s assembly of the parcels that constitute the heart of the estate was complete, and he began constructing buildings set within the landscape he had created.
Duke retained the Boston architectural firm of Kendall, Taylor & Stevens, which designed the resort town of Pinehurst, North Carolina. From their experience designing self-contained communities, Kendall, Taylor & Stevens possessed the expertise required to implement the necessary infrastructure of roads and water distribution on the estate and to incorporate the latest technology in the Duke Farms buildings.
Duke’s first buildings included the Coach Barn, Hay Barn and Orchid Range. These buildings, devoted to agriculture and horticultural production, fit squarely within the country estate ideal of the time.
In contrast with the messy reality of barns, stables and truck gardens, these highly ordered, high-style buildings proclaimed their association with the pursuit of leisure rather than having to make a living from the land. Their expensive finish – stone walls, copper detailing, expansive slate roofs – indicate the importance of these buildings to Duke and the status his wealth provided.
Major projects from 1905-1911 included construction of the Farm Barn complex and significant alterations to the residence (now known as the Country Manor). Horace Trumbauer, a Philadelphia architect, appears to have become the architect of record for Duke Farms after 1909.
From 1911-1917, the first phase of construction began for a new greenhouse complex, which Doris Duke would later transform into indoor display gardens.
In 1935, Doris Duke married James Cromwell, who was considering elected office in New Jersey. Deferred maintenance at Duke Farms, high unemployment, and her husband’s desire to establish a New Jersey beachhead contributed to the climate for work at Duke Farms in the 1930s – including the addition of the Hollywood Wing to the residence. The estate employed more than 400 people during the Depression.
Also in the 1930s, Doris Duke constructed the Japanese gardens near the residence and remodeled the Mermaid Pool. She later conducted a major remodeling of the Elmendorf/Voorhees House, showing an early interest in the colonial revival that would eventually drive her preservation work in Newport, Rhode Island. She also constructed an aviary for exotic birds and pheasants behind the Coach Barn.
Then, after a decade of relative inactivity, Doris Duke took a renewed interest in Duke Farms in the 1950s. In 1958, she reworked the 1917 Conservatory into an indoor display garden, which was open to the public from 1964-2008.
Duke Farms Foundation
Today, the mission of Duke Farms is to inspire people to become informed stewards of the land. The size and variety of habitats found on the property offer unique opportunities to showcase sustainable designs and management of both the built and natural environments.
Rather than construct new buildings, Duke Farms decided to capture the embodied energy of existing buildings for adaptive re-use. The 1905 Farm Barn, a 22,000-square-foot former horse and dairy barn, has been renovated to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum standards of the U.S. Green Building Council. The building will house an orientation center, interpretive gallery, classroom and café on the first floor and staff offices on the second floor. The Orchid Range, an 1899 Lord & Burnham conservatory, has been renovated to LEED Platinum standards and houses tropical and subtropical gardens that continue a legacy of orchid cultivation at Duke Farms.
Duke Farms now looks to renewable energy sources to power its operations. A 640-kilowatt ground-mounted solar array was designed to supply 100 percent of the electrical power needed for public buildings at the site and provides an opportunity to interpret and demonstrate to visitors the role that renewable energy plays in environmental stewardship. In addition, 56 geothermal wells and heat pumps are used to heat and cool the Farm Barn with the addition of radiant floor heating for supplemental heat.