Cultural Heritage

Native American Land Use

Prior to the arrival of Europeans to North America, Native Americans inhabited the continent and evolved many practices that altered the landscape significantly. With the use of fire, they created large expanses of open grasslands. Recent studies suggest that the “wild, untamed landscape” we imagined the early colonists found was in fact strongly influenced by humans. In addition to influencing the land through agriculture, the Native Americans managed forests to increase and diversify their food supply, and to improve their living conditions in general.

Environment in the 1800s

In the 1800s, a wave of deforestation moved across the Appalachian Mountains into Ohio and the Mississippi River valleys. The East then began undergoing succession, which is a process by which plant communities successively change from field back to mature forest.

Industry and the Environment

Industrial growth in the United States contributed greatly to the altering of the landscape and ecosystems on which we depend. The advent of steam engineand the railroad improved technology for large-scale exploitation of the natural resources on which we depend: fossil fuels, coal, ores, timber, and even animals and plants.

J.B. Duke and Duke Farms

In the early years of Duke Farms, J.B. Duke explored life as a gentleman farmer, raising and breeding cattle and horses and operating a race track on the property. By 1893, Duke began inviting New York friends to the estate, which he initially called Raritan Valley Farms. By the end of the 19th century, Duke abandoned farming and proceeded to construct a great public park on his estate.

His estate, modeled after many of the great “picturesque” estates of Europe and America, represented a kind of land stewardship by altering the landscape for the purpose of enjoyment and aesthetic pleasure. To achieve his goals, he acquired over 2000 acres of farmland and wood lots and preserved this land for his estate.

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