HILLSBOROUGH TOWNSHIP, N.J. – Demolition work is expected to resume Tuesday at a historic mansion once owned by tobacco heiress and socialite Doris Duke.
The work started earlier this month but was stopped after a day because community activists opposed to the demolition won a temporary court order halting it. The order was rescinded about two weeks later when an appellate court said the activists failed to show “a reasonable probability of ultimate success” with their case against The Duke Farms Foundation, which owns and operates the mansion.
The 67,000-square-foot mansion, in Hillsborough Township, has been empty since Duke’s death in 1993. Foundation officials say it’s in disrepair and would take at least $10 million to fix.
Half the mansion was demolished before the work was stopped. It’s unclear how long it will take to knock down the rest.
The community group Demolition of Residence is Senseless, or DORIS, has called on the foundation to explore possible re-adaptive uses for the mansion that it says would generate income and attention. It has fought the demolition for several months and turned to the courts after Hillsborough’s Historic Preservation Commission approved the demolition plans in October.
Duke’s father, James Buchanan Duke, assembled the Tudor-style estate, beginning with a 357-acre farm on a picturesque stretch of the Raritan River. He acquired 40 adjacent farms in the following years, expanding the total acreage of Duke Farms to 2,200 by the early 1900s.
Foundation officials have said they planned to open about 50 acres at Duke Farms to the public if the demolition were approved. That property, which surrounds the home and is now fenced off, includes waterfalls, a lake and a meditation garden.