Group still fighting to block demolition of Duke mansion

AP News
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Posted: Nov 08, 2015 4:28 PM
Group still fighting to block demolition of Duke mansion

HILLSBOROUGH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) — A community group hasn't given up its efforts to stop the demolition of a historic New Jersey mansion that heiress Doris Duke once called home.

The Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Commission approved the demolition plans last month.

But the community group DORIS, for Demolition of Residence is Senseless, said Sunday it has appealed that decision to the town's Board of Adjustment.

The Duke Farms Foundation wants to demolish the 67,000-square-foot mansion that's been empty since the tobacco heiress' death in 1993. They say the building erected in 1893 has fallen into disrepair and would take at least $10 million to bring up to code.

But opponents have called on the foundation to explore several possible "re-adaptive uses" for the mansion that they say would generate income and attention.

It's not known when the Board of Adjustment will meet to consider the appeal.

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 eventually acquired 40 adjacent farms in the following years, expanding the total acreage of Duke Farms to 2,200 acres by the early 1900s.

Foundation officials have said they planned to open about 50 acres at Duke Farms to the public if the demolition was approved. That property, which surrounds the home and is now fenced off, includes waterfalls, a lake and a meditation garden.

Duke was a global traveler who acquired items from around the world, including a collection of Islamic and Southeast Asian art. But most of her philanthropic work involved the Hillsborough estate, where she created many elaborately themed gardens, including one of the nation's largest indoor botanical displays.