HILLSBOROUGH: Former Duke Farms workers to remember Miss Duke’s wishes

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Opponents of the demolition of Doris Duke’s residence within the Duke Farms estate in Hillsborough will gather people to tell their memories of the estate and their beliefs about what the heiress wanted to happen to it after her death.
At 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, some of her former employees will participate in a moderated discussion about Miss Duke at the United Reformed Church, 100 West Main St., Somerville.
They will also share their memories from their time spent on the estate and inside the Duke mansion. Light refreshments will be served.
The event is sponsored by the group DORIS, an acronym for Demolition Of Residence Is Senseless. The community-based preservation group is dedicated to stopping the demolition of the Duke home in Hillsborough Township and is fighting the Duke Charitable Foundation plan to demolish the residence and open that part of the 2,300-acre former estate as an expansion of the environmental preserve there.
A suggested donation of $5 will go to the DORIS Legal Defense Fund. Anyone interested in making a donation may mail a check, made payable to DORIS, to 125 East Cliff St., Somerville, NJ, 08876 or go to the funding website at www.GoFundMe.com/dorisdukemansion.
The Duke home is in a closed-off part of the 2,300-acre environmental preserve in northern Hillsborough. In the summer and fall of 2015, DORIS opposed the Duke Foundation’s application to the township Historical Preservation Commission for a demolition permit.
The commission cleared Duke Farms to ask for the permit, which Duke Farms Foundation has received from the township but won’t be used until legal proceedings brought by the DORIS group are completed, the foundation has said.
Oral arguments on the lawsuit brought by DORIS will be heard on Friday, Feb. 26, at 10 a.m. before Judge Yolanda Ciccone in Superior Court in Somerville.
DORIS has long maintained that the “richest woman in the world” intended to preserve her grand estate home.
“The commitment of Doris Duke towards preservation both at her home and around the world is uncontroverted,” said Nancy Piwowar, local history advocate and DORIS member. “In Doris Duke’s will, she intended her home to be occupied by either an agricultural college or by her foundation. She wanted the estate used for wildlife, flora and fauna. Never in her wildest dreams would she think her beloved home would be destroyed and her intentions ignored by the very foundation she established to protect her legacy, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Duke Farms Foundation.”
Over the years, lawsuits have been filed regarding the commitment of Doris Duke to protect her “ancestral home” and this property.
“A little known lawsuit involved Doris Duke and her mother,“ explained Ms. Piwowar noted that at age 14, Doris Duke sued her mother and the other executors of her father’s estate.
“She wanted to operate the Duke estate, which her father, the late James B. Duke, left her in his will,” said Ms. Piwowar. “Her mother and the executors wanted to dispose of the property. Doris Duke wanted to preserve the property and continue to live on the estate. Doris Duke won the lawsuit and the title of the property was transferred into her name. These actions clearly demonstrate her dedication and love of her home and the estate.”
When the state served notice it wanted to remove the iconic stone wall along the Route 206 side of the property, Doris Duke acted to block it, in part by filing a nomination of her own property to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
That act “demonstrated that she had a long and lasting legacy of preserving history,” said Ms. Piwowar, and “made her wishes abundantly known with this excerpt: ’It is her intention to maintain the entire property in perpetuity.’”
DORIS says its lawsuit against the Township of Hillsborough and Duke Farms Foundation is “in keeping with the tradition of Doris Duke” to save her home and legacy.
Ms. Piwowar said DORIS has taken this action in an effort to stop the demolition of the very home that forms the critical “heart” for maintaining the integrity of the entire property, now mismanaged by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.
“Doris Duke’s wishes are clearly being violated by the very organization that operates the foundation that she endowed. If Duke Farms Foundation were true stewards of the Duke legacy, they would preserve the residence and honor her will,” said David Brook, a DORIS supporter, a Hillsborough resident and the attorney representing DORIS in State Superior Court.
“Here at the Duke Estate, Doris Duke took direct action to preserve the estate’s boundary wall. Just think how’d she feel about the walls of her home being demolished? It is clear looking at the actions of Doris Duke over the years and in her intentions, she would not want her house destroyed. The Duke Foundations have an obligation to withdraw their demolition permit and restore the Duke residence,“ said Mr. Brook. 

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