Visitors begin their trip to Duke Farms at the Orientation Center, housed on the first floor of the historic Farm Barn. The Orientation Center is located at 1112 Dukes Parkway West, Hillsborough, NJ 08844.
Place to Learn
Through displays and interactive exhibits, visitors can learn about the mission of Duke Farms and land stewardship and sustainability efforts on the property. The Orientation Center also is a place to find out about upcoming classes and events, pick up a map or Eco-Kit, view a short film, or stop for refreshments at the Café.
The Farm Barn, which houses the Orientation Center, is an example of the adaptive reuse of a 22,000-square-foot former horse and dairy barn. It has been renovated to LEED Platinum Standards, the highest rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. To learn about the LEED components featured at the Orientation Center please visit our Sustainability page.
Our LEED Platinum certified Orchid Range was designed by Boston architects Kendall Taylor & Stevens. The Orchid Range was the first ornamental building constructed at Duke Farms. Fashioned in the form of a palm house, the Orchid Range and its range of propagating houses originally held palms, potted trees, ferns, and orchids. In 2011, the Orchid Range was renovated to make it more energy efficient and environmentally friendly. Today, the Orchid Range houses a Subtropical Display and a Tropical Orchid Display focusing on plants native to the United States.
Tropical Orchid Display
The Tropical Orchid Garden is filled with a wide variety of orchid species from tropical regions along with some of the magnificent orchids that have been cultivated at Duke Farms throughout its history.
Support greenhouses hold orchid plants in various stages of growth and bloom in preparation for orchid programs, demonstrations, and presentation in the Tropical Orchid Display.
This display is filled with orchids that have evolved in cooler subtropical locations where winter nights dip to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Naturally-occurring orchid species are highlighted to demonstrate their growing habits - among trees, on branches, and upon rocks.
The Coach Barn, with its distinctive clock tower and rustic walls made from fieldstone gathered from local quarries, set the architectural tone for many subsequent buildings at Duke Farms. The Boston architectural firm of Kendall, Taylor & Stevens designed the Coach Barn. Completed in 1903, it contained stables for horses on one end and office space for J.B. Duke and his estate manager at the other. On the second floor, there was an apartment originally for a carriage coachman, and later an automobile chauffeur.
In 2015, Duke Farms restored the exterior of the 1899 Coach Barn. The project included replacement of the original slate roof and cedar-shake siding, restoring and repainting the windows, repairing the masonry on the clock tower, restoring the weathervane to its original design and restoring the original Seth Thomas tower clock. The materials which were used are historically accurate and durable, and the new roof is expected to last even longer than the original.
Today the Coach Barn serves as a site for educational classes and conferences related to the mission of Duke Farms.
There are a number of theories as to why construction of the mansion was abandoned. One theory is that with the court-ordered dissolution of the American Tobacco Company monopoly in 1911, Duke shifted his capital from tobacco to hydroelectric power, and increasingly spent time in Charlotte, N.C., where he built additions to another house he had bought in 1919 called “Lynnwood.” Duke may have felt that because he was moving his capital to new ventures, it was not prudent to spend additional money on the New Jersey mansion. Duke donated the remaining materials to the U.S. war effort by 1918 and abandoned the mansion altogether.
Today, the remnants of this building project may be seen at the Old Foundation site, which overlooks the Great Meadow, a centerpiece of the habitat regeneration efforts at Duke Farms.
At the time of its construction, the Hay Barn was near the center of farming activity, but as more land was purchased and the farming moved elsewhere, the structure was no longer needed as a hay press.
Following a fire in January 1915, the building remained abandoned. Doris Duke used the ruins as an outdoor sculpture gallery, placing individual marble statues of human figures in linear arrangements along the walls, which can still be seen today.
By 1909, J. B. Duke had created a system of seven lakes on the property covering approximately 75 acres. Using steam-powered engines,
shovels, and an enormous crew of workers and mule teams, Duke excavated one lake after another. Landscape architects put the excavated earth to good use, accentuating the knolls and hills that frame the vistas.
Historically, one million gallons of water per day were pumped from the canal above the Raritan River up to Duke Reservoir, where it would then be controllably released to flow by gravity through the seven-lake system and back into the Raritan River. Today, new wells have been installed to supply water to the lake system. Aerators have also been installed to improve the health of the lakes.
The Great Falls is a tiered waterfall located off the side of Duke Reservoir. It is set to go off four times a day - at 10 am, 12 noon, 2 pm, and 4 pm. It does not run between November 1 and April 1.