Doris Duke, daughter of the famous American tobacco and electric power industrialist, James Duke, is the long lost "Wonder Woman" of the 20th Century.
Born in 1912, before she even knew it, Doris would live the life of luxury and with more money than people could dream. She would become a socialite and asset to the community. James Duke, the man who founded Duke Electric, American Tobacco Company, The Duke Foundation and Duke University, lived a life of pure success while remaining humble.
Doris grew up much like her father. She understood what it meant to be wealthy and what it meant to be a person of character. Having run multiple foundations, Ms. Duke often donated money to local firefighter squads, first aid squads, Raritan Valley Medical, Rutgers University and more. It was easy for Doris to write checks out for thousands of dollars, to then give charities and organizations closest to her heart the money they needed.
She even created the Doris Duke Foundation, that is still thriving today. Its mission is to help support others and improve life by providing money and other necessary means. And later on, this organization became the group who manages the modern Duke estate. Although she grew up with the American dream, she never seemed to find Mr. Right. Doris had been married two times. First to James H.R Cromwell and Porfirio Rubirosa. She firmly believed in authentic and meaningful relationships. Her only child was with Cromwell, but the baby died a few weeks after birth.
Marriage relationships were not the only connections severed in Doris's life. She and her mom did not get along. The two constantly disagreed and quarreled often. Her mother loved living luxuriously and often took advantage of wealth and fame. She did not seem to understand why Doris liked being down to earth.
Doris's mother married her father in 1907, but following the death of James Duke, her mom was the original proprietor of the entire Duke wealth. Doris took her mother to court and in 1932, at the age of 20, she gained all control over what her father had left behind.Ms. Duke grew up with all that money could buy. Her family had three main estates in Rhode Island, Hawaii and New Jersey, as well as other places, so she'd travel often. She had a quirky and fun personality while having the authority to do whatever she wanted.
"I aspire to be like that," said Rikki Lynn Hauss, a current resident to the area in which Duke Farms still operates. Growing up, she found herself going back to one estate in particular. Her New Jersey home. Doris felt most at peace there. When she needed to get away from the high life or just simply to have fun, she'd often would retreat to its 67,000 feet of living space. One of the main reasons Doris and her mom disagreed so much was because, much like her dad, she preferred being humble and appreciative of the little things in life. Hence, where the love of the New Jersey estate stemmed from.
The mansion itself, on the property in Hillsborough, New Jersey, was only a smidge of land compared to the 2,700 acres total. It started out as an eight-room house, then to 28 and after many reconstructions, it turned into the few thousand square foot mansion she called home. There was much more excitement to the large estate than just the house itself. On the property were greenhouses, that still stand today. A passion of Doris Duke was taking care of orchids and indigenous plants.
From the time that Doris began to appreciate nature, her love for Orchids became something the Duke name was known for. On the property were many different types. Throughout her life, she be so acclimated and well known for her work with the plants, a hybrid orchid was named after her. The Phalaenopsis Doris. When she needed to take a break from the taboo of rich living, she often found herself gardening and caring for the property. It included a complex water system to ensure the growth of the nature.
Doris also often would spend time with the gardeners in the greenhouses and others who worked on the estate. Because she liked growing orchids and plants, if one was not doing so well, she would consult the gardeners for help.
After Doris Duke passed away in 1993, she left behind a legacy only people could dream of. She became an icon. Doris left plans for the future of the Duke Foundation and the estate properties. She wanted to ensure that the money and foundations were in good hands.
Unfortunately, the future dreams of Doris Duke did not get carried out as planned. Years went by with the estate left as it had been. This eventually raised a few flags to the locals and visitors. Occasionally property maintenance would be done. In 2013, 20 years after Doris's death, the people in charge of the New Jersey estate began to plan for the mansion's demolition. When the news broke about the potential tear down, people from far and wide came to protest such a crazy idea. People like Rikki Lynn Hauss discovered the true magic of the estate and why Doris Duke was a legend. She was one of the people who tried to prevent the demolition.
Spectators and people involved with the demolition protest began to notice how the leadership of the estate went in different directions than what many people desired. Many people began to question the suitors of the foundations and the proposed intentions. Before the demolition occurred, Rikki and her friends snuck around to get a glimpse of what had once been a thriving home full of love and character. To many peoples dismay, the teardown was accepted and planned. The mansion had been practically abandoned with a lot of items left inside.
Before the actual demolition occurred, some of the items left behind were up for auction and sold. Some of that money returned back to one of the many foundations. Modern-day Duke Farms, the New Jersey estate, is a popular tourist attraction. Locals, travelers, you name it, all show up to experience the beauty. There are beautiful trees and lakes all across the 2,700 acres that is Duke Farms. There are bike tours, property tours, greenhouse tours and more. People are allowed to freely walk and observe the property.
Arguably one of the coolest sights that is still on the property is the foundation of the mansion Doris and her family once lived in. There are steps that lead you up to where the mansion stood. Although Doris Duke is no longer with us, her legacy of being a socialite and all american lives on. She was a woman of character and influence. Doris was able to handle a professional life, but be humble all at the same time. She truly was the long-lost Wonder Woman of out time.