HILLSBOROUGH, NJ – The Duke Farms Foundation was forced to shut down demolition of the Doris Duke estate by court order early today, Sunday, but not before work crews had begun to dismantle the so-called Hollywood Wing, which can be seen through the wooded area along River Road.
Appelllate Court Judge Allison E. Accurso granted a request for an emergent motion filed by David Brook, the attorney for DORIS, a local preservationist group, following a March 4 decision by Superior Court Judge Yolanda Ciccone She had rejected Brook’s petition to overturn a 6-1 October vote by the Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Committee to issue a demolition permit to the foundation.
Accompanied by Hillsborough Township police, Brook delivered Accurso’s decision to Michael Catania, executive director of the foundation at the Duke Farm’s Visitor Center in Hillsborough off Duke’s Parkway West at 7 a.m. Sunday.
Accurso’s ruling reads, in part: “All demolition activities are stayed pending this court’s resolution of the emergent motion or further notice of the court.”
Accurso’s ruling effectively delays any demolition work for at least another two weeks to permit filing of more detailed arguments by Brook as well as William Willard, attorney for Hillsborough Township, and David LaRosa, attorney for the foundation.
Brook must file by March 11, with the township and foundation lawyers granted time to respond, according to Accurso.
In part, the latest motion filed by Brook on behalf of DORIS reads:
“If this residential compound is destroyed during the pendency of an appeal, justice will not be served since the entire subject of this litigation will be lost while this appeal is heard.”
DORIS – Demolition of Mansion Is Senseless – has been waging an uphill battle to save the 67,000- foot mansion from demolition since July, 2015, when the foundation filed its request for a demolition permit with the Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Committee.
Its latest setback came on Friday, March 4 when Ciccone rejected Brook’s arguments that the historic commission had based is 6-1 vote on flawed information provided by an expert witness; that the decision has been ‘’arbitrary and capricious;’ during three hearings in July, September and October; that the board had violated provisions of the Open Public Meetings law and that DORIS had been denied permission to inspect the mansion, which has been unoccupied since 2008.
Duke, the flamboyant, eccentric philanthropist, world traveler, horticulturist, investor and collector died in 1993. Though she had similarly lavish mansions in California, Hawaii, Newport RI and a posh New York City apartment, she considered the Hillsborough estate her primary residence, according to numerous court documents.
The foundation maintains that the mansion’s historical integrity was compromised by Doris Duke as she continued to expand and remodel the original estate, built by her father James Buchanan Duke in the early 20th century. Its altered state would disqualify the structure for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places registry, according to the foundation.
The foundation has removed many of the architectural elements and fixtures from the house including exotic wood paneling and floor boards, fireplace mantles, indoor fountains, chandeliers and other elaborate items that were subsequently sold at auction.
LaRosa told Ciccone during the Feb 26 hearing in Superior Court, Somerville that the foundation estimates it would cost $10-20 million to rehabilitate and restore the structure.
Duke Farms has been transforming the sprawling 2,700-acre property along Route 206 south into an international destination for the study of nature and wildlife with educational programs year ‘round, guided field tours and bicycle paths. More than 500,000 travel to the Duke Farms each year.
LaRosa emphasized during his remarks to Cicccone Feb. 26 that the foundation places high value on the residential and farm buildings scattered throughout the estate, having invested millions in the restoration of at least 25 of the 50 buildings, including the Visitors Center and several cottages in the nearby vicinity.