09 June 2018

Farm Barn, Then and Now

When James B. Duke purchased the first properties of what would become his country estate along the Raritan River in Hillsborough in 1893, he immediately decided that creating a world-class stud farm would be the proper pursuit for a millionaire bachelor tobacco magnate.

Stables at Duke's Park, postcard circa 1913

To that end, he hired a trainer, built the stables that we know of today as the Coach Barn, built another set of stables - now lost-, and began assembling a collection of champion stallions. 

1894 Duke's Farm trade journal advertisement

As the property grew through the acquisition of neighboring farms, Duke ordered the construction of a massive stable on the south side of Duke's Parkway (in those days called Woodville Road). The 22,000 square foot stone and timber building was completed in 1906. If you take a walk behind the building today, you can picture trotters and pacers being exercised on the intersecting looping paths through the meadow.

The Sower at Duke's Park, postcard circa 1905

Waiting for the completion of the stables was an impressive bronze statue purchased by Duke while on a tour through Europe. "The Sower", or more fully, "The Sower From the Time of the Great Elector", was created by German sculptor Stephan Anton Friedrich Walter and depicts a peasant of the 1600s sowing his fields. Look closely at the postcard at the top of this post and you can see The Sower at the entrance to the barn. In 1914 Duke gifted the statue to Trinity College - now Duke University - where it remains today.

The Farm Barn in the 1980s - photo by Arthur Brecknell

Duke was also breeding cattle during this period - his most famous prized Guernsey bull was Lord Stranford - which in the decades after James Duke's death in 1925 led to the conversion of the stables for a full-scale dairy operation.

The Farm Barn in the 1980s - photo by Arthur Brecknell

The Farm Barn underwent a Platinum Leed Certified renovation for its adaptive reuse as the orientation center for the Duke Farms opening in 2012.

The Farm Barn at Duke Farms, 2017

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