25 June 2019

Tine's Greenhouses - NJ Botanical Gardens (1891 - 2004)

John Tine was just 21 years old when he purchased an eight-acre property tucked into the northeast corner of the triangle formed by the intersection of the South Branch Railroad and what was then called Woodville Road, but today is known as Duke's Parkway. The year was 1891 and Tine's idea was to do something different with farming employing greenhouses.

10 September 1936 Courier News

The initial business consisted of propagating and selling vegetable plants to area farmers. Indeed, Tine considered himself to be a farmer and continued with this business model for many years, making deliveries by horse-drawn wagon.

A portion of a 1932 map showing the location of the Tine property.

In 1893 Tine got a new neighbor when tobacco tycoon James B. Duke began buying properties to the north, east, and eventually all around the eight-acre nursery to assemble his Duke's Park. Whether Duke was spurned in efforts to buy out the nursery, or simply did not deem the effort necessary, it appears he simply ignored the Tines. In fact, he located one of the main entrances to the park, the Eagle Gate, directly across from the greenhouses.

27 July 1941 Courier News
As the management of the business passed to Tine's son John V.A. Tine they began to move away from vegetables and started to offer geraniums, petunias, ornamental plants, and flowers. In the 1930s and 40s, they operated a successful flower shop on Main Street in Somerville.

1 June 1935 Home News

Before the days of plastic sheeting, running a business that depended on a couple of dozen glass-covered greenhouses could be hazardous. In one particularly devastating May 1935 hailstorm, the Tines lost 400 panes of glass. Doris Duke lost about 200 panes in the same storm. Three years later, Doris Duke set off the damage when dynamiting to remove her father's spectacular fountain terraces caused shock waves that again shattered a number of Tine's greenhouses.

1 August 1975 Courier News
In the 1970s with the business now being run by grandson Clifford Tine and wife Madge, they changed their name to New Jersey Botanical Gardens. In the 1970s and 1980s, the nursery became widely known across the state and hosted many special events - including appearances by legendary WOR radio host Ralph Snodsmith. By 1987 the nursery consisted of 14 greenhouses with 5,000 varieties of plants.

Third generation proprietors Clifford and Madge Tine,
 18 October 1987 Home News
Clifford Tine passed away in 2004 and the property was sold to Duke Farms in 2007.


  1. Thank you for the history. I worked for Cliff and Madge Tine.

  2. I found your article on Tine's Greenhouses very interesting and timely.

    Several years ago I came across an online article from the New York Times (August 29, 1921) concerning an auto accident at what the TIMES called the "Tine crossing." They reported a fast moving train ploughed into an automobile driven by a Dr. A. G. D'Amico from Somerville at the crossing. He and three family members were killed. There wasn't enough details to determine where the Tine crossing was located, but I guessed it was formerly located on Duke's Parkway West. At the time I didn't know the nearby greenhouses belonged to a Tine. In fact, I nearly had an accident at the same crossing while returning home from school one late Summer night in the mid-80s(?). Fortunately, I had the windows opened in my non-air conditioned van on the hot and humid evening. Heading west on the totally dark road, I heard a strange, rumbling sound up ahead. As I rounded a bend, I saw the tops of moving boxcars silhouetted against a sliver of star-lit sky which appeared through the canopy of trees. Then my headlights illuminated a train heading south on the tracks. No flagman or lights provided warning of the train as I'm sure was the case when Dr. D'Amico and family crossed.

    Then too, I often wondered if the doctor was related to Thomas R. D'Amico, who is currently on Somerset County's Cultural & Heritage Commission.

    There is a wonderful tribute for Cliff Tine on a forum rewritten by "evan1" at https://www.houzz.com/discussions/2031759/nj-botanical-gardens. Cliff was quite an independent sole and went out in style, carried by a "horse drawn hearse traipsing through Somerville." I've passed his greenhouses many times, but never met him. He sounded like a fantastic individual.
    D. Conn