16 February 2021

The Boat House, Then and Now

Around 1898 James B. Duke had a rectangular boating lake constructed on the north side of the residence at his Hillsborough, New Jersey estate. Shortly thereafter he built a boathouse at the west end of the lake. 

Duke's Park Boat House circa 1905

The small one-story building originally had two rooms - a lounge with a fireplace on one end and a room to store boats.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

Only the west and south facades are easily viewed today - the building itself is inaccessible to visitors.  In the photo above of the west facade taken from behind the security fence, one can just glimpse the stone bridge on the left so prominent in the first postcard above.

The Boat House at Duke's Park circa 1907

Above we see the east side of the building in an early postcard. In the distance, the riverfront factories of Raritan can just be made out.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

Shown above is the south side of the boathouse. A half-dozen years ago the building was in disrepair and was generally worn out. Minor repairs stabilized the building and a coat of fresh paint brought it to the state you see in the 2018 photographs.

The Boat House at Duke's Park circa 2010

The boathouse was much photographed a century ago also. No fewer than six series of postcards featured views of the building.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

The Boat House has been much altered over the years. Windows and doors have been changed and moved and the bracketed posts supporting the overhanging roof on the lakefront side have been replaced with simple posts at the front edge of the roof as can be seen in the photo above.

The Boat House at Duke's Park circa 2010

In the photo below of the west side - opposite the lake - we can observe that the covered porch with the gabled roof as seen in the first postcard has been enclosed to form a new room.

The Boat House at Duke's Park, 2018

Doris Duke enjoyed boating on the lake as a child as we can see in this selection from her home movies below which also includes a glimpse of the Boat House.

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