27 February 2021

Turtle Lake Cascades. Then and Now

Water features were one of the most photographed elements at Duke's Park - the early 20th-century estate of tobacco millionaire James B. Duke in Hillsborough, New Jersey. The Raritan River, Duke's Brook, and a dozen man-made lakes all found their way to the viewfinder of the shutterbug and professional lensman alike.


Postcard circa 1918

Especially intriguing to the early picture-maker were the dozens and dozens of fountains - both practical and ornamental - and the water that cascaded down the falls from one lake to another.  

Postcard circa 1910

Each vista was a carefully planned scene of water, rocks, trees, and bushes - including the one you see here which featured in no fewer than four different series of postcards between 1910 and 1920.

Postcard circa 1913

What postcard publishers dubbed simply "The Cascades" is a small waterfall with a fountain between what Duke Farms has named Otter Lake and Turtle Lake. 

Postcard circa 1915

Viewing the scene as pictured in these scans from postcards in my collection is difficult if not impossible today. The fountain at the top of the falls has long been disconnected and dismantled, leaving just an unornamented metal pipe. And the area around the falls is badly overgrown - not just at the falls themselves, but also at most of the viewing spots on the banks of Turtle Lake. The photo below is the best representation I could get after trying off and on for about five years.

Turtle Lake Cascades, 2018

Perhaps there is an ecologically-minded way to return this scene to at least a representation of Duke's vision. If it ever happens, I will be there with my camera.

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