11 September 2015

Eagle Gate, Then and Now

In a previous post I commented on the fact that the original entrances to Duke's Park, the Hillsborough, N.J. estate of James B. Duke, were not gated during the heyday of public access to the grounds between 1905 and 1915. This is in evidence below in the 1910 depiction of the Eagle Gate entrance from Duke's Parkway.

The Eagle Gate at Duke's Park, postcard circa 1910
And the Eagle Gate today, below. The Eagles were restored to this location just a few years ago.

The Eagle Gate at Duke Farms, 2015

09 September 2015

"Mountain Air, Mother's Care"

New Yorkers have been sending their tykes out to "the country" for decades, centuries even. Entire institutions, such as the Fresh Air Fund - which began in 1877 - have grown up around the concept that kids need to spend their summer vacation away from city life in the Adirondacks, on Long Island, or even right here in the Sourland Mountains of Somerset County, N.J.

5 August 1923 Brooklyn Daily Eagle

One such camp was opened in 1917 by Mrs. Carrie Closson and her veterinarian husband on East Mountain Road in Hillsborough. With good intentions, she placed tiny three-line ads, such as the one above, in New York newspapers, hoping to attract clients with the tagline: mountain air, mother's care. But when Henrietta Honius from the New Jersey Bureau of Child Hygiene made an inspection of the property in the summer of 1919, she found the children were barely receiving one of the two touted benefits.

9 September 1919 Trenton Evening Times

In a word, conditions at the camp were appalling. Seventeen children were living and sleeping in just a few rooms of the ten-room house - as many as eight to a room - in homemade berths or straw mattresses on the floor, with little ventilation. No indoor sanitary facilities were provided, and the house was found to be "generally unclean". Mrs. Honius reported to her boss, Dr. Julius Levy, that "Mrs. Closson is an unintelligent person, whose motive for conducting the place is entirely mercenary". The Clossons were receiving $4.50 per week per child in 1919.

The inspection came after parents complained that their children were returning to the city malnourished and with bedsores. Indeed Mrs. Honius further reported that "Mrs. Closson knows nothing about the proper diet for children and.... she should not be permitted to conduct such an establishment."

From the August 1929 Brooklyn Daily Eagle Camp directory.
The Closson Kiddie Kamp is also listed under Boys' Camps.

Ironically, it may have been this inspection that saved the camp. Upon review of the report, Dr. Levy recommended to the state that private kiddie camps should be licensed and inspected on a regular basis. One-year licenses would not be renewed if conditions were unsatisfactory.

4 May 1931 Courier News

Mrs. Closson must have taken heed. She cleaned up her act, hired an assistant, and profitably operated the Kiddie Kamp into the following decade and beyond. Hundreds of city kids enjoyed the Sourland Mountain air - and Mother Closson's care - until she succumbed to a severe case of influenza in February 1931.

05 September 2015

What You May Have Missed

If you're not following the Gillette on Hillsborough Facebook page here, you may have missed some photos and stories that don't appear as posts on this blog - like my recent post about Miss Cora Wyckoff, the Lehigh Valley Railroad station agent at Flagtown in the 1890s.

You may also have missed all of the "extra" photos I took at Duke Farms this year while researching the Then and Now series.

Follow Gillette on Hillsborough by "liking" the Facebook page here - you'll never miss a post.

Turtle Lake, Then and Now

There is no question that James B. Duke loved flowing water. He created his Hillsborough, N.J. estate, now known officially as Duke Farms, with this in mind - constructing nine lakes at various elevations so water could flow and cascade down from one to the other.

Turtle Lake at Duke's Park, postcard circa 1907
There were also dozens of free-standing fountains, and fountains whose overflow spilled down into the lakes. If that wasn't enough, fountains also rose up from the lake themselves - as you can see in the postcard view above of Turtle Lake in 1907.

What is left of the Eagle Gate fountain at Duke Farms, September 2015

Although nearly all of the lake fountains have been decommissioned and removed over the years, if you look closely you may spot the remnants of one or two. Click on the photo below to get a better look at one of J.B. Duke's last remaining, albeit inoperative, water features.

Turtle Lake, August 2015

04 September 2015

Evening at Duke Farms

Muddy Duke's Brook

Heron Over the Reservoir

Sneaky Geese

Lion in a Reflective Mood

Last Rays on the Bridge

Bandit's Hideout

02 September 2015

Shooting Up the Park, 1907

By 1907, James B. Duke was used to receiving phone calls at his New York office about some sort of trouble at his Hillsborough, N.J. estate popularly known as Duke's Park. If it wasn't a serial arsonist firing one of his barns, or hundreds of trees being uprooted by the 1903 tornado, it was damage from unruly picnickers or boys shooting craps at midnight under the glow of the electric lights at the Raritan Gate fountain. We can almost imagine this conversation from July 1907, "What is it this time - are those boys from Raritan making havoc in the spring house again?"

New York Herald headline July 13, 1907
"Yes, Mr. Duke, something like that. Only two boys this time....and one of them is your son."

In 1902, tobacco tycoon James B. Duke decided to turn his country retreat in Hillsborough Township, N.J. into a magnificent country estate. He began purchasing lots along the Raritan River in 1893, eventually accumulating hundreds of acres where he bred horses and cattle and engaged in general farming. He now endeavored not only to plant hundreds of thousands of trees and shrubs, excavate enormous lakes, throw up grand mountains, and import a fortune in European bronze and marble statuary - but also promised to open the grounds of his park to the public.

The Raritan Gate Fountain at the Hillsborough, N.J. estate of James B. Duke, circa 1905,
 [Doris Duke Photograph Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.]

He made good on that promise the next year - even as construction was ongoing. In these early years there were no actual gates at any of the many entrances to the park. Visitors were expected to be courteous and respectful. For the most part they were - until around 1906. Contemporary newspaper accounts from that year speak of everything from simple flower-picking to shattering of electric lights, the aforementioned nightly gambling, and automobiles run amok over lawns and footpaths. The tobacco tycoon went so far as to close the park from time to time - and indeed would eventually go to two days a week beginning in 1910, then once a month from 1915 until the park was permanently closed to the general public in the mid-twenties.

Doris Duke and Walker Inman, Sr. circa 1944,
[Doris Duke Photograph Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.]

Still, nothing could have prepared him for the news that his soon-to-be stepson Walker Inman - Duke was engaged to Walker's mother Nanaline Holt Inman - and a friend, both twelve years old, had walked over to Somerville that July morning and purchased an air rifle and enough ammunition to get in some serious trouble.

Swans on Boathouse Lake, postcard circa 1907

By way of target practice, the boys shot out electric street lights all the way back to Hillsborough - and once back on the estate proceeded to take aim at Duke's prize ducks and swans! If that wasn't enough, they took potshots at the statuary - and at the Italian laborers who were working about the grounds.

The New York Herald reported that Walker and his buddy "were finally disarmed after breaking nearly every pane of glass in the conservatories and other buildings, besides doing other damage."

Orchid Range/Conservatory
[Doris Duke Photograph Collection, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.]

There is no report as to the young Mr. Inman's punishment for engaging in such depredations - but we can only hope that he was made to pay for repairs out of his allowance.

01 September 2015

Winter at Duke Farms

Pet Cemetery

Frozen Vista Lake View

Chilly Reservoir Falls

Vista Lake Fountains Site

Under Great Falls Lake Bridge

Frozen Vista Lake Falls

Baby Memorial