Doris Duke: Group fights destruction of N.J. mansion, new executive director named to Shangri La

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HILLSBOROUGH TOWNSHIP, N.J. (AP) – A community group hasn’t given up its efforts to stop the demolition of a historic New Jersey mansion that heiress Doris Duke once called home.

The Hillsborough Township Historic Preservation Commission approved the demolition plans last month.

But the community group DORIS, for Demolition of Residence is Senseless, said Sunday it has appealed that decision to the town’s Board of Adjustment.

The Duke Farms Foundation wants to demolish the 67,000-square-foot mansion that’s been empty since the tobacco heiress’ death in 1993. They say the building erected in 1893 has fallen into disrepair and would take at least $10 million to bring up to code.

But opponents have called on the foundation to explore several possible “re-adaptive uses” for the mansion that they say would generate income and attention.

It’s not known when the Board of Adjustment will meet to consider the appeal.

Duke’s father, James Buchanan Duke, assembled the Tudor-style estate, beginning with a 357-acre farm on a picturesque stretch of the Raritan River. He eventually acquired 40 adjacent farms in the following years, expanding the total acreage of Duke Farms to 2,200 acres by the early 1900s.

Foundation officials have said they planned to open about 50 acres at Duke Farms to the public if the demolition was approved. That property, which surrounds the home and is now fenced off, includes waterfalls, a lake and a meditation garden.

Duke was a global traveler who acquired items from around the world, including a collection of Islamic and Southeast Asian art (see below). But most of her philanthropic work involved the Hillsborough estate, where she created many elaborately themed gardens, including one of the nation’s largest indoor botanical displays.

In local related news, The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation announced Monday the appointment of Konrad Ng as executive director of Doris Duke’s Shangri La, a center for the study of Islamic arts and cultures. Shangri La is the name of the Islamic-style mansion built by Duke near Diamond Head.

Most recently, Ng has been serving as the director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Asian Pacific American Center in Washington, D.C. He established the Smithsonian’s first curatorial positions in Asian Pacific American Studies and in Digital and Emerging Media and coordinated the Smithsonian’s efforts to organize and increase its work and research in Hawaii and the Pacific.

Beginning March 2016, Ng will lead Shangri La’s work in promoting the mission of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which is to promote the study and understanding of Islamic arts and cultures.

He succeeds Deborah Pope, the first and previous executive director of Shangri La, in bringing Shangri La and its collection of Islamic art and arts programming to the wider public.

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