Duke, Doris, 1912-1993

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1912-11-22
Death 1993-10-28
Americans

Biographical notes:

Born on November 22, 1912, Doris Duke was the only child of James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke, a founder of the American Tobacco Company and Duke Energy Company and a benefactor of Duke University, and Nanaline Holt Duke. Inheriting a bulk of her father's estate in 1925, which included Duke Farms in New Jersey, Rough Point in Newport, R.I., and a mansion in New York City, Doris was soon dubbed by the press as "the richest girl in the world." Although Doris did her best to live a private life, she carried on the Duke family's pattern of philanthropy by contributing to a number of public causes such as the arts, historic preservation, and the environment. When she was 21 she established Independent Aid, a foundation which would later became the Doris Duke Foundation. Adventurous, intelligent and independent, Doris Duke was determined not to be defined by social expectations or her vast wealth. She traveled widely and pursued her many interests including music, dance, writing, and art. Doris Duke was married twice, first to James H.R. Cromwell and then to Porfirio Rubirosa. Both marriages ended in divorce. Doris Duke died in October 1993 at the age of 80. In her will she left the majority of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

From the guide to the Doris Duke Papers, 1798-2003 and undated (bulk 1930-1999), (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

The Falcon Lair residence was purchased by Doris Duke in April, 1953 primarily for use on her occasional visits to California and for use while she was in transit to or from her residence in Honolulu. Compared to her other estates, the residence was not large, however, being located in the hills above Benedict Canyon overlooking Beverly Hills, it served as a retreat from public life. Soon after the home was purchased, Doris Duke hired Tony Duquette to supervise the entire redecoration and remodeling of Falcon Lair. The home was renovated again in the mid-1970s. Miss Duke lived at Falcon Lair until her death in 1993, and in 1998 the property was sold by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

From the description of Doris Duke papers on the Falcon Lair residence, 1937-1999 (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 671396054

From the guide to the Doris Duke Papers on the Falcon Lair residence, 1937-1999, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Born on November 22, 1912, Doris Duke was the only child of James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke, a founder of the American Tobacco Company and Duke Energy Company and a benefactor of Duke University, and Nanaline Holt Duke. Inheriting a bulk of her father's estate in 1925, which included Duke Farms in New Jersey, Rough Point in Newport, R.I., and a mansion in New York City, Doris was soon dubbed by the press as "the richest girl in the world." Although Doris did her best to live a private life, she contributed to a number of public causes and was an active supporter of the arts, historic preservation, and the environment. Doris Duke died in October 1993 at the age of 80. In her will she left the majority of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

From the description of Doris Duke papers, 1798- 2003 (bulk 1930-1999) (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 754109951

Born on November 22, 1912, Doris Duke was the only child of James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke, a founder of the American Tobacco Company and Duke Energy Company and a benefactor of Duke University, and Nanaline Holt Duke. Inheriting a bulk of her father's estate in 1925, which included Duke Farms in New Jersey, Rough Point in Newport, R.I., and a mansion in New York City, Doris was soon dubbed by the press as "the richest girl in the world." Although Doris did her best to live a private life, she carried on the Duke family's pattern of philanthropy by contributing to a number of public causes such as the arts, historic preservation, and the environment. Doris Duke died in October 1993 at the age of 80. In her will she left the majority of her estate to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

From the guide to the Doris Duke audiovisual collection, 1899-2012 and undated, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

From the guide to the Doris Duke Memorabilia Collection, 1898-2011 and undated, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Rough Point was purchased by James B. Duke in 1922. When Duke passed away in 1925, he left the home to his 12-year-old daughter Doris, subject to Mrs. (Nanaline) Duke's life interest. Although Nanaline Duke continued to spend her summers at Rough Point, in the early 1950s she took up permanent residence in New York City and emptied Rough Point of all its furnishings. It was around this time that Doris Duke once again became a frequent visitor to Newport and turned her attention to renovating and refurnishing the family estate. Upon her death in 1993, Miss Duke bequeathed the estate to the Newport Restoration Foundation with the directive that it be opened to the public as a museum.

From the description of Doris Duke papers on the Rough Point residence, 1922-1997 (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 665072956

Originally built for Frederick W. Vanderbilt in 1887 in Newport, R.I., Rough Point was purchased by James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke in 1922. Soon thereafter, J.B. turned his efforts to both furnishing and renovating the estate. He hired the Horace Trumbauer firm to assist in renovating the house which was completed in 1924. When Duke passed away a year later, he left the home to his 12-year-old daughter Doris, subject to Mrs. (Nanaline) Duke's life interest. At the time, the housed was appraised for $212,000 without its contents and was considered one of the most fashionable Gilded Age mansions in Newport. Although Nanaline Duke continued to spend her summers at Rough Point, in the early 1950s she took up permanent residence in New York City and emptied Rough Point of all its furnishings. It was around this time that Doris Duke once again became a frequent visitor to Newport and turned her attention to renovating and refurnishing the family estate. Over the years, she purchased arts and antiques for the house and combined them with family treasures. Upon her death in 1993, Miss Duke bequeathed the estate to the Newport Restoration Foundation with the directive that it be opened to the public as a museum.

From the guide to the Doris Duke papers on the Rough Point residence, 1922-1997, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Doris Duke's father, James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke, established the Duke Endowment as a perpetual charitable trust with a $40 million gift on December 11, 1924. The Endowment was expanded by an additional $67 million upon Mr. Duke's death in 1925. Mr. Duke designed the fund to be both flexible and enduring, but limited its efforts to North and South Carolina and to four program areas: child care, health care, higher education, and rural churches. As stipulated by her father in the Indenture that created the Endowment, Miss Duke became a trustee of the Endowment when she reached the age of 21 in 1933. She took a special interest in children's issues and became Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Child Care Service in 1965. Though her level of involvement with the Endowment fluctuated over the years, Miss Duke served on many committees and remained a trustee until her death in 1993. Her offices continued to receive some official correspondence and annual reports through 2001.

From the guide to the Doris Duke papers on the Duke Endowment, 1925-2001, bulk 1956-1993, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

In 1935, when Doris Duke and her husband James Cromwell embarked on a honeymoon tour of the world, little did she know the trip would profoundly affect the rest of her life. Traveling through many Muslim countries and parts of India, she was fascinated by Islamic cultural traditions, art and architecture. A visit to the Taj Mahal inspired Duke to commission plans for a bedroom and bathroom suite in Florida but which eventually became the nucleus for the house she built in Hawaii. Duke engaged the architectural firm of Wyeth and King to design her Hawaiian home. Marion Sims Wyeth and supervising architect H. Drewry Baker worked closely with Duke to design the home, with Duke providing sketches and photographs of buildings and architectural details she had seen during her travels. Construction of the home began in early 1937 and the Cromwells moved into the main home in December of 1938. Completed at a cost of $1.4 million, the estate was at the time the most extensive residential project in the Territory of Hawaii. Furnishing the home was another major undertaking. Doris Duke and her husband traveled to Europe and the Middle East for four months in 1938 to acquire furnishings for their new home. Accompanied by Mary Crane, a graduate student at New York University, the purchases were deliberate and extensive and Duke was intimately involved in the decisions pertaining to their installation and display in the estate. Throughout her life, Doris Duke enthusiastically designed and redesigned her home and gardens, and in 1965 made a codicil in her will directing her executors to organize a foundation to manage and maintain Shangri La for the study and understanding of Middle Eastern art and culture.

From the guide to the Doris Duke papers on the Shangri La residence, 1932-2003, (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University)

Traveling through many Muslim countries and parts of India during her honeymoon, Doris Duke was fascinated by Islamic cultural traditions, art and architecture. A visit to the Taj Mahal inspired Duke to eventually commission plans for the house she built in Hawaii. Duke engaged the architectural firm of Wyeth and King to design her Hawaiian home, and architects Marion Wyeth King and H. Drewry Baker worked closely with Duke to design the home, with Duke providing sketches and photographs of buildings and architectural details she had seen during her travels. Throughout her life, Doris Duke enthusiastically designed and redesigned her home and gardens, and in 1965 made a codicil in her will directing her executors to organize a foundation to manage and maintain Shangri La for the study and understanding of Middle Eastern art and culture.

From the description of Doris Duke papers on the Shangri La residence, 1932-2003. (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 664021201

Doris Duke's father, James Buchanan (J.B.) Duke, established the Duke Endowment as a perpetual charitable trust in 1924. Mr. Duke designed the fund to be both flexible and enduring, but limited its efforts to the Carolinas and to four program areas: child care, health care, higher education, and rural churches. Miss Duke became a trustee of the Endowment in 1933.

From the description of Doris Duke papers on the Duke Endowment, 1925-2001, bulk 1956-1993 (Duke University Library). WorldCat record id: 707100558

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Subjects:

  • Islamic art
  • International travel
  • Philanthropy and society
  • Architecture--Designs and plans
  • Architectural drawing--20th century
  • Endowments
  • Heiresses
  • Islamic architecture

Occupations:

not available for this record

Places:

  • North Carolina (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Diamond Head (Hawaii) (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • Newport (R.I.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)