The Duke Endowment Pledges $2.5 Million to Duke Homestead to Preserve Important N.C. History

Durham, N.C. (May 30, 2024) – As part of its 100th year anniversary, The Duke Endowment has approved a $2.5 million grant to the Duke Homestead State Historic Site in Durham, the largest private monetary gift ever given to a state historic site from a single donor. This generous grant will be used to transform the Duke Homestead, preserving and protecting this important piece of North Carolina’s past. The announcement was made at a centennial event honoring the Endowment’s grantees and partners from the region.

The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and the Division of State Historic Sites are so grateful for this generous gift from The Duke Endowment,” said Darin Waters, deputy secretary for Archives and History. The history of the Duke family is of tremendous importance to Durham and to North Carolina, and this grant will allow us to make much-needed updates to the homestead that represents the family’s history and connection to the state.

Grant funds will be used to renovate and update the site’s exhibits, provide structural maintenance and upgrades and care for the historic structures, artifacts and collections located at the site. 

This extraordinary and transformative gift from the Endowment will allow us to tell a more complex, inclusive, and accessible story at Duke Homestead,” said Michelle Lanier, director of State Historic Sites at the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. 

Duke Homestead State Historic Site and Tobacco Museum encompasses the historic home, farm and factory buildings of Washington Duke and his family when they lived on the property from 1852 until 1874. The site interprets the early farming life of the Duke family and the beginnings of their tobacco manufacturing business on the property after the Civil War. Washington Duke’s sons later founded the world’s largest tobacco company, the American Tobacco Company, before diversifying the family business through investments in textiles, banks, railroads and hydroelectric power generation.

Washington Duke gave generously to family, friends and local institutions such as Trinity College (later Duke University), a legacy that was carried on by his sons, Benjamin Newton Duke and James Buchanan Duke and their descendants. In 1924, James B. Duke established The Duke Endowment with an initial gift of $40 million. Since then, the Endowment has worked to improve lives and strengthen communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. 

As a descendant of the Duke family, it is an honor to partner with the State of North Carolina to ensure that the Duke Homestead is appropriately preserved and to provide visitors with an enhanced experience, connecting them to the agricultural heritage of North Carolina, the importance of the site in the development of the family’s business and the enduring business and philanthropic contributions of the Duke family,” said Charlie Lucas, board chair of The Duke Endowment. We are hopeful that this investment will not only preserve history and tell a more complete story of the Duke family, but will also promote tourism, bringing economic and cultural enrichment to the area.”

After the Duke family left the Homestead and moved their business into the growing city of Durham in 1874, the farm changed hands at least three times. Then in the late 1920’s, a longtime friend of the Duke family, James A. Thomas, contacted Mary Duke Biddle, granddaughter of Washington Duke, about the possibilities of repurchasing the property after he visited the farm and saw that buildings were deteriorating. In the early 1930s, Mary Duke Biddle acquired the Homestead and then donated the property to Duke University. The Homestead was approved as a registered National Historic Landmark in 1966, and Duke University gifted the Homestead to the State of North Carolina in 1973.


About The Duke Endowment

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation that strengthens communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed $4.8 billion in grants. The Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, but all are separate organizations.

About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.

The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the North Carolina Zoo, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit www​.dncr​.nc​.gov.