Duke Receives $5 Million Grant to Transform Sarah P. Duke Gardens

An artist’s representation of a new performance lawn, gardens and new classrooms, event spaces, gift shop and café.

DURHAM, N.C. — A $5 million grant will expand and enrich the visitor experience at the 55-acre Sarah P. Duke Gardens on Duke University’s campus, President Vincent E. Price said Monday.

The grant from The Duke Endowment, a private foundation based in Charlotte, will support the Garden Gateway Project, a fundraising campaign to create enhanced facilities and spaces at Duke Gardens. Each year the gardens attract about 400,000 visitors from around the world.   

“Just as the investment by Sarah P. Duke in the gardens in the last century allowed it to become a central part of Duke University’s campus for nearly 100 years, The Duke Endowment’s grant will help carry Duke Gardens through the 21st century as a world-class botanical garden and partner with our academic enterprise,” Price said. “We are so grateful for this generous gift.”          

The Duke Endowment award brings the total funds raised to date to $16 million toward the Garden Gateway Project’s goal of $30 million. The project will revitalize the gardens’ historic front entrance and fund new and improved facilities and classrooms that will further curricular and programmatic connections between the university and the gardens.  

The plan also calls for a new performance lawn and expanded indoor event hall that will create more opportunities for the performing arts, academic and business programs, as well as such special experiences in the gardens as weddings and other kinds of celebrations. The project also calls for a new café, seating area and expanded gift shop.

“Duke Gardens is in a distinctive position to cultivate a multitude of benefits into one setting accessible to both Duke campus and to the vibrant Durham community that surrounds us,” said William M. LeFevre, executive director of Duke Gardens. “This gift from The Duke Endowment will support the gardens’ growing need to provide a better physical connection within our community and deliver a deeper educational, interactive and programmatic experience to our visitors.”

The Gardens Gateway project is expected to be completed within four years.

“Our founder, James B. Duke, was a remarkable business entrepreneur, but he was also passionate about farming, gardening and horticulture,” says Minor Shaw, chair of The Duke Endowment’s Board of Trustees. “This grant provides a unique opportunity to recognize a less well-known aspect of his life, to honor the impressive women of his extended family, and to enhance a cherished feature of the campus that he helped build.”

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