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James Biddle
Andalusia on the Delaware
Andalusia, Pennsylvania

A National Preservationist Returns to an Old Friend

James Biddle

It seems that it was James Biddle's destiny to devote his life to American history and preservation. James, who preferred being called Jimmy, was born in 1929 and was brought up at Andalusia, the Biddle family ancestral estate located on the banks of the Delaware River in Bucks County, 13 miles upstream from Center City, Philadelphia. His great-great grandfather, Nicholas Biddle, purchased this grand estate from the Craig family in 1814, and it has been home to one of Philadelphia's most prominent families ever since. As President of Second Reserve National Bank of the United States, a position similar to the one held today by Alan Greenspan at the Federal Reserve, Nicholas was responsible for the value of the nation's currency. Andalusia was steeped in history with its magnificent architecture and grounds, and memories of those early years James spent there as a child left an indelible imprint on his mind.

A 1951 graduate of Princeton University, James majored in art and archeology. His award-winning thesis was, appropriately, on his great-great-grandfather and was entitled "Nicholas Biddle The Influence of an Amateur on the Arts." Except for a two-year stint in Japan with the United States Army, all of James Biddle's work has been preservation-oriented. He began with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1955 as a curatorial assistant and later served as the curator of the American Wing of the Museum. From 1968 to 1980 James was President of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Trust had begun awarding grants and loans to support neighborhood preservation projects across America and the organization's membership had grown from 13,000 to 150,000 during his tenure. One of the projects of which he is proudest is the preservation of Olana, the Hudson River home of Frederic Edwin Church, a leading 19th century American landscape painter. Additionally, he served on Mrs. John F. Kennedy's Fine Arts Committee and was chairman of the National Preservation Institute, a nonprofit educational consulting firm. During the 1976 Bicentennial, he chaired the historical segment of the national celebration.

After leaving the National Trust for Historic Preservation, James served as the chairman of the State Historic Preservation Board of Pennsylvania and the presidency of the Andalusia Foundation. After all his national preservation work, James Biddle wanted to devote time to his beloved Andalusia, which to him was "more like an old friend than a place."

Upon inheriting Andalusia, James opened the property, a National Historic Landmark, for viewing by the general public in 1975. In 1980, the main house, its contents, and surrounding grounds were transferred to the Andalusia Foundation, which had been established to ensure the continued preservation of the entire ensemble.

James Biddle comments, "Although Andalusia has been home to the Biddle family for over 200 years, its architectural, historic, and artistic importance to the nation cannot be overestimated. It is truly an integral part of American history."

www.andalusiapa.org






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