The Biddles are a legendary Philadelphia family, having come here in the 17th century to escape persecution for their Quaker beliefs and becoming, over successive generations, the Zeligs of the American experience. Biddles served in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, and both World Wars. A Biddle was at the Continental Congress and a Biddle judged the Nuremberg trials. Sydney Biddle Barrows was the infamous New York madam, while Jesse Biddle plays professional baseball. Owen Biddle plays bass with the Roots, and a Biddle was the subject of a Broadway play. You can't turn around in this country—certainly on this coast—without bumping into a Biddle.
One remarkable Philadelphia-born Biddle was Ellen Biddle Shipman, a now-legendary landscape architect who distinguished herself professionally in years when that was extremely difficult for a woman to do. Much of the work she did for equally prominent families—including the Vanderbilts, Rockefellers, Du Ponts, Mellons, Roosevelts, and Astors—was at 21 Beekman Place in New York, where she lived between 1919 and 1946. "There is not in all New York another piece of property like it, for it has the seclusion of Beekman Place, southern exposure, and a beauty of architecture combined with the extended view of the East River," she said of her home, which she redesigned in 1925.