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A Remarkable Vision

Explore the History of Andalusia

When you visit Andalusia, home for generations of the Biddle family, you share in the hospitality enjoyed by illustrious guests for more than 200 years.

Andalusia is the vision of Nicholas Biddle, (1786-1844). Established over 200 years ago as the county seat of the Craig family, Nicholas Biddle and his wife, Jane Craig, acquired the 100 plus acres from her parents in 1814, five years before his appointment as Director of the Second Bank of the United States. Since then, Andalusia has been the seat of the Biddle family of Philadelphia, distinguished as prominent bankers, diplomats, lawyers, politicians, military heroes, agriculturists and horticulturists.

The centerpiece of Andalusia is the Greek Revival house with its monumental temple front and colonnade, designed in 1835 by Philadelphia's leading architect at the time, Thomas U. Walter. Walter was commissioned by Nicholas Biddle to expand the house situated on the gentle promontory overlooking the Delaware River and designed by architect B. Henry Latrobe in 1806 for Biddle's father-in-law, John Craig. Walter's addition to the River-facing side provided a double parlor with floor-to-ceiling windows leading to a porch underneath the temple facade and lending spectacular views of the lawn and River. From the house, the massive columns of the temple facade's imposing colonnade frame the scene. The "Big House", as it is known, is a repository of late 18th and 19th century French, English, Chinese, and American furniture collected and used by the Biddles over the last two centuries. The grounds, carefully maintained in the 19th century tradition contain a number of romantic out-buildings including a small temple-like Billiard House and a Gothic Grotto.

Nicholas Biddle was one of the most prominent men in America, noted for his leadership in finance and his skill at extending diplomatic goodwill on behalf of the young nation. Between Andalusia and his Philadelphia house, he entertained the likes of President John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Joseph Bonaparte, the former King of Spain. Biddle was not only the young nation's most powerful early 19th century banker, but also a poet, the editor of the Lewis and Clark Journals, an authority on architecture, an experimental farmer, and the foremost political and financial adversary of President Andrew Jackson. During his lifetime he acquired a spectacular 19th century gentlemen's library, now a treasure trove of antique books preserved intact in their original environment.

Nicholas Biddle also devoted himself to his agricultural pursuits.  His stables contained some of the country's finest racehorses.  He imported the first herd of Guernsey cattle and tried unsuccessfully to introduce the silk industry by planting acres of mulberry trees.  More successful was his venture growing fine table grapes.  The Biddles continued to harvest grapes from their hothouses until the1870's, after which they fell into ruin. Fortunately, the handsome walls were retained to support the wisteria and protect a modern day rose garden.

Today, Andalusia remains the living legacy of Nicholas Biddle and continues to reach out to us.  The Andalusia Foundation and the 'Friends of Andalusia' membership were created in 1980 to preserve this registered National Historic Landmark. We are grateful to the 'Friends of Andalusia' and all other supporters whose dedication and assistance have enabled this important site to be available not only to the scholar, but to all who treasure history.

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