Mary Duke Biddle

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Mary Lillian Duke Biddle
Mary Duke Biddle 01.jpg
Born Mary Lillian Duke
(1887-11-16)November 16, 1887
Died June 14, 1960(1960-06-14) (aged 72)
Spouse(s) Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr.
Children Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans
Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle
Parent(s) Benjamin Newton Duke
Sarah Pearson Angier

Mary Lillian Duke Biddle (November 16, 1887 – June 14, 1960) was an American philanthropist.[1]

Early life[edit]

She was born as Mary Lillian Duke on November 16, 1887 to Benjamin Newton Duke in Durham, North Carolina. She attended Durham's Trinity College, the institutional predecessor of Duke University, which was named in honor of her family. She graduated in 1907 with a degree in English.

She was a great enthusiast for the arts and traveled frequently with her family to New York City for the theater and opera, later becoming an accomplished singer and musician.[2]

Around 1918, she was given her father's brick-and-limestone Beaux-Arts townhouse on Fifth Avenue at 82nd Street. It was built in 1901 and is now known as the Benjamin N. Duke House.[3] It is one of only nine surviving mansions on Fifth Avenue.

Mary Duke Biddle in 1916

Marriage and later life[edit]

Her marriage to Anthony Joseph Drexel Biddle, Jr. in 1915 ended in divorce in 1931. Their children were Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans and Nicholas Benjamin Duke Biddle.

She and her husband owned an estate, "Linden Court", in Tarrytown, New York, bought from the William R. Harris family in 1921. It still stands today as the Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center.[4][5]

She established the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in 1956. Since then, the foundation has donated more than $28 million in grants to non-profit organizations.

The Mary Duke Biddle Estate at Durham, North Carolina, was her home from 1935 until her death in 1960. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2013.[6] [7]


  1. ^ "A Washington Duke genealogy as it pertains to Duke University" - Duke University Libraries
  2. ^ "North Carolina School of the Arts Receives $100,000 Grant from the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation to Endow Opera Scholarship" Archived 2006-09-06 at the Wayback Machine. - Press release, February 4, 2002.
  3. ^ The house was one of a group of four built by the speculative builders William and Thomas Hall to designs by Alexander McMillan Welch of Welch, Smith and Provot; 1009 Fifth Avenue was purchased by Mr Biddle. It was granted landmark status in 1974, and was sold in 2005 by her daughter, Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans; the eventual purchaser, after a deal had been concluded with Tamir Sapir, was Carlos Slim Helú, Mexican billionaire ("Sale of Duke Mansion Brings a Lawsuit", New York Times 20 December 2010, accessed 12 January 2911.
  4. ^ Tarrytown House property history
  5. ^ "History Center at Dolce Tarrytown House" Archived 2008-08-20 at the Wayback Machine., Half Moon Press newspaper, November, 2003 issue
  6. ^ Betsy Gohdes-Baten (February 2012). "Mary Duke Biddle Estate" (pdf). National Register of Historic Places - Nomination and Inventory. North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
  7. ^ "National Register of Historic Places Listings". Weekly List of Actions Taken on Properties: 1/07/13 through 1/11/13. National Park Service. 2013-01-18.

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