Historic Biddle Property Conserved for Cape Cod National Seashore

The historic Biddle family property in Wellfleet, Mass. has been conserved as an addition to the Cape Cod National Seashore, The Trust for Public Land and the National Park Service announced today.

The 10-acre Bound Brook Island property on Cape Cod Bay had been on the market since December 2007 and was being considered for subdivision and development of large vacation homes. The National Park Service (NPS) prioritized the land as an addition to the Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS) to protect is natural and historic integrity. In late January the Massachusetts state office of The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, reached an agreement with the Biddle family to purchase the 10-acre property for $2.15 million. Originally listed at $3.62 million, conservation of the land will prevent its development. TPL has purchased the land and conveyed it to the NPS.

“The Cape Cod National Seashore is a natural treasure and a key contributor to the local economy. The Trust for Public Land is thrilled to play an important role in forever protecting the historic Biddle property as a key addition to the National Seashore,” said Terry Sullivan, TPL’s Southern New England director.

The property is historic. It was once the vacation home of Judge Francis Biddle and his wife, the poet Katherine Garrison Chapin Biddle. Judge Biddle was the United States Attorney General during World War II and served as the primary judge for the United States during the post-war Nuremburg trials. For more than 25 years, the Wellfleet retreat was often the site of literary gatherings, attracting world-class poets and literary critics including Edmund Wilson, Conrad Aiken, St. John Perse and historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. A homemade sign in the kitchen advised, “The environment, conservation and historic preservation BEGIN HERE.”

“We are thrilled to see our beloved family retreat pass into the caring, imaginative hands of the CCNS and Park Service. TPL played the critical role is conserving the land for the Seashore,” said Judge Biddle’s grandson Stephen Biddle. “The past is again preserved. Community and national history are honored. President Obama’s Department of the Interior and NPS have shown farsighted leadership for all future generations here on Cape Cod.”

The Biddle Property is one-quarter mile from the Atlantic Ocean and includes four antique cape style houses dating from approximately 1690 to 1850. The oldest was likely used in whale processing, a link to Wellfleet’s fishing, whaling, and oyster harvesting roots prior to its incorporation as a Town in 1743. It was also the birthplace of “The Banana King,” Lorenzo Dow Baker. A 19th-century merchant, Baker’s banana market in Boston became the United Fruit Company, which has since become industry giant Chiquita Brands International.

Established 50 years ago, the CCNS, and its 40 miles of coastline, is one of the National Park Service’s most visited destinations, with more than 4 million visitors annually. In 2010 it was the tenth most visited National Park Service unit. Visitors spend upwards of $150 million each year visiting the CCNS. TPL has conserved other properties for the CCNS, most recently the North of Highlands Camping Area in Truro.

“The driving force behind President Kennedy signing the legislation for Cape Cod National Seashore 50 years ago was the preservation of this section of the Cape from over-development,” said George Price, Cape Cod National Seashore Superintendent. “Preserving the Great Beach and the integrity of existing structures was of great concern to national seashore supporters. The historic Biddle property, owned over the years by notable Americans such as Lorenzo Dow Baker and former Attorney General Francis Biddle, is representative of the early fishing industry to 19th century commercial enterprise to 20th century residents who shaped international events. The purchase of this property with our partners at The Trust for Public Land, allows us to protect this land from subdivision and to preserve a slice of community history.”

Funding for this purchase came from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund through a fiscal year 2010 appropriation, supported by the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.

Conserving the property also protects rare and endangered species. The property contains habitat for one federal endangered species, the roseate tern, and one federal threatened species, the piping plover, and more than 39 Massachusetts protected species.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit conservation organization conserving land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since its founding in 1972, TPL has helped protect more than 2.8 million acres of land nationwide, including nearly 13,000 acres in Massachusetts. TPL depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.