The Duchess of Windsor at 212 East Biddle Street

The Duchess of Windsor, born Bessie Wallis Warfield, moved into the three-story brownstone at 212 East Biddle Street with her mother in 1908. It was the first home they could call their own as they were dependent on the charity of wealthier relatives ever since Wallis’s father died shortly after her birth 12 years earlier. Little did she know that one of the three bedrooms would be for the man her mother planned to marry, John Freeman Rason. Wallis was crushed. She had envisioned a life of independence with her mother, free from relying on the financial help of others. Wallis threatened to run away, but reluctantly came to terms with her mother's decision.

The marriage was held in the parlor of their home on June 20, 1908. The climax of the wedding came when Wallis, perhaps out of spite, snuck off to the kitchen and dug her hands into the cake in search of the good-luck tokens hidden inside. When her mother and stepfather came into the kitchen and saw the ruined cake, they stood speechless. Suddenly, Mr. Rasin laughed, picked Wallis up, and twirled her in the air. This act of forgiveness touched the young Wallis, and she never gave her stepfather any more trouble.

Unfortunately, John Freeman Rasin died suddenly in 1913. Without the financial security of her stepfather, Wallis and Alice had to move out. They moved to a small apartment building called Earl's Court, at the corner of Preston and St. Paul streets.

Wallis went through two failed marriages before meeting Edward, Prince of Wales in 1931. In 1936, Edward became King Edward VIII of England, but abdicated the throne on December 10 of the same year to marry Wallis. Edward and Wallis were married on June 3, 1937, and remained so until Edward's death in 1972. Wallis died in Paris on April 24, 1986.

In 1937, Wallis' old home at 212 East Biddle Street was turned into a museum, but it was not a commercial success. The biggest hit of the museum was the bathtub. According to the museum's tour guide, Mrs. W.W. Matthews, nine out of ten visitors sat in the house's bathtub for good luck, including a bride and groom who sat in the tub while Mrs. Matthews took their picture.



206 E. Biddle Street, Baltimore, MD 21202