Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Historic Strawberry Mansion is closed through February 2021

History and Timeline

The Story of Historic Strawberry Mansion

Historic Strawberry Mansion is the largest of the seven
historic Fairmount Park Houses.

In 1789, Judge William Lewis, a well-known abolitionist and lawyer, built the mansion as a summer retreat, naming it “Summerville.”

In 1825, its second owner, Judge Joseph Hemphill, added the first of two Greek-revival style wings to the home.

In 1930, in an effort to celebrate the magnificence of this extraordinary home, a group of public-spirited women decided to restore historic Strawberry Mansion. Called the Committee of 1926, they began restoring the mansion in 1930 and opened it to the public as an historic house museum the following year. 

Since its opening, Historic Strawberry Mansion has welcomed over 250,000 visitors through individual visits, park house tours, lectures, events, and community artist exhibitions.

Timeline of the Historic Strawberry Mansion

1783 - 1789
Judge William Lewis, a profound lawyer, purchases the messuage, or property with existing buildings and builds Summerville, the original name of the Historic Strawberry Mansion.
1783 - 1789
1819
Judge William Lewis dies
1819
1821
Judge Joseph Hemphill, a lawyer who served in various public offices, and his wife Margaret Coleman Hemphill, purchase the property.
1821
ca. 1828
The two Greek Revival style wings are added to the house.
ca. 1828
June 1842
Judge Joseph Hemphill dies. 
June 1842
October 1846
Judge Hemphill's sister-in-law Harriet Coleman sells the property to Mr. George Crock, who in turn leases the house and its grounds
October 1846
1846-1867
Strawberry Mansion acquires its name. According to legend, strawberries and cream are served to the public by the occupants, who are farmers.
1846-1867
1867
Mr. George Crock sells the property to the City of Philadelphia
1867
1871
Mr. George Crock’s deal closes for $102,375 and the house is given to the Fairmount Park Commission.
1871
1871-1926
The house goes through various phases of occupation, with a public emphasis. For a period, it is a popular restaurant and picnic spot
1871-1926
1927-1931
The house is chosen as the administrative project of a group of public-spirited women called The Committee of 1926 and undergoes restoration
1927-1931
March 1, 1931
Historic Strawberry Mansion officially opens to the public
March 1, 1931
May 2009
Historic Strawberry Mansion closes for restorations
May 2009
April 2013
The Banquet Room mural project is begun
April 2013
May 2013:
Historic Strawberry Mansion reopens to the public for tours
May 2013:
October 2013
Grand Re-Opening celebration and Historical Marker dedication ceremony
October 2013
2013-2015
Historic Strawberry Mansion expands its outdoor space to include a secret garden, beehives, and an orchard.
2013-2015
October 2015
"A Freedom to Go Forth" exhibit opens. It focuses on the role Judge William Lewis played in the abolition of slavery.
October 2015
March 2018 and 2019
Historic Strawberry Mansion welcomes musicians from the Philadelphia Orchestra to the back yard for a free neighborhood concert.
March 2018 and 2019

Restoration Project

Liz Morris - lewis_parlor_before Liz Morris - lewis_parlor_before111

Managing the upkeep of an over 200-year-old building is a full time project.

Controlling the environment within the mansion was a particularly difficult endeavor when it had inadequate heating and cooling systems and little to no ventilation. Over the years, the Committee of 1926 began to see the house and their collection suffer under the fluctuating conditions of the mansion. 

In 2009, in an effort to preserve the Mansion’s legacy and collections, the Committee of 1926, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, closed Historic Strawberry Mansion to begin the first major restoration of the house since the 1930s. 

The four-year preservation project began with exterior restorations, including the repair of all 72 windows, window sashes, hardware cleaning, conservation of antique weather stripping, stabilization of the main staircase, replacement of all roofing and internal roof beams, and exterior stucco repair with a restored historic color scheme.

Beginning in 2012, the second phase of the rehabilitation project focused on the interior of the mansion. Phase II included replacing the old 1930’s knob and tube wiring with an upgraded electrical system, interior plaster and paint repair, and the installation of a new geothermal climate control HVAC system to protect the collection from harsh environmental effects.

The restoration project was finally completed. In May 2013, the doors to the mansion re-opened to the public for the first time in almost five years. The Committee of 1926’s prized collection of antiques, fine art, and collectibles had finally been restored to its proper place.

 

As part of the restoration, a beautiful mural, “The Portage Trail to Strawberry Mansion” by Dot Bunn and Patrick Connors, was added to the Banquet Room on the second floor. The mural depicts the story of Judge Joseph Hemphill, who is credited with building the Banquet Room wing of the house.