After Strawberry Mansion was sold to the Fairmount Park Commission in 1867, its rich history lay dormant under various new cloaks, including a dining establishment.
It wouldn’t be until 1926 that a group of leading city women, headed by Mrs. J. Willis Martin, interceded on its behalf.
The Committee of 1926 was born out of the various groups of the Women’s Committee that put together the “High Street” exhibit of the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Their “High Street” included reproductions of the homes and businesses of High Street (now Market Street) in Philadelphia, circa 1776. These exhibits were designed to interpret all aspects of colonial life, especially the influence of women in and outside the home. The High Street exhibit was largely regarded as the most successful part of the entire Sesquicentennial celebration.
When the exhibition ended at the close of 1926, the women involved did not wish to disband. With the help of Mayor Freeland Kendrick, Eli Kirk Price (then Commissioner of Fairmount Park), and Fiske Kimball (then Director of the Philadelphia Museum of Art), the women took on the responsibility of restoring Historic Strawberry Mansion.
They were given an initial grant of $36,000 from Joseph V. Horn, owner of Horn and Hardart Baking Company and later famous for the Automat restaurant.
Each room in the house was conceived of as a museum space, and the decorations and artifacts were collected by the various women’s groups in charge of specific rooms.
Certain rooms were also designed with a functional purpose in mind. In these rooms parties, teas, luncheons and weddings were held. The restoration effort began in 1930; the mansion was opened to the public as a historic house museum in 1931.The women of the Committee of 1926 thenceforth dedicated themselves to the preservation of the history and heritage of Historic Strawberry Mansion.
Today, the Committee of 1926 continues its legacy through the preservation of the history and heritage of the mansion, while continuing to engage new audiences and forge new bonds with other community stakeholders.