Joseph Hemphill was born on January 17, 1770, in Chester County, now Delaware County.
He admired Judge Lewis’ house on the Schuylkill River and purchased it in 1821, two years after Judge Lewis’s death. According to legend, Alexander Hemphill, the eldest son of the Judge and his wife Margaret Coleman Hemphill, is the reason Strawberry Mansion has wings. The story tells us that Alexander built the ballroom to entertain the Philadelphia First City Troop in an effort to be elected to the organization.
In any case, the two wings were added under Hemphill ownership around 1828 and demonstrate a Greek Revival style that had taken popular precedence over Judge Lewis’ earlier Federal style of architecture. Besides the large scrolls atop the exterior, another element of Greek revival style at Strawberry Mansion is the “egg and dart” molding in the ballroom.
The Hemphill family enjoyed entertaining. A legend exists that Daniel Webster dined at Historic Strawberry Mansion. Judge Hemphill also belonged to many social clubs and frequently traveled abroad.
Judge Hemphill was also a lawyer and served in various public offices. One can access his career biography on the Congressional website: Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress.
In addition to his political pursuits, Judge Hemphill had a stake in William Tucker’s Philadelphia porcelain factory from 1832 to 1838. Since the time of production was so short, the objects have acquired great collectability. Strawberry Mansion has quite a few of these wares on display, as does the Philadelphia Museum of Art.