Strawberry Mansion acquired its name in the mid-nineteenth century when it was a dairy and restaurant serving strawberries and cream. In its earlier days it had been property of Philadelphia judges.
In 1783 Judge William Lewis, a Quaker, purchased this wooded land near the falls of the Schuylkill River. Remodeling an earlier structure, he completed the central portion of this house by 1790. While Philadelphia was still the capital of the United States he entertained his good fiends President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton.
"Summerville", Lewis's new house, reflected the balanced simplicity of early Federal architecture. The central entrance hall leads from the front door to the back gardens as in many of the older Georgian houses. The interior details are more delicate than those in nearby Woodford and Mount Pleasant.
Judge Joseph Hemphill bought Summerville in the 1820's to enhance his social and political position. He added the flamboyant Greek revival wings to the house and entertained John C. Calhoun of South Carolina and the French Marquis de Lafayette. His son Coleman built a racetrack here, raised Dalmatian dogs, and grew strawberries from roots imported from Chile. When Hemphill invited Daniel Webster of Massachusetts to a political banquet to help unite northern and southern Democrats in support of Andrew Jackson, Webster simply toasted the strawberries and walked out the ballroom's jib window.
Hemphill later bought a partnership in Philadelphia's Tucker China Factory, one of the first American makers of true porcelain. Today rare examples of Tucker porcelain are on display in the library.
Strawberry Mansion became City property in 1868 and is the largest house in Fairmount Park. Furnished in a medley of styles popular during the mansion's various ownerships, the house is maintained by the Committee of 1926 and the Fairmount Park Commission.
(Inscription under the photo in the upper left) Empire and Regency furniture in library; Tucker porcelain in cabinet to left. Doorways lead to eighteenth century parlor.
(Inscription under the photo in the lower left) William Lewis, portrait by Gilbert Stuart.
(Inscription under the photo in the lower right) Empire bedroom
(Inscription under the photo in the upper right) Daniel Webster