An insider’s tour of Strawberry “Villa”

Tyson Gardner, a preservationist with Fairmount Park and the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, is the guide at Strawberry Mansion, a historic structure which spans three chapters in American architecture and was the residence of at least two prominent Philadelphians.

For the past five years he has also been researching the families and other historical aspects of the Houses of Fairmount Park.

Philly tagged along as PlanGardner spoke about the “Grande Dame” of the Park during a recent lecture and tour of the property with the Community Garden Club at Wayne.

He noted that the center section of Strawberry Mansion was built in the Federal style around 1789 by lawyer, judge and state legislator, William Lewis. Judge Joseph Hemphill later added the two Greek Revival wings which create the exterior of the house as we recognize it today. 

Check out the video of Gardner’s presentation below.

According to Gardner, “the largest of Fairmount Park’s eighteenth-century villas extends its prestige in the names of both a bridge and an entire city neighborhood. However, the life of Strawberry Mansion has not always been easy and, ironically, the house remains an architectural anomaly.”

Gardner traced the trials and triumphs in the mansion’s life, taking the audience above and below stairs as he related various tales dealing with architecture, society and famous furnishings.

Gardner has worked for Fairmount Park for seven years, with his first assignment being Laurel Hill mansion. This is his second year with Strawberry Mansion. He is involved with the American Institute of Architects and the Preservation Alliance, where he is qualified for thirteen of their city walking tours.  He has also served as vice-president of the local chapter of the Victorian Society, and is on the board of the Friends of Laurel Hill Cemetery.

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