By Lauren Lipton
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Strawberry Mansion, the largest of the seven historic Fairmount Park houses, recently underwent a restoration, and you’re invited to visit.
“We love to have people just stop in, have a cup of tea,” says Beth Kowalchick, president of the Committee of 1926. “We’re called ‘The House of Hospitality’ because Joseph Horn, who owned Horn & Hardart, donated $35,000 to restore this house if it would remain a house of hospitality.”
The Committee of 1926 is a group of women who, starting in 1926, have dedicated themselves to the house’s preservation and heritage.
“Who owned the house originally was Judge (William) Lewis — he built the federal portion,” Kowalchick tells Positively Philadelphia. “He was an abolitionist, a lawyer, and also one of the drafters of the bill to abolish slavery here in Pennsylvania.”
And the newly renovated house is something to see.
“As you walk through, we have 18th-Century clocks and we have 19th-Century furniture in the banquet room that you’re standing in now,” she points out. “The ‘Indian Queen’ kitchen is filled with a few things from the Sesquicentennial [in 1926], but mostly all taken after the Indian Queen Tavern, that was originally in Baltimore and Philadelphia.”
A freshly done mural has replaced wallpaper at the house.
“The committee got together and decided that there was no paper that looked like Philadelphia. So we thought, we’re gonna paint it. Oil on linen depicts Philadelphia, the port, and both sides of Fairmount Park and all of the park houses,” Kowalchick says.
Hear Lauren Lipton’s expanded interview with Beth Kowalchick in this CBS Philly podcast (runs 6:06)…