Villa Lewaro (Madam C. J. Walker Estate)
In Irvington, New York, there stands Madam C. J. Walker’s “Villa Lewaro,” a restored historic residence that embodies the optimism and perseverance of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
Born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 in Delta Louisiana, where her parents and elder siblings were enslaved, Madam Walker would become a cosmetics and business pioneer. Developing beauty and hair products for black women, Madam Walker trained nearly 23,000 sales agents and workers, serving customers in the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean. Recognized by the Guinness Book of Records for being America’s first, self-made female millionaire, Madam Walker’s achievements in the face of racial challenges of 20th century America are impressive and without comparison. The preservation of Villa Lewaro reminds us about her remarkable life once lived.
“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the kitchen cook. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations”Madam C.J. Walker
At the National Trust, we’re working to explore protection strategies, to understand the building’s potential, and to develop a documentary on Walker’s legacy and Villa Lewaro.
Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976 for its architectural significance, Villa Lewaro’s intact interiors are in good condition and the property retains a high degree of integrity. Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. and Mrs. Doley has owned and lived at Villa Lewaro since 1993. Villa Lewaro was the intellectual gathering place for notable leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, such as James Weldon Johnson, Zora Neale Hurston, W. E. B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes. Villa Lewaro is located one-half mile from Lyndhurst and three miles from Kykuit.
- Determine financially sustainable uses for the home, beyond the house museum model.
- Explore appropriate legal protection strategies to protect the property and the historic interiors.
- Raise national awareness of Walker’s legacy and support for Villa Lewaro’s future preservation.
Identify innovative solutions for reusing Villa Lewaro and promote Madam C. J. Walker’s pioneering role in American business.
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