Original Estey Organ.

photo by: Historic New England/David Bohl

July 18, 2018

The Spirit of Madam C.J. Walker Lives on at Villa Lewaro

Former owner Helena Doley reflects on her experiences living in and restoring this National Treasure.

The historic Irvington, New York, summer home of Madam C.J. Walker still stands today, reminding us of the optimism and perseverance of America’s first self-made female millionaire.

Madam Walker was born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 in Delta Louisiana, where her parents and elder siblings were enslaved. Madam Walker became a cosmetics and business pioneer, developing beauty and hair products for black women, and serving customers in the United States, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Villa Lewaro has changed hands several times since Madam Walker passed away, but her entrepreneurial spirit lives on through the home’s restoration, in the hands of owners Helena and Ambassador Harold E. Doley. Below, Helena Doley speaks to the power in preserving this landmark of African American achievement for future generations of Americans.

The National Trust is working to invest in places like Villa Lewaro and stories like that of Madam C.J. Walker through the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

Shannon Lawrence

Shannon Lawrence is a video producer who has worked on stories and videos for the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

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