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Photo Credits: Image of Madam CJ Walker (Getty Images). Images of the Home (Zandy Mangold)

Nearly 100 years ago, Madam CJ Walker, America’s first female self-made millionaire, built a beautiful mansion in Irvington, New York. Villa Lewaro is a 34-room Italianate manse in a neighborhood that was also home to Rockefellers and Astors and it cost her $250K. Walker was 49-years-old at the time and no one could believe a Black woman could afford such a home.

“It was symbolic for her,” A’Lelia Bundles, Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, tells The Post. “For her to buy property in one of the wealthiest communities in America and then build this home, one generation out of slavery, it was her American dream.”

Walker’s story isn’t news. She made her fortune launching a line of hair-care products. Sundial Brands has recently launched a new line of Madam C.J. Walker de-frizzing products. Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer has signed on to produce and star in a TV series based on Bundles’ biography on her great-great grandmother titled On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker.

An active member of the NAACP and a face of the Harlem Renaissance, she passed away at age 51 of kidney failure. She willed the home to her daughter Lelia, and following her death the NAACP would own it. They sold it in 1932, and it became a retirement home for 40 years.

The current owner Helena Doley has lived in the home for 25 years.

Brent Leggs, a senior field officer at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, says this about the home: “It’s one of the most important women’s history sites — and African-American history sites — in the country. It’s absolutely crucial to find the next steward who can carry on its legacy.”

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Current owner Helena Doley, who has lived in the house for almost 25 years

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Yvette Caslin

I'm a writer, image architect & significance marketer. Love photojournalism, creative expression & originality.

  • Michelle

    Wow…beautiful.

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  • Rasheedah Ali

    Why not make it a museum like Louie Armstrong’s home in Queens. This is a historic part of African American folks an should remain so.

    • sam66

      You’re right

    • bik=nb

      i was thinking the same thing.

    • Charles Starks

      Pretty sure the owner wants some money for it..

  • Theresa Ann Pratt-Stunkard

    I’d buy it in a heartbeat if I had the money!

  • Jena Kelly

    A friend of mine called the Preservation Society and was told that this was a slight misrepresentation, and misunderstanding. It is not an open listing for sale, it is being put under a preservation easement to ensure it’s survival, and to protect it’s historic value. It will be earmarked for historic purposes only. That’s why there is no price on it.

    • sam66

      of course it’s a historical landmark.

    • dedepraiz

      Interesting, thanks for sharing.

  • Guest

    What an amazing woman! I can only imagine the jealousy and envy she faced living in that house and neighborhood.

  • Charles Masden

    OFF THE CHAIN -WHY DID IT COST SO MYCH BACK IN THE DAY

    • Jena Kelly

      It cost so much because first of all, it was in an exclusive area for the rich and famous. Then secondly, she didn’t just buy a house. She bought land then had it designed and built. Plus, in those days they charged something called the “black dollar”, meaning that when they found out she was a black woman, they charged her double the price for the land in an effort to stop the sale. She had to pay $60,000 for the land alone. She didn’t care, she paid their price, got her land, and built her house. That’s why I’ve always admired her so much. She was my kind of woman. Unstoppable!

      • Selena

        I think the Black Cosmetology Association should think about this
        Great woman’s history, and how to preserve this house. I would love to visit it. I am a SC Board member. Very interested.

        • Jena Kelly

          Selena,
          It is being preserved. We wanted to visit it too but it’s not open to the public, at this time, it’s a private residence. I know just how you feel. It seems to be in good hands though, and once this family is no longer there then I guess their descendants will make the decision as to what comes next. But we were told that it’s being well cared for and it’s value is being honored. It’s being given historic status, so no one has to worry about it falling into disrepair.