Madam C.J. Walker is a true Black American icon. Raised in poverty in the South, Walker’s life changed after she attended Poro College, a beauty school headed by Annie Malone. Walker took the expertise she learned at Poro College and became a self-made millionaire by selling hair and skin care items.
After years of success in business, she decided to build a home in the tony Irvington, New York, community where wealthy families such as the Rockefellers lived. In 1916, Walker hired a Black architect, Vertner Tandy, to build the mansion that became known as Villa Lewaro. She was forced to pay a “Black tax” of $60,000 for a plot of land to build the home. In all, Walker paid $250,000 for the home, which was completed in 1918.
During Toyota’s “Let’s Go Places Black History Month Tour,” our publication, along with several other Black-owned media outlets, got an opportunity to visit Villa Lewaro and meet the current owner of the residence, Harold Doley.
Doley discussed the estate and the misconceptions about the mansion being in jeopardy. “Villa Lewaro, which is a trademarked property, was designated in 1976 as a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service. It is also registered as a landmark property with the state of New York and has been given the designation of National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Furthermore, after at least two years of negotiations, we have concluded an easement agreement that protects the Villa in perpetuity, so that it would remain as is. That easement is with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additionally, we have been working with Guy Hermann of Museum Insights to have the Villa serve as a museum in line with Madam Walker’s wish that it always remain a symbol to ‘her people,’ ” Doley said in a statement.
Take an inside look at Madam C.J. Walker’s mansion, Villa Lewaro.
Photos: A.R. Shaw for Steed Media