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.”