Sankofa Studies

Madam C.J.Walker’s Estate and the Black Architect Who Created It

February 13, 2020

Villa Lewaro is the official name of the New York estate of my favorite millionaire, Madam C.J.Walker. The estate was completed in 1918, and is 20,000 square feet. At the time of purchase, the cost was approximately $250,000. Walker paid a “black tax,” more than double the going rate, to purchase the land and build the house. 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. Sadly, Walker only lived in the house for 1 year. She died in 1919. Her daughter kept the home in the family until 1932.

The architect of Villa Lewaro was Vertner Woodson Tandy, the first registered black architect in New York and one of the seven co-founders of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Tandy studied architecture at Tuskegee before transferring to Cornell. Today, the villa is remarkably intact and it retains a high degree of architectural integrity.

The house became a national landmark in 1976. In May 2014, the National Trust for Historic Preservation began a project with the active support of Harold Doley (who purchased the home in 1993), which it called “Envisioning Villa Lewaro’s Future”, to determine the appropriate re-use of the mansion, which was becoming available for purchase. Three scenarios were selected by a workshop organized by the Trust: a spa and salon, a “Center for Innovation in Technology”, and a corporate events venue, while a fourth – continued residential use – was suggested by the Trust afterwards; other scenarios were rejected by the workshop, although the Trust recommended that one – a cultural arts performance venue – be reconsidered. Others have suggested that the mansion be used as a center for information about Madame Walker and Vertner Tandy, the architect.

Source: Wikipedia

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