December 23: Madame Walker’s villa

2012/12/23 § 2 Comments

walker villa
On this day in 1867 Sarah Breedlove was born.
Born on a Louisiana plantation, she was the first child in her family born into freedom.  She spent her life making the most of what that freedom could offer her  by taking an unusual route into business.  Home experiments to create hair-care products led to the development of a small mail-order business that grew and grew.  As a businesswoman she became Madame C. J. Walker and eventually a very wealthy woman, regarded by many as the first black female millionaire.
Like other tycoons of the Gilded Age, Madame Walker fancied a fancy house.  In 1918 she commissioned Vertner Woodson Tandy, the country’s first licensed African-American architect.  On a great site overlooking the Hudson River he built the Classically-inspired Villa Lewaro with projecting Ionic entryway flanked by symmetrical wings, from one of which a porte-cochere projected, providing protection for guests who would arrive by auto.  Madame Walker only lived one more year after her house was complete, but she is recorded as saying the house was not really for her, but rather meant as a source of inspiration for generations of free African Americans to aim for the success that she herself achieved.

Image: the villa (from this source)

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