Madam C.J. Walker’s Mansion to Become a Think Tank for Women of Color Entrepreneurs

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Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove in 1867 to freed slaves in Delta, Louisi­ana, became the nation’s first self-made female millionaire and beauty pioneer after devel­oping a successful hair-grow­ing tonic.

Madam C.J. Walker’s Villa Lewaro was designed and completed 100 years ago by Vertner Tandy, the first licensed Black architect in New York State, and a founder of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Credit: A’Lelia Bundles/Madam Walker Family Archives/Courtesy of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Now, her estate will serve as the site of a learning institute for women of color.

The National Trust for His­toric Preservation announced last month that the New Voices Foundation purchased Walk­er’s home, called Villa Lewaro, for an undisclosed amount. The foundation functions as the nonprofit wing of the $100 mil­lion New Voices Fund, which supports women of color entre­preneurs.

The Dennis Family, includ­ing entrepreneur Richelieu Dennis, who also founded the New Voices Foundation, facili­tated the recent acquisition, and will spearhead its revitaliza­tion.

“We are excited to announce that the vision for future use of the property is as a learning in­stitute, or think tank, to foster entrepreneurship for present and future generations,” Den­nis said in a statement.

“This includes utilizing Vil­la Lewaro as both a physical and virtual destination where women of color entrepreneurs will come for curriculum-based learning and other resources aimed at helping them build, grow and expand their busi­nesses. When people think of entrepreneurship services for women of color, we want them to think of the New Voices Foundation and Villa Lewaro.”

Walker’s 28,000-square-foot property was designed and completed 100 years ago by Vertner Tandy, the first licensed Black architect in the state of New York and a founder of Al­pha Phi Alpha fraternity.

Walker was the first person of color to own property in Irving­ton. During the time it was built, Villa Lewaro was located on “Millionaire’s Row” in an area that was also home to the Astors and Rockefellers.

The pioneer’s great-great-granddaughter A’Lelia Bundles, a biographer, as well as brand historian, said in a statement:

“No one at the time believed that a Black woman could afford such a place. So, I can think of no better way to celebrate Villa Lewaro’s 100th anniversary than the vision of the New Voic­es Foundation and the Dennis family for this historic treasure as a place to inspire today’s en­trepreneurs, tomorrow’s leaders and our entire community.”

In 2013, the Dennis family first reignited the Black million­aire’s cultural, entrepreneurial and hair care legacy through the acquisition of the Madam C.J. Walker brand. The family will now continue her legacy of cre­ating a space of empowerment for Black people.

Villa Lewaro was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

For the past 25 years, it has served as the family home of Ambassador Harold E. Doley, Jr. and his wife Helena.

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