It's always a great weekend when an impromptu adventure unfolds... Especially when there's an estate sale involved! This one came with 2 history lessons and a surprise introduction!
On a Friday afternoon, I was scrolling through my Instagram timeline and came across a post from super-collectors BLK MKT Vintage (@blkmktvintage). They were at an estate sale at Villa Lewaro, the former home of the late Madam C.J. Walker, the first African American woman millionaire. When I saw that the geotag was in Irvington, NY I hopped on the EstateSales.net app to see the details.
By Saturday afternoon, we were (speeding) on the Palisades Parkway, across the Hudson River on the Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge, and in to Irvington-on-Hudson, NY. I was so geeked as we walked up the road and across the front gate. My inner history nerd envisioned the early 1900s Model-T cars and horse drawn carriages pulling in to the long driveway, probably full of fancy, free black folks like Walker, W.E.B. Dubois, and eeeeverybody from the Harlem Renaissance. I think about the colors and style of their clothes, what they may have been talking about, etc. I did the same thing when saw Harlem for the first time, my imagination does that.
"This is a grand house!" is what I remember telling my husband as we walked up. I usually don't use that word, but "grand" was absolutely fitting as the gleaming white painted columns and ornately detailed navy blue front entry made my eyebrows go up in amazement. We walked in, and despite the business of the estate sale going on in the foyer, it was obvious that this home was historic and well taken care of. My husband and I walked through to the dining room, it reminded me of our recent trip to Italy, where the painted ceiling mural was something out of Florence. Just imagine sitting for dinner with the black luminaries of 1917!
We then went up the wide marble staircase, in and out of the bedrooms, admired the art and furniture that was still remaining, and explored the "old school" characteristics of the house. For example, the kitchen was in the basement level, and the dining room and butler's pantry is on the first floor, so there is a dumbwaiter that is used to transport food between floors... I had never seen one of those before. Chandeliers, detailed crown moldings, and intricate brass railings gave a window into the extravagant luxury that was once enjoyed by Ms. Walker and her family. I told my husband that this amazement will probably be felt again when black women of the future tour Oprah's house and stand in awe of her acheivement.
The current owner, Mr. Harold Doley, is also a Black History icon in the Finance Industry. His company, Doley Securities, Inc. is the oldest African-American investment banking firm, and Doley was at one time the only African-American owner of a seat at the New York Stock Exchange.
As we were finishing up our self lead tour, I recognized Interior Designer and Influencer Neffi Walker, "The Decor Goddess" taking a tour of her own with a friend (who is silver hair #goals). I have been following Neffi for a while, as I have been inspired by her fabulous sense of style and her afro-modern design aesthetic (PLEASE check her out!). We small talked about the house, the grounds, where we live, yadda, yadda, yadda... But within a minute or so, while standing in Madam C.J. Walker's magnificent home, three black women began talking about the universal denominator that made her a Millionairess, empowered generations of women to embrace their beauty, and created the blueprint for Black Wealth creation... We talked about our hair and that would probably have made Madam C.J. Walker smile.