I'm thrilled that I'm able to share this journey with you!
Our first destination was to Irvington, NY which is about 45 minutes outside of Manhattan to Madam C.J. Walker estate, the Villa Lewaro is a 34-room 20,000 square feet mansion. She was the first American female and first African-American female self-made millionaire, and "the world's most successful female entrepreneur of her time." The mansion is an Italianate villa house designed for Walker by Vertner Tandy, the first African-American architect registered in New York.
For about two decades the owner Harold Doley has worked to restore the home and grounds, before our tour of the estate we had the pleasure to meet Mr. Doley and thankfully he was able to clear up a misconception that the NY Post released on February 18th.
"Further, after at least two years of negotiations we have concluded an easement agreement that protects the Villa in perpetuity, so that it would remain as is. That easement is with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Additionally, we have been working with Guy Hermann of Museum Insights to have the Villa serve as a museum in-line with Madam Walker’s wish that it always remain a symbol to "her people"."
So have no fear the Villa Lewaro is not in any jeopardy. This was my favorite stop on the tour because it took my inspiration to a new level. She believed in her brand and made things happened during the struggle when she purchased this home it was the most expensive zip code in her area and she was also charged with the "Black Tax" which was double what caucasians were paying (around $250,000). It hit me, if Madam C.J. Walker can thrive during that time, what is holding me back? I will no longer make excuses, sit on ideas, I will strive to make an positive impact on my community, this is GO time.
|Walker Family Crest|
|Backyard view of the mansion 2017|
|Driving to Harlem in the 2017 Toyota Prius|
Next up was the Underground Railroad Museum at Belmont Mansion, The Historic Belmont Mansion was the home of the Peters Family. Judge Richard Peters and his son Richard Peters Jr. worked to abolish slavery and abolish the Fugitive Slave act. Cornelia Wells and her daughter Jane also lived here. Judge Peters purchased and freed them; she earned her freedom through three years’ services as a cook for the Peters Family.
Then we ended the day at the newly-opened Smithsonian National Museum of African-American Heritage and Culture, of which Toyota is a founding sponsor.