The New Voices Foundation, which was founded by Richelieu Dennis, has acquired the one-time home of Madam C.J. Walker known as the first Black woman to become a self-made millionaire in the U.S. The Villa Lewaro estate will be used as a “learning institute, or think tank, to foster entrepreneurship for present and future generations,” according to Dennis. The purchase took place just in time for the estate’s 100th anniversary.
The 28,000-square-foot mansion is located in Irvington, New York and has 34 rooms. In 1976 the estate became a National Historic Landmark. Named after her daughter, A’Lelia Walker Robinson, the home was the first to be owned by a person of color in Irvington.
Madam Walker’s great-great-granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles added, “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. Richelieu’s own success story – from a humble family recipe to an international enterprise with an economic empowerment mission – very much mirrors Madam Walker’s journey of empowering and uplifting women. Just as Madam Walker aided in the preservation of abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s Washington, DC home, the Dennis family continues this tradition of preserving historic sites that raise awareness about the contributions people of color have made to the American narrative.”
The Shea Moisture founder said that he hopes the estate’s “significance is much greater than just a house or property or historic landmark. It is a place where – against all odds – dreams were formed, visions were realized and entrepreneurs were born, and we look forward to returning its use to support that mission.”