A century-old Italianate villa-style house in Irvington, New York, built for Madam C. J. Walker, who made her fortune by selling beauty and hair products to black women and was eulogized as the first African-American millionairess, has entered into contract for sale.
The sale, first reported by the local newspaper The Hudson Independent on Wednesday, occurred about one month ago, the owner of the property, Harold Doley told Mansion Global.
Mr. Doley, 71, who in 1975 founded Doley Securities, the oldest African American-owned investment banking firm, declined to disclose the buyer and the sales price, citing a non-disclosure agreement.
Dubbed Villa Lewaro, the house was designed for Walker between 1916 and 1918 by Vertner Tandy, the first African-American architect registered in New York. A special guest coined the name—a combination of first two letters of the names Lelia Walker Robinson, Walker’s only daughter.
Walker was active in business as well as in politics and philanthropy. The villa was used as a conference center on racial issues, according to published reports.
She died in the house in 1919. Her daughter, who inherited it, owned the house until she herself died in 1931.
The house became an institutional space, first housing National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, then housing the aged members of the Companions of the Forest in America, a fraternal organization. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. In the mid-1980s, it was converted back to residential use.
Mr. Doley bought the property in 1993 for an undisclosed amount. “I appreciated its history. And It has been an honor and pleasure to be the steward of the villa for the last 25 years,” he said.
Situated on four acres, the 20,000-square-foot villa has 30-plus rooms, including a large formal living room, dining room, sitting room, offices, billiard room, music room, a chapel, gym and wine cellar.
The house overlooks the Hudson River and features an original bronze chandelier, stained glass windows, intricate mouldings and coffered ceilings.
In addition to the main residence, there is also a 3,750-square-foot carriage house, a swimming pool and large outdoor terraces.
“It is a big home, but we lived throughout the house, not just the bedroom, or the den, or the full or half offices,” Mr. Doley said. “On weekends and holidays, we use the formal dining room to entertain special guests; on basketball nights, we will be on the third floor to watch the game on the largest screen.”
Recently, Mr. Doley celebrated his 50-year anniversary in the investment-banking industry at the home. “We had our chef to prepare the meal, it was really nice,” he said.
However, it’s time to downsize as “only two people of retirement age, and plus, are currently living in the house,” he said.
Over the last 25 years, Mr. Doley has decorated the house with furnishings, and arts and crafts his family accumulated from different parts of the world. He donated many to families and museums he has affiliations with, such as The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia and The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. The large collection left at the home will be sold at an estate sale on June 15-16.
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