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Madame C. J. and A’Lelia Walker’s
Villa Lewaro at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York
n.d.
Restored photograph (top)
James Weldon Johnson Memorial Collection

The sensational Villa Lewaro was the home of entrepreneur Madame C.J. Walker until her death in 1919. Her daughter A’Lelia Walker inherited the palace, which soon became famous as the site of many of the Harlem Renaissance’s most extravagant and memorable parties. Though some members of the Harlem elite mocked Walker, calling her the “dekink heiress” in reference to the hair straightener her mother invented that was the foundation of her wealth, many joined her outrageous weekend-long parties, where they were waited on by teams of servants and treated to only the most luxurious of accommodations. When her fortunes declined after the stock market crash, Walker was forced to sell the house and its contents in a public auction that was advertised and reported in white and African-American newspapers throughout New York.

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