by Barrett Seaman –
In the year that marks the 34-room mansion‘s centennial celebration, Villa Lewaro, originally owned by Madame C. J. Walker, who made a fortune selling hair products to African-American women, is being sold. Former Ambassador and Mrs. Harold Doley, who have owned and occupied to house since 1993, are currently under contract with a buyer that does not wish to be named until the sale is finalized. Some unconfirmed reports suggest that the new owner(s) will be a non-profit, which would take the property off the tax rolls.
The Doleys, who with the help of The National Trust for Historic Preservation last year won an easement on the property that allowed it to operate as a museum, had grown weary of the high taxes that came with such a valuable residence, as well as the cost of upkeep.
The Doleys plan to stay in the Irvington area, where they have friends and a particular commitment to Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. They are currently looking to rent. They plan to be out of the mansion by mid-July, when a closing is expected.
In what will be a particularly challenging exercise in “downsizing,” the Doleys plan to hold an estate sale featuring furniture and other items from Villa Lewaro that they have not already donated to museums or handed down to their children. The three-day sale will be over Father’s Day weekend, Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
“We have been residents of Irvington for 25 years,” said Ambassador Doley. “We took a home that was little more than a barn and restored it.” But the work required to maintain an old house, he said, paraphrasing someone with experience, is like that required of an old ship: Start at one end, and by the time you finish, you have to go back and start all over at the other.