Seventy five years ago, on March 3, 1943, Lucille put the down payment on the $8,000 home that stands at 34-56 107th St. Upon closing the deal, she moved her mother into the house, yet she kept the purchase a secret from Louis for over 8 months.
It is evident that Lucille had no intent of living there for the rest of her life and eventually she sought out other places which reflected their wealth. However, Louis felt a strong attachment to Corona, especially with his neighbors, and he insisted that he and Lucille live there for the rest of their lives.
Throughout the 41 years that Lucille lived in Corona, the home underwent numerous changes. We know of two stages of major renovations which were in 1960 and 1968-1971. Lucille worked closely with Morris Grossberg of Morris Interiors to design her home, even following Louis’s death.
In 1968 the downstairs bathroom was remodeled to feature marble floors, a marble tub, a marble sink, and gold-plated fixtures. The garden next door to the home was an addition to the Armstrong’s property in 1971. They acquired the lot for a little over $10,000 and later converted it to a Japanese inspired garden. In 1977, Lucille redecorated the dining room giving it an Asian flair, furnished with a large bamboo cabinet and Chinese Chairs.
Lucille was a large contributor to the preservation of Louis’s belongings. The Louis Armstrong Collection is Louis and Lucille’s personal collection, which boasts 1,600 recordings, 650 home recorded reel to reel tapes, 86 scrapbooks and 5,000 photographs. Lucille was extremely concerned with the preservation of these items and wished to keep them in pristine condition. In an interview she states, “Do you know I’ve got scrapbooks that Louie had [that] were made up when he first played back in ’32….most of the pictures and the paper write-ups, you know, the newspaper write ups, have gone yellow.”
If it had not been for Lucille’s wit and foresight there’s a strong possibility that there wouldn’t be a Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens today. Lucille dedicated the years of her widowhood (1971-1983) to preserving Louis’s legacy. What never ceased to amaze me were her visions for the present day organization that keeps Louis’s memory alive. She often mentioned to reporters her plans to build “a memorial museum.” I wonder if she had any clue that her house would be converted into the museum versus a separate establishment being built. It’s safe to say that all of her planning and advocacy was not in vain.