Check out the home of a star that once lived in Queens…a typical museum this is not! Louis Armstrong was wealthy enough to live just about anywhere in the world but chose to stay in his working-class Corona neighborhood. The Louis Armstrong House, truly a time capsule, offers an intimate glimpse into where this jazz legend and his wife Lucille lived from 1943-1971. As soon as you walk through the front door and tour this red-brick fascade row house, you’ll get the feeling that Louis and Lucille just stepped out for a bit and will return shortly to greet you.
In fact, much of the interior’s lived-in charm such as the living room’s woven patterned drapes and the funky silver-foil wallpaper in a bedroom remains almost exactly as it did when Lucille suddenly died in 1983. The bathrooms are decked out in marble, 24-carat gold-plated fixtures, floor to ceiling mirrors, and built-in speakers. The kitchen sports a state-of-the-art-sixties vibe with sleek turquoise-colored cabinets, a custom-made double-oven, and recessed appliances built into the countertop.
Louis loved his gadgets and was clearly fond of his reel-to-reel tape deck, a tech toy of the times, recording countless hours of life at home and on the road. When the house opened as a museum, a hidden audio system was installed. Tour guides press buttons in each room playing various excerpts further infusing the house with Louis’ presence. In the dining room, he jokes about his favorite dish, red beans and rice and in his wood-paneled office; he’s humming his own tune in time to a classical piece.
Through anecdotes during the tour and small exhibits accompanied by a film in what was once the garage/basement, you’ll
discover the man behind the legend. Displays include pages from Louis’ journals, collages, and an FBI file stemming from his refusal to represent the United States on a State Department tour of the Soviet Union in protest of 1957′s Little Rock Nine crisis.
Despite leaving school well before high school graduation, Louis wrote and performed hit jazz numbers spanning 5 decades, authored two autobiographies, and penned more than ten magazine articles, as well as memoirs and letters numbering in the thousands. His nickname, Ambassador Satch (Satchmo), stuck as the result of appearing in over 30 movies and being on the road about 300 days each year entertaining millions, from heads of state to royalty. Despite this success, he always returned to the kids on his stoop and sometimes practiced his trumpet outside on the tiny balcony off his den.
How to Get There: Take the 7 train to 103 St-Corona Plaza. Turn right onto 103rd Street, walk 2 blocks, and turn right onto 37th Avenue. Walk 4 short blocks, turn left onto 107th Street and museum is on the left side, 1/2 block north of 37th Avenue.
photos courtesy of Louis Armstrong Museum and simplyrecipes.com