Today, I had to drop off some paperwork in my hometown of Corona, USA and once done, decided to look at the old neighborhood. Growing up, I would walk past 34-56 107th Street and admire the large red brick fence and wonder what was behind the wall.
It was Louis Armstrong’s house and we can all now see what was behind the red wall.
Pops was a Corona resident from 1943 until his death in 1971. The house has National Historic and New York City Landmark status and has been transformed into The Louis Armstrong House Museum. I was very fortunate to get a tour and it’s quite an amazing experience. The house has been preserved as he and his wife Lucille lived in it (She passed in 1982) and it’s like taking a trip back in time. From the state of the art kitchen where Lucille prepared his favorite meal (red beans and rice) to the den where he listened to records and practiced on his horn, to the bedroom where he peacefully transitioned, the life and spirit of Louis Armstrong is very much present. You’ll also get to see scores of paintings (including a stunning portrait by Tony Bennett), art, figurines and gifts that he collected and received from his many trips around the world. Despite only having a 5th grade education, Armstrong wrote constantly and a unpublished letter describing how much he loved the people of Corona, almost moved me to tears. You’ll also get to hear a sample of the nearly 650 home recordings that Armstrong made, indexed and archived.
If you even remotely love music, I highly recommend making out to Corona to get more insight on one of the most important musicians of the 20th Century. You can go to http://www.louisarmstronghouse.org for tour hours, membership and school/group tour rates. To research everything Louis Armstrong – including a chance to hear some more home recordings – you can call the Louis Armstrong Archives at (718) 997-3670 to schedule an appointment. Even better news is that the Museum will be expanding to including a 15 million dollar visitors gallery that will include an exhibit gallery, museum store, archival center and a performance!
Special thanks to Deslyn Dyer and Jendar Morales for the tour and showing such great hospitality to this Corona native!