I recently visited the Louis Armstrong House Museum – a little gem tucked away in Corona, Queens. Although it is a relatively small space (our tour group had six people in it including the tour guide and we were just able to fit into the rooms), it is packed with history, music, art and design. The tours are given every hour, so arrive at least an hour prior to closing time. You might want to come early because you are very likely to run into Selma Heraldo, Armstrong’s next-door neighbor and family friend, who will gladly answer your questions and tell you stories about Louis and his wife Lucille while you wait for the tour to begin. You can also take this time to rest in the Japan-inspired garden.
The kitchen is one of my favorite rooms in the house. The bright painted and lacquered wood cabinets are sure to make anyone smile. The kitchen features a blender that’s been built into the counter, one of the first microwave ovens in the world and a six-burner stove, which was such a novelty that the company affixed a metal plaque, stating that it was custom made for the Armstrongs, to it.
The other rooms in the house are just as unique and there are small treasures scattered around the house, which gives you a feeling that it is still occupied. That feeling is further enhanced by homemade records of Louis and Lucille that are played by the tour guide in every room – Louis and Lucille can’t agree on what day, month or year it is , Louis talks about music and sings, etc.
Armstrong made a lot of recordings of his music and of everyday conversations and life in the house. He kept the tapes in boxes, which he decorated with photographs and newspaper cut-outs. These collages are a work of art on their own. You can see some of them on display at the museum. You can also check out Satchmo: The Wonderful World of Art of Louis Armstrong, an art book biography, to see his scrapbooks, art and writings.
The museum will be expanding to a new building across the street in a year or two in order to provide educational opportunities and to display their extensive collection.