Louis Armstrong House Museum in Astoria, Queens, NYC
On a visit to the house of one of the most famous musicians the world has ever known, if you expect it to be like a traditional museum, stop right there and turn back. There are no biographical wall plaques or mementos placed strategically all over the house; what you do get to see is something far more interesting and compelling – an insight into the life of an American icon; a glimpse into his eccentricities and a flashlight on the person he was away from the limelight.
At first glance, the red-brick house looks rather unassuming, located on an equally unassuming tree-lined block that was, at one point in time, a middle-class white neighborhood. Lucille, Louis Armstrong’s fourth wife, brought this house for only $3,500. It was Louis Armstrong’s house from 1943 until his death in 1971, after which Lucille lived in it until her death in 1983. No one has lived in the house since, and in 2003 the house became a National Historical Landmark after a $1.6 million in 2003.
There is a 40-minute tour of the museum that takes you through the home and explains the significance of all the rooms in it to the couple. The tour begins at the huge garden that was designed by Lucille after buying and knocking down the next-door house that was lying vacant. You can still see the Armstrongs’ outdoor bar and grill.
Moving on to the interiors, the house is stylishly and tastefully decorated. There are various ceramics, paintings, and other artifacts that had been picked up by the Armstrongs on their visit to various countries.
As beautiful as the artwork may be in the house, you will forget all about them when you see the bathrooms! One has and mirrors lining the walls and ceiling and 24-carat gold-plated fixtures, while the other has built-in speakers installed above the john! Speak about opulence and eccentricity.
If you are a die-hard fan of Louis Armstrong and his music, your favorite room in the whole will be his den. Among other things, you will see his reel-to-reel tape recordings that cataloged everything he taped — music, conversations, and compositions. Some of them can be seen on his desk.
On your way out, visit the museum shop that has been opened in the garage. Apart from the usual memorabilia, you can also pick up Louis’ favorite food – red beans and rice, and his favorite laxative – the herbal combination of Swiss Kriss!
- Address: 34-56 107th St., Queens, NY 11368
- Phone: 718-478-8274
- Hours: Tues to Fri 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun noon-5pm; last tour at 4pm
- Prices: $8 adults, $6 seniors, students, and children