Overall Grade: B
Some words: The Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens is a secondary New York City site off the beaten path that will thrill jazz and mid-century modern enthusiasts alike, while keeping the rest of us entertained and interested.
More Words: I stepped through a rift in the space-time continuum taking me from a late winter day in 2015 to fifty years in the past. Suddenly, I was in a hip little living room, attractively decorated in mid-century furnishings and art. Four French tourists appeared behind me, followed by our young tour guide — a student from the City University of New York’s Queens College.
At the press of a button from our guide, Louis Armstrong’s voice crackled and popped over an audio system. It was one of many old self-recorded audiotapes that Louis made. This time, he was talking about all the kids in his neighborhood and how he’d seen several generations grow up and have children of their own. That experience inspired him to write his famous “What a Wonderful World.”
The Louis Armstrong House Museum is exactly what it sounds like — the house that Louis and Lucille Armstrong lived in, perfectly preserved with all the original furnishings turned into a museum. The home-museum is located at 34-56 107th St. in a workaday neighborhood of Corona Queens. There is a nearby subway stop for the 7 train at 103 St-Corona Plaza. The entrance to the museum is located in what was originally the garage, and has now been converted into a ticket counter and gift shop. The museum is open Tuesday to Friday, 10 am to 5 pm, and Saturday to Sunday noon to 5 pm. It costs $10 for an adult ticket and includes a 40 minute guided tour of the home and backyard garden, as well as entrance into a small basement museum exhibit in what used to be the Armstrongs’ rec room.
The tour begins with a short film in the rec room, giving some historical context and short biography on Louis Armstrong’s personal and professional life. The room is filled with interesting photographs, articles, and artifacts including a gold-plated trumpet gifted to Louis from King George V in 1933, and a glass table lamp filled with rice and beans created by one of Armstrong’s fans.
After the film, the tour continues upstairs into the living quarters where no photography is allowed. Some of the highlights include a bright blue kitchen complete with original mid-century oven and refrigerator, a small bathroom with walls made of mirrors and adorned with gold embellishments, and Armstrong’s study complete with his record collection including The Beatles. Many of the rooms have audio recordings of Louis Armstrong in conversations with friends, singing a cappella, or reminiscing by himself. The tour guide fills in details of Armstrong’s life while the home itself gives a context for the man. It is surprisingly modest, especially when considering Armstrong’s wealth and celebrity.
After the museum, check out the neighborhood. It’s a great place for getting some good cheap food. I grabbed some delicious yucca from a Dominican spot just around the corner and down the block.
— Laura Rowley