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Louis Armstrong garden to get $150k revamp

Louis Armstrong garden to get $150k revamp
Lisa Kahane
Photo courtesy the Louis Armstrong House Museum
By Rebecca Henely

At the end of his life, jazz great Louis Armstrong considered the garden at his Corona home, now a world-famous museum, a sanctuary, and with a new $150,000 grant the museum hopes to make Satchmo’s beloved backyard even better.

“The campaign proves that Louis and Lucille’s home is beloved all over the world,” Michael Cogswell, director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum, said in a statement. “Thanks to this grant, the public can enjoy the Armstrongs’ beautiful garden as well as concerts and special events in the garden for many years to come.”

The Louis Armstrong House, at 34-56 107th St. in Corona, was one of three historic places in Queens to win grants from the Partners in Preservation in 2012. This program, a cooperation between the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express, grants funds from the credit card company to major cities in the United States.

This year, the partnership gave $3 million to 20 city sites based on votes the partnership received from residents and international tourists.

The other Queens winners of the Partners in Preservation contest included Flushing Town Hall, which received $100,000 to fix the windows and roof in time for the hall’s 150th anniversary, and the Queens County Farm Museum in Glen Oaks, which received $80,000 to fix the roof, windows, clapboards and outside wall shingles.

The Louis Armstrong House, the jazz man’s home for almost three decades, is owned by the city Department of Cultural Affairs and managed through Queens College. Jennifer Walden Weprin, director of marketing for the museum, said in an e-mail the Japanese-inspired garden in the back of the house’s kitchen was built in 1971, the last year of Armstrong’s life, and was a place of rest for the musician as he moved in and out of the hospital.

Features of the garden include a fish pond, a wet bar and a performance space the museum now uses for concert series, Weprin said. The museum will be using the grant to restore the original woodwork in the garden, as well as setting and leveling the flagstone path, she said.

The museum will also be holding a birthday celebration for Armstrong July 4 at 1 p.m. that will include a book signing for Randy Fertel’s “The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steak” in the garden. Fertel’s memoir is centered around New Orleans and the book often talks about Armstrong, who was born in the city.

While a researcher in the 1980s, he discovered Armstrong was born Aug. 4, 1901, when the musician believed he was born July 4, 1900. He held a birthday celebration for himself in the garden two days before his death.

For more information on the museum or any upcoming events, visit louisarmstronghouse.org.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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