In modern times, business incubators are commonplace, serving as spaces where up and coming entrepreneurs gather to develop their ideas. Madam C.J. Walker, one of the wealthiest Black women of her era, established a building in Indianapolis to house her manufacturing company that also became a hub for Black businesses.
In 1927, eight years after Walker’s passing, the building was established and housed the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company, developing Walker’s popular hair care and beauty products. Space inside the downtown Indianapolis building was opened up to the community, which was part of Walker’s vision for Black entrepreneurs when her company was on the rise.
The building fell into disrepair over the decades and at one point, just housed Walker’s manufacturing company, but was largely abandoned. Though facing demolition in the 70’s, a group of investors and community organizers helped preserve the building which was renamed the Madame Walker Building Urban Life Center operating as a non-profit.
In the early ’80’s, a $2.5 million renovation restored the building as a theater space, and was renamed as the Madame C.J. Walker Building. In 1996, the building was renamed again to the Madame Walker Theatre Center.
In recent years, the building was vacant, but Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and the MWTC Board of Directors plan a $15.3 million renovation and it will become known as the Madame Walker Legacy Center.
The monies and new building will bring system and building improvements, along with new programming to better encompass the aims of the center.
In 1991, the Madame C.J. Walker Building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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