As you enter the town of Jamestown today and drive down Main Street on your way to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, you will immediately realize that Jamestown is now a depressed area. It is no longer the major bustling Furniture Manufacturing Center that it was in the 40’s and 50’s. Storefronts are boarded up and very few residents are seen walking down the streets.
The one brightly lit spot off Main Street on West Third is the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center, which consists of two unique visitor facilities – the Lucy-Desi Museum and also The Desilu Playhouse. The museum houses artifacts and memorabilia, consisting of priceless costumes, awards, photographs, and other vintage items from the estates of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. There is also a well-stocked gift shop. The Playhouse is not a theatre but holds The Tropicana Room, which is a duplication of Ricky Ricardo’s nightclub from the show. Additional artifacts as well as a gift shop and offices are also housed in the Playhouse.
On our visit to the center, we went to the museum and not the playhouse. Admission was $10 apiece for the two areas with a $9 price for senior citizens and $7 for children from 6-18 years. Hundreds of pictures of Lucy and Desi as well as Fred and Ethel from the I Love Lucy Show are presented as you walk through the maze. One section is devoted to an exact replica of Lucy and Desi’s living room where so much of the action took place. Other sections have videos of some of the favorite hilarious episodes such as the candy factory episode and Lucy’s experience crushing grapes with her feet in Italy. We were not allowed to take pictures during our tour but we did take some on the outside of the building which had larger-than-life pictures of Lucy.
In May, the museum celebrates Lucy-Desi Days and in August, there is an annual celebration of Lucille Ball’s birthday. The streets are closed down and an air of celebration fills the city streets. There are Jamestown citizens still living who remember Lucy when she was a high school student. Lucy has made many visits back to Jamestown in spite of her busy life.
I Love Lucy aired in the 1950’s and 60’s but is familiar to many generations after that, since re-runs of the program are shown daily in the United States and overseas. Since 1996 when the museum first opened, Jamestown has welcomed visitors from all over the world who love Lucy and want to visit her hometown.
Lucy and Desi’s daughter, Lucie Arnaz has been extremely instrumental in keeping alive the memory of her mother and father. From 2002 to 2007 Lucie was the President of the Board of Directors of the Center and spent a great deal of time in Jamestown. Mary and Bill Rapaport are major donors, having contributed $500,000 to the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in 2005. They also spend several weekends in Jamestown caring for the Center.
If you plan to visit the center, the address is:
Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center
2 West Third Street
Jamestown, New York 14701