A few years ago, my mom met John Krasinski and told him that The Office was her third favorite TV show. When he asked what topped the list, she told him that nothing would ever beat I Love Lucy—and more than 70 years after the groundbreaking sitcom premiered, countless other fans would agree. The world may love Lucille Désirée Ball, who was born in Jamestown, New York, in 1911 and reinterred in her hometown cemetery in 2002, but the rust belt town on the eastern edge of Chautauqua Lake loves her fans even more.
According to the Lucy Desi Museum, the actress, comedian, and studio executive wanted it that way: In 2018, the museum’s mission was “broadened with the opening of the nearby National Comedy Center, which operates in fulfillment of Lucille Ball’s vision that her hometown become a destination for the celebration of comedy—in all its forms.” Today, you can’t throw a chocolate bonbon in Jamestown without hitting a museum, mural, or statue dedicated to, or inspired by, Ball and her beloved show.
Here are six stops in Western New York where you can pay your respects to the trailblazing redhead who charmed the world in black and white.
1. Lucille Ball Memorial Park
Ball was born in Jamestown, but soon moved to a house in the nearby village of Celoron (the private residence still stands today at 59 Lucy Lane). Less than a mile north of where she grew up, you’ll find the Lucille Ball Memorial Park on the southeastern shore of Chautauqua Lake. The small park boasts a lighthouse, boat launch, band shell, pavilion, picnic area, playground, clean restrooms, basketball court, and community center—but none of those amenities are the park’s main draw. Fans will find not one, but two bronze statues of Ball by the waterfront: a crude 2009 attempt by sculptor David Poulin, nicknamed “Scary Lucy” for reasons that should be obvious, and a much-improved 2016 re-do by Carolyn Palmer.
2. Lucy Desi Museum
For more than 25 years, the Lucy Desi Museum has offered a behind-the-scenes look at the personal and professional lives of Ball and her almost-as-famous first husband, Desi Arnaz. The museum features exact replicas of I Love Lucy studio sets—including the Ricardos’ New York City apartment—awards, costumes, and props. A large gift shop offers officially licensed Desilu merchandise such as sweatshirts, mugs, and a squished penny machine.
3. Lucille Ball Little Theatre of Jamestown
A young Ball frequented this once-ornate 2,000-seat vaudeville palace for movies and performances. In 1946, Ball took the stage herself to promote war bonds, telling the crowd: “They’ll tell you that California is God’s country … but God’s country is right here in Jamestown. Think of the change of seasons, the gardens, lilacs blooming in the spring—it’s a wonderful, wonderful place.” Owned since 1968 by New York State’s longest-running community theater organization, The Little Theatre of Jamestown, the space was formally renamed in 1991 with Ball’s family in attendance.
There are several murals in town dedicated to Lucy and Desi, including one that claims to be the World’s Largest I Love Lucy mural: The 1,800-square-foot artwork was painted over more than 500 hours—using 30 gallons of paint—by a father-son team of Jamestown natives. Located on the side of a vacant building, the mural depicts a 1955 episode where Lucy, Ricky, Fred, and Ethel drive across the George Washington Bridge while singing “California, Here We Come.” Other notable works around town include a larger-than-life 1999 33-cent postage stamp featuring Lucy and Desi, and one inspired by the classic Vitameatavegamin episode.
5. National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center opened in 2018 as an extension and expansion on the Lucy Desi Museum. With hundreds of immersive exhibits alongside artifacts from comedy legends such as Richard Pryor, Andy Kaufman, and Carol Burnett, the museum is also home to at least one iconic piece of memora-Ball-ia: Lucy’s iconic polka dot dress. The raunchier stuff is relegated to the basement, where visitors can snicker over George Carlin’s list of dirty words in the R-rated “Blue Room.” A dual-admission ticket will get you entry to the National Comedy Center and the Lucy Desi Museum for a discounted rate.
6. Lake View Cemetery
When Ball died in April of 1989, she was cremated and interred in Forest Lawn Cemetery in Hollywood, California. In 2002, she was reinterred along with her mother in a family plot in Jamestown. No disrespect for the other permanent residents of Lake View Cemetery, but Ball is clearly very much the star in death that she was in life: Visitors to this historic burial ground can follow a white line painted on the cemetery road (punctuated every few feet by a red heart enclosing a white, script “L”) to be led directly to Lucy. She shares a shiny black marble stone with other family members, including her mother, father, and brother; under Ball’s name and birth and death dates, an inscription reads “You’ve Come Home.”