The National Comedy Center, which opened in Jamestown, New York in 2018, is home to the nation’s premier archive for the history and art of comedy. Part of the groundbreaking museum is housed in a remarkable historic building – the Jamestown Gateway Station.
The station was built between 1930 and 1932 and featured Hope’s custom-made steel windows as part of her chic Art Deco design. As a result, Hope’s Windows Inc., another Jamestown institution, was a natural choice to provide steel replacement windows for the historic building and steel windows and doors for the new building when the National Comedy Center redeveloped the site. Since then, Hope’s Windows has continued to support the National Comedy Center and its contributions to the wider Jamestown community.
Restoration and adaptive reuse of a local landmark
The building, which is now part of the National Comedy Center, was an Erie train station on the New York City to Chicago passenger train route. At the height of the passenger train journey, it was luxurious – made of marble, steel, and glass. The station was decommissioned in the 1970s and fell into disrepair, despite being listed on the Federal Register of Historic Places.
Eventually a local group secured funding for the redevelopment, and the station was restored to its original 1930s state in 2012.
In order to revive some of the historical aspects of the building, Hope’s Windows made custom fixed, projected, side hanging and single hanging replacement steel windows for the project using custom hardware to match the existing historical hardware.
“In the end, we had a breathtaking mix of old and new buildings. The windows in the connecting wing, which are identical to those in the train station, help the entire campus to come together visually. “- Tom Benson, Chairman of the National Comedy Center
The large entrance to the old station lobby, which is now a gift shop, has original steel doors, bolts and a striking glass clock. This entrance was renovated during the restoration. “It was really amazing to see the station with our original windows returned to its former beautiful state as part of this restoration,” said Matt Fuller, National Sales Manager at Hope’s Windows.
When the time came to expand the existing Board of Public Utilities train station and substation that would make up the National Comedy Center to add its annex and building connecting wing, the centre’s officials wanted the same look and quality as retained in the original building.
“We ended up with an impressive mix of old and new buildings,” said Tom Benson, chairman of the National Comedy Center and a member of the team that helped fund and execute the station’s restoration project. “The windows in the connecting wing, which are identical to those in the ward, help the entire campus to come together visually.”
Both types of windows were installed in the new building for the National Comedy Center to match the existing windows in the front facade of the station.
The National Comedy Center comes alive
After the restoration and redevelopment projects were completed, the National Comedy Center opened, bringing an idea spanned several decades to life. When the town of Jamestown-born Lucille Ball asked if she could celebrate her comedy career and legacy, she suggested a much bigger project – not just a museum dedicated to her and I Love Lucy.
“Lucille Ball wanted the city to do something bigger than just a museum of memorabilia dedicated to individual comedians. She wanted us to create a living, breathing homage to the art form of comedy, ”says Benson.
The resulting museum has been declared the official home of comedy in the United States by Congress. Instead of just being based on artifacts – though the museum has a fair share of impressive artifacts from Ball, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield, and other big names in the comedy world – the National Comedy Center is closed over 90% interactive and electronic.
Visitors enter their comedy preferences at a kiosk at the entrance to the museum to create a personalized humor profile and then wear an RFID wristband programmed with this information so that their experience at the museum is completely tailored to their individual preferences and interests can be.
While most visitors spend a few hours in the building, the museum’s more than 50 exhibits contain content for many days. In addition, when visitors leave, they will receive content from their visit by email so that they can learn and laugh again when they return home.
Collaboration and community
TIME Magazine named the National Comedy Center one of the “Greatest Places in the World in 2019” and USA Today named the “Best New Museum for 2020”. This makes it both a local institution and a nationally and internationally recognized travel destination.
“The Comedy Center was a huge draw for Jamestown and a high profile project for our region,” says Fuller.
The Hope team went out of their way to help in every possible way, from handcrafting the building’s windows and doors to making sure the National Comedy Center is accessible and sustainable for years to come. “After we opened, we launched a foundation campaign to ensure that this museum would be sustainable over the long term,” says Benson. “You are much more than just a contractor. Your commitment to the project from one Jamestown institution to another has been profound and far-reaching. “
Brian Whalen is Vice President of Sales at Hope’s Windows Inc., one of the largest domestic manufacturers of luxury steel and bronze windows and doors. A 26-year-old industry veteran, Whalen leads Hope’s regional manager and independent sales force teams in the United States and Canada.