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A Window Into Comedy’s Past and Future

A Window Into Comedy’s Past and Future

Main entrance to the National Comedy Center museum in Jamestown, New York. Photo credit: Chautauqua 360 Photography

Hope’s Windows provides timeless steel windows and doors to unite old and new in National Comedy Center building design in Jamestown, NY

The National Comedy Center, which opened in Jamestown, New York in 2018, is home to the country’s foremost archive of the history and art form of comedy. The groundbreaking museum is housed, in part, in a remarkable historic building – the Jamestown Gateway Station.

The station, built between 1930 and 1932, featured Hope’s custom steel windows as part of its 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 as well as steel windows and doors for the new construction 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.

“Hope’s Windows was the first choice to retain the same look and quality as in the original building. We ended up with a stunning mix of the old and new buildings. The windows in the connector wing, identical to those in the station, help the whole campus to come together visually.”

Tom Benson, National Comedy Center Chairman


Additionally, architecture and engineering firm CPL served as the architect/engineer of record on the project.  Furthermore, if you would like a behind-the-scenes look at CPL’s design process and the museum’s impact on the larger Jamestown community, watch this video.

Restoration and adaptive reuse of a local landmark

The building that now comprises part of the National Comedy Center was an Erie Railroad station on the New York City to Chicago passenger train route. At the height of passenger train travel, it was luxurious – built of marble, steel, and glass. The station was taken out of commission in the 1970s and fell into disrepair, even as it was listed on the Federal Registry of Historic Places. Eventually, a local group secured funding for its rehabilitation, and the station was restored to its original 1930s condition in 2012.

Hope’s Windows has been a Jamestown institution since before the Gateway Station was built. Given that Hope’s had provided the original steel windows, they were also selected to provide historic replacement windows for the adaptive reuse project. Hope’s manufactured custom fixed, projected, side hung, and single hung replacement steel windows for the project with custom hardware to match the existing historic hardware.

The grand entrance to the old station lobby, which now houses a gift shop, features original Hope’s steel doors, transoms, and a distinctive glazed-in clock. This entrance was refurbished during the restoration.

“We were thrilled to be a part of restoring this beautiful piece of Jamestown’s – and Hope’s Windows’ – history,” said Matt Fuller, National Sales Manager at Hope’s Windows. “Seeing the station restored to its former beautiful condition, with our original windows as part of that restoration, has been truly incredible.”

Established in 1912, Hope’s Windows are makers of the world’s finest handcrafted windows and doors. The ability for Hope’s products to be refurbished after nearly a century is a testament to their unparalleled strength, durability, and longevity.

“When it came time to add our addition and building connector wing to the existing train station and Board of Public Unitilies substation that would comprise the National Comedy Center, Hope’s Windows was the first choice to retain the same look and quality as in the original building,” said Tom Benson, Chairman of the National Comedy Center and a member of the team that worked to fund and execute the station restoration project. “We ended up with a stunning mix of the old and new buildings. The windows in the connector wing, identical to those in the station, help the whole campus to come together visually.”

The connector wing features Hope’s Landmark175™ Series steel windows with Thermal Evolution™ technology, while the windows in the station are Hope’s traditional Landmark175 Series.

“Both types of windows were installed in the new construction for the National Comedy Center to match the existing windows in the station’s front façade, which are the 1930s equivalent of the Landmark175 Series,” Fuller said. “The same unparalleled quality that gave Hope’s Windows our start generations ago is retained in each one of our products today, albeit with more advanced technology.”

The National Comedy Center comes to life

Once the restoration and redevelopment projects were completed, the National Comedy Center opened, bringing to life an idea several decades in the making. When Lucille Ball, a Jamestown native, was asked by the city if it could celebrate her comedy career and legacy, she suggested a much larger scale project – not simply a museum devoted to her and I Love Lucy.

“Lucille Ball wanted the town to create something bigger than just a museum of memorabilia dedicated to individual comedians; she wanted us to create a living, breathing tribute to the art form of comedy,” Benson said.

The museum that resulted has been declared by Congress to be the official home of comedy in the U.S. Rather than being simply artifact-based – though the museum does hold its fair share of impressive artifacts from Ball, Jerry Seinfeld, George Carlin, Carol Burnett, Joan Rivers, Rodney Dangerfield, and more big names in the comedy world – the National Comedy Center is over 90% interactive and electronically-based.

Visitors enter their comedy preferences into a kiosk at the entrance to the museum in order to create a personalized humor profile, and then wear an RFID bracelet programmed with this information that enables their experience in the museum to be completely tailored to their individual preferences and interests. Though most visitors spend a few hours in the building, the museum’s more than 50 exhibits contain many, many days’ worth of content. What’s more, visitors are emailed content from their visit once they leave so they can re-visit and continue to learn – and laugh – after they return home.

Collaboration and community

TIME Magazine named the National Comedy Center one of its World’s Greatest Places in 2019, and USA Today has named it the Best New Museum for 2020, making it both a local institution and a nationally- and internationally-acclaimed destination.

“The Comedy Center has been a huge draw to Jamestown and a high profile project for our area. We at Hope’s Windows wanted to be involved and to contribute to this phenomenal, community-building project in any way we can,” Fuller said.

And Hope’s has contributed in a big way, from handcrafting the building’s windows and doors to ensuring that the National Comedy Center is accessible and sustainable for years to come.

“After we opened up, we started an endowment fund campaign to make sure that this museum would be sustainable in perpetuity. Hope’s Windows generously provided a gift to the endowment fund and are a named sponsor of the museum,” Benson said.

“Hope’s Windows is far more than just a contractor; their commitment to the project, from one Jamestown institution to another, has been deep and far-reaching,” he added.