About Christmas TV History

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life Museum

Welcome to Seneca Falls, NY
I made one last stop on my summer vacation this month--to the It's a Wonderful Life Museum in Seneca Falls, NY. This was the next logical place to visit after my recent trip to Indiana, PA to experience The Jimmy Stewart Museum. I journeyed to Seneca Falls wondering why the museum was located in upstate New York, of all places. The answer was easy to find once I arrived.

The entrance to the It's a Wonderful Life Museum.  The building was home to the 1st movie theater in Seneca Falls, built in 1913.

I'm standing in front of the museum, just left of the entrance.

The quaint and charming downtown of Seneca Falls seems to have quite a bit of personality.  After the movie It's a Wonderful Life came out in 1946, the local residents remembered a short visit to their city by director Frank Capra the previous year. Residents also noted more than a few similarities between their city and Bedford Falls as portrayed in the movie. Although Capra was quoted as saying Bedford Falls is based on every small town in America, over the years the residents of Seneca Falls think the similarities to their town and Capra's visit are no coincidence.  Check out the website The Real Bedford Falls for yourself.  Whether or not Bedford Falls is based on Seneca Falls, I think it's a fine place for the museum.

This display case is dedicated to Karolyn Grimes and the character of Zuzu.  Know where Zuzu gets her name?

The museum is small but it's packed with displays and items pertaining to the 1946 film.  It's also growing each year as more and more are added to the exhibits.  The museum is celebrating its fifth year--and has many special plans for its future.  Inside the museum, there are many display cases each filled with photos, items, and quotes/commentary from the film's cast and crew. It could take hours and hours to soak up and read each exhibit.  Many of the cast members have a display space dedicated to their career including Jimmy Stewart (who played George Bailey), Donna Reed (as Mary), Karolyn Grimes (as Zuzu), Carol Coombs (as Janie), Jimmy Hawkins (as Tommy), Larry Simms (as Pete), and more.  As you may know, nearly everyone in the enormous cast is a recognizable actor--and this is reflected in the museum.

There's a whole section devoted to author Philip Van Doren Stern who wrote the story upon which the movie is drawn. Remember I wrote a review of The Greatest Gift.

It's all in the details.  They also have an actor- signed copy of the same issue of National Geographic Magazine that the young George Bailey holds in one scene of the movie.  Remember that?

My time spent inside the museum made me feel immersed in the film--and I loved it!  The museum's collection continues to expand because they are working with Karolyn Grimes, Carol Coombs, and Mary Owen (Donna Reed's daughter).  If you have any authentic It's a Wonderful Life movie props and are interested in donating them, they are eager to hear from you.

On the wall, I found a giant-sized print-out of a still from the movie with George in downtown Bedford Falls. #Stewartselfie

Does this bridge look familiar? It's an essential stop on the walking tour.

After I spent my time in the museum, I took advantage of the walking tour that highlights the city's similarities with the movie's setting, Bedford Falls.  I can use all the exercise I can get.  I thought this was a fun and exciting way to interact with the city.  The informative walking tour loop is just one mile long, and I printed out the map before I left home.  It was easy and a very leisurely walk.

Will movie fans be able to find the bridge?  Yup.

Also in downtown Seneca Falls is the Women's Rights National Historic Park--with several notable destination spots.  There's plenty to do in this small city.

If you're considering visiting the museum, you should know that 2016 will be the 70th anniversary of the release of the movie It's a Wonderful Life.  There are many activities planned during 2016, so you may want to follow the museum on Facebook to keep up with all their upcoming events. Did you know admission to the museum is always FREE?

I got my calendar!

Speaking of the 70th anniversary, the museum is now fundraising with a 16-month It's a Wonderful Life calendar.  This special calendar contains production information and more than 50 photographs providing insight into the creation of the film and its enduring appeal.  There is info from the movie's original Call Sheets, personal recollections from the actors who played Zuzu, Janie, and Tommy Bailey, and more in this collectible calendar.  What's the price, you ask?  Well, it's $19.46 of course.  You can get it straight from the It's a Wonderful Life Museum. Click here to see more about the calendar.

back cover of the calendar.

Interested in seeing more of my Christmas entertainment vacation stops?  Click on the following links to return to my visit at The Jimmy Stewart Museum in Indiana, PA,
 A Christmas Story House and Museum in Cleveland, OH,
 Lucyfest and the hometown museums of Lucille Ball in Jamestown, NY
and, The Waltons-Hamner Homestead in Schuyler, VA


  1. THIS is on my Bucket List when I retire in a few years!!! thanks for a wonderful blog and posts!!!

    1. Thanks Susan. I hope you have as much fun on your trip as I had on mine :)

  2. So cool that you got to do this!! Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. Jason and I are going to have to add this and the Jimmy Stewart museum to our list of places to visit. :-)

    1. It's really nice I lived there 4 1/2 year and now I live in Waterloo NY it's the next town over. If u font know much about history.waterloo is the birth place of Memorial Day. We just celebrated 150 years this past Memorial Day.