Rare vintage photos of Lucille Ball’s life in (her many) homes

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As the star of i love lucy, American actress Lucille Ball is still undoubtedly one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Born in Jamestown, New York, she moved often throughout her early childhood, due to her father’s job as a Bell Telephone fitter. After deciding to pursue a career in show business, Ball moved to New York and then across the country to Los Angeles. It was in California that his career really took off, as did his experience as an owner. Although Ball wasn’t one to grab real estate like some celebrities today, she do own a few houses throughout his life. Take a look inside three of them in these vintage photos.

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Ball spent the early years of his showbiz career in New York City, before moving to California. After marrying in 1940, Ball and her first husband, Desi Arnaz, bought a ranch in Chatsworth, located in the San Fernando Valley outside of Los Angeles.

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The five-acre ranch suited the animal-loving couple well, who had a pack of dogs, cats, chickens, a pig and a cow named the Duchess of Devonshire. Note the paw print wallpaper in the kitchen.

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Ball and Arnaz were particularly fond of cocker spaniels. They had at least two, named Pinto and Taffy.

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Ball and Arnaz named the ranch “Desilu”, a portmanteau of their names that would later also serve as the name of their studio. They considered it the house of their dreams.

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The house, built by famed architect Paul R. Williams, was only partially completed when Ball and Arnaz purchased it. They paid him $16,500 in 1941.

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Ball decorated the house in her signature style, which she once described as “early Victorian” meets “bastard American.” She also brought her love for frilly decorating to her later homes.

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The couple sometimes referred to Desilu as a “doll’s house”. Ball poses like a doll in this photo, perhaps a by-product of her New York modeling years.

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Ball and Arnaz developed the ranch into a retreat for their Hollywood friends, adding a swimming pool, guest house and even a large barbecue. Arnaz would stay in the guesthouse during the couples’ legendary fights.

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Despite the couple’s arguments, Arnaz was known for his grand romantic gestures. For Ball’s 30th birthday, he filled their pool with gardenias and serenaded her with 40 friends.

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Given Arnaz’s background as a bandleader, the house was often filled with music. Ball also had musical talents – she began her acting career as a backing vocalist on Broadway.

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In this photo, Ball is pictured playing the piano with her mother in Desilu. The couple liked to receive family and friends, organizing large parties.

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Ball took up several additional hobbies at home, including painting. She also loved gardening.

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Early in his career in California, Ball landed lead roles in B movies and supporting roles in A movies before moving into television with Arnaz. The two would travel to Hollywood or Culver City to work from Desilu.

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i love lucy debuted in 1951, when the couple were still living in Desilu. It would become the most-watched television show in America for four of its six seasons.

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In 1951, Ball became pregnant with her daughter, Lucie Arnaz. In fact, the pilot i love lucy was filmed while Ball was in theaters, but it made no mention of the pregnancy.

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Ball and Arnaz had three miscarriages before Lucie was born on July 17, 1951.

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Lucie would continue to play with her mother in the series Here is Lucia, which ran from 1968 to 1974. His younger brother, Desi Jr., would also star on the show.

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Despite their growing fame, Ball and Arnaz were able to lead a relatively low-key life in Desilu during the early years of i love lucy. That is, when they weren’t throwing their lavish parties.

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i love lucy‘s sponsor, Philip Morris, wanted the family to move to New York, where most of the television shows were broadcast at the time. Not to mention that’s where the show took place.

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But the couple declined, opting instead to take a pay cut to meet the additional costs associated with filming in Los Angeles but airing nationwide. Their only stipulation: they would keep the rights to the episodes, which would ultimately earn them millions of dollars.

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In 1953 Ball had her son, Desi Jr. Her pregnancy was written in i love lucy, but CBS, the show’s network, would not use the word “pregnant” in episodes. Instead, Lucy was “waiting”.

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Because Desi Jr. was to be delivered by C-section, the network knew exactly when he would be born. They timed the episode in which Lucy’s character gives birth to coincide with the day Ball gave birth, thus boosting the ratings.

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In 1954, Arnaz reportedly won a vacant lot in Rancho Mirage, California in a game of poker. The couple hired Paul R. Williams – the same architect who designed Desilu – to build them a vacation home there.

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Eventually, Ball and Arnaz made the decision to sell Desilu. It was purchased by former actress Jane Withers in 1956.

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Although they adored Desilu, Ball and Arnaz needed to move somewhere more private, given their growing notoriety. Additionally, suburbs began to encroach on their rural ranch, and traffic made it difficult to get around.

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Even after leaving Desilu, Ball and Arnaz continued to visit their old home, dropping by just to look at it. According to one story, Ball even walked into the house unannounced when Withers was out. Withers returned to find Ball appalled at her decorating choices.

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Unfortunately, Desilu no longer exists. It was demolished in 1976 much to the chagrin of Ball and Arnaz.

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After leaving Desilu, the couple moved to 1001 North Roxbury Drive in Beverly Hills. The house offered much more privacy, as its courtyard was walled.

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Ball and Arnaz bought their Beverly Hills home in 1955 for $85,000. They spent six months remodeling it, during which time the family lived at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

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Ironically, the exterior of the house was used in an episode of i love lucy before the couple bought it. It served as the fictional home of actor Richard Widmark.

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