Archive for the 'House & Gardens' Category

Elephant Headrush

Posted by on May 18 2010 | House & Gardens

For those of us with offices in the house, it was a sight to see the Conservatory cleared out and a team of workers climbing up around the room’s most standout feature, the elephant head.  Not that too many of us stuck around to watch much of the 5-hour repair… there was a lingering odor of epoxy that made us pretty grateful this process happens only once every 20 years.

Nevertheless our House Curator, Kathy Connor, was diligent— spending most of her day tending to the crew. She says “it was a fascinating experience to watch them…I don’t usually think of ‘taxidermy’ as an art form, but they were artists in the use of their tools of the trade.”

Job well done guys!

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20 years later … George Eastman House

Posted by on May 18 2010 | House & Gardens

This post first appeared in the Democrat and Chronicle’s Arts Community Blog, written and maintained by arts and cultural organizations in the Rochester NY area.

As I walk through the first and second floors of George Eastman House each Monday, to do my weekly inspection, it seems amazing to me that it was 20 years ago that a crew of artisans, contractors and volunteers just completed a massive restoration of George Eastman’s National Historic Landmark home.

The Conservatory today, 20 years after restoration.

Under the leadership of Georgia Gosnell, museum trustee and member of the House Restoration committee the entire exterior of 900 East Avenue and the first floor of the mansion was returned to the splendor Mr. Eastman enjoyed when he lived here from 1905 until his death in 1932.

Most visitors today are surprised when they learn the house had to be restored. They think the house always looked like it does now. Nothing is farther from the truth. But first some history …

When George Eastman died he left his home and all of its contents (that his relatives did not want) to the University of Rochester in his will. The university used the house as the residence for two of its presidents.  The 50-room Colonial Revival home was extremely expensive to maintain so eventually the U of R looked for another use for the property. A group of local businessmen and community leaders decided it would make a great museum of photography and film.

Converting a historic home to function as a museum meant removing doors from all the bedrooms, bathrooms, and closets and making gallery space to show cameras and photos.

Plumbing and plaster ceilings were removed, original light fixtures replaced, and much of the furniture ended up in museum offices or, worse yet, thrown out onto East Avenue.

The museum’s growing collections created a space problem in the house, which eventually led to the building of the 75,000-square-foot archives facility in 1989, leaving an almost empty Eastman House ready for restoration.

The goal was to create a three-dimensional biography of George Eastman — the man who founded Kodak and made photography easy enough for everyone to do.

The Conservatory during the renovation project in the late 1980s.

Using all of the photos GE (as his friends called him) had left behind of his home and all of the letters his secretary was smart enough to save, a “picture perfect” restoration was possible. Craftsmen worked for 14 months to repair the marble and wood floors, reproduce the plaster ceilings, rebuild or repair original furnishings.

Paint analysis and scrapings revealed all of the original colors and they were reapplied. Draperies were remade and hung on the same rods as Eastman had used. Even the hardware door knobs, hinges, and shutter pulls were carefully cleaned and reused or reproduced to match the ones still intact.

As I reflect on so many other changes that have occurred over the past 20 years — including the economy, the revolution we have experienced in hand-held technology, and even my own hair color — I am amazed how well 900 East Avenue has stood the test of time.  It is  truly a testament to the classic design and high quality materials GE selected many years ago and the extraordinary  skilled craftsmen and woman hired two decades ago to restore it.

Repairing and painting the elephant head on Monday, May 17.

With that said, restoration and repair still continue today. As I write this, the reproduction elephant trophy that hangs in the Conservatory is being cleaned and repaired by craftsmen from the Jonas Bros. Studios in Brewster N,Y. (No relation to the popular singing group) I noticed hairline cracks in the trunk and near the ears so I asked them to make a house call.  Why bring in a company from Brewster, NY?  Well they were the taxidermy company GE used in 1928 following the African safari, and they were also the ones that we went to to create and install the reproduction trophy for us 20years ago as part of the original restoration process.]

Everything comes full circle.

To learn more about the restoration process you can stop by the George Eastman  Archive & Study Center or email Kathy Connor at

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Happy Mothers Day from George Eastman House

Posted by on May 10 2010 | House & Gardens, Other

…through a look at vintage Kodak ads from the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s

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The bulbs are coming! The bulbs are coming!

Posted by on Feb 03 2010 | Exhibitions, House & Gardens

Last fall, we blogged about planting the bulbs to get them ready for February (Tulips and Hyacinths and Daffodils, Oh My!, Oct. 19, 2009). Now in just over a week, spring comes early to the Eastman House when over 2,000 tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, freesias, and amaryllis will be on display for the annual Dutch Connection exhibit. It’s a welcome escape from the Rochester snow each year (especially now that Punxsutawney Phil has predicted 6 MORE weeks of winter).

For those of you in the deep freeze like us in Western NY, we invite you to enjoy this moment of spring color:

a glimpse at last year's display


The 2010 arrangement is based on George Eastman’s own selection from 100 years ago.  He ordered the bulbs from a Dutch company a year early in 1909 and grew them to maturity in his greenhouses.  Once they were organized, he would invite his friends and family to his home to enjoy the colorful display. 

The bulbs will be here February 12-28. A small exhibit will also be presented on the second floor of the house showing Mr. Eastman’s activities throughout 2010.

For  more info,visit

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The Making of a Sweet Creation

Posted by on Dec 09 2009 | House & Gardens

This time every  year, we are lucky to have folks contribute their gingerbread masterpieces to the Museum’s Sweet Creations Exhibit and auction. Kim Salisbury, who working with her sister Gig Mahar is a frequent participant in this popular exhibit, shares their story:

This year marked our 3rd entry for the Sweet Creations exhibit.  I started decorating cakes over 25 years ago and soon moved to cookies.  After my family and I moved back to Rochester in 1999, my sister, Gig and I decorated cookies each holiday.  She’s an artist and though I love the little details, together we took decorating to the extreme! (Family and friends often thought our treats were too beautiful to eat.)  Gig suggested we create something for the Eastman House and that we stray from the traditional by focusing on the inside of the house rather than the outside. 


Family Room

Family Room

Our first gingerbread “room” was a family room, complete with fireplace, Christmas tree, cozy furniture and a table set for a meal!  The dining furniture had legs made of cinnamon sticks (the humidity caused the gingerbread legs to collapse).   Our second “room” was a kitchen featuring a tiny gingerbread house project in progress.  This year, our “child’s bedroom” has bunk beds for two sisters!  Their Christmas dresses hang on the door ready for a festive gathering and green pj’s lay ready on their beds! 


Kitchen with tiny gingerbread house in progress

Kitchen with tiny gingerbread house in progress

Making a ‘room’ allowed us to use gingerbread to create cute elements such as a dresser, desk (with a top that opens) and bookshelf. We used fondant for Christmas decorations, clothing, tiny shoes, and posters painted with food coloring- including one of Hunt Hollow- and adorable bedding.  You will see that one sister is tidy and made her bed while the other has left her covers strewn about!  The bunk beds were constructed with cinnamon sticks after the first one collapsed – again, the humidity!


Bunk beds for the sisters

Bunk beds for the sisters

Fondant is like modeling clay and with a little practice, easy to work with.  It was even used to create the rug (fashioned after Pottery Barn) and the wood floor.  For the floor, brown coloring was added to fondant, but not mixed thoroughly so the brown was inconsistent.  It was then rolled out, cut into strips and laid down like real floor boards. 

Important tools for this project include Exacto knives, toothpicks, straight edge rulers, frosting tips and anything else that suites our needs (pencils with erasers removed, comb edges etc…). Our final touches were the stuffed animals and pets that our own daughters have adored!  This year the actual gingerbread baking was especially easy as it was done in the bakery at Lanovara Specialty Foods, purchased by my husband Bert and I two years ago. 

Gig and I always wish we had time to create more little tiny details to add to our rooms!  We love this project and supporting the Eastman house!

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