Archive for the 'House & Gardens' Category

Celebrating Kodacolor

Posted by on Jul 30 2010 | House & Gardens, Motion Pictures

Today marks the 82nd Anniversary of the now famous Kodacolor party,  in which George Eastman and Thomas Edison announced “home movies in color” to the world.

One of the more frequently asked questions at the George Eastman House is about the relationship between Eastman and Edison. Were they friends or just business associates? Answering the question usually includes a description of the July 30, 1928 Kodacolor party— as it is one of the major press events both attended.

Eastman regularly used his own home and garden as a site for major press announcements but this was one of the grandest he ever orchestrated. Everyone who was anyone in the media at the time and scientists, educators and community leaders were invited to George Eastman’s Terrace garden to learn about his company’s new product Kodacolor (the first amateur color home movie system).

Eastman and Edison, who collaborated on the invention of motion picture film, stood side-by-side in the Terrace Garden filming their guests during the event. After dinner, screens were erected and the new Kodacolor images shot earlier that day were projected. The impact of the screening made headlines around the world. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, click here to roll it again!

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Happy Birthday George Eastman!!!

Posted by on Jul 12 2010 | House & Gardens

Today marks the 156th anniversary of George Eastman’s birth— July 12, 1854. At George Eastman House we celebrate Eastman’s legacy in imaging and philanthropy every day. But his birthday is a good time for the rest of Rochester to pay tribute to the “Father of Rochester,” since our region would not be as rich in culture, health care, business, or education if it had not been for George Eastman. For many years community residents, including newspaper columnists, have rallied to make Eastman’s birthday an official local holiday.

Eastman wanted Rochester to be the “best city in which to live, work, and raise a family.” And he put his money where he mouth was, giving the bulk of his fortune to Rochester institutions and charities, half to the University of Rochester alone.

Yet, most do not realize how much Eastman did for our city, since he made many donations anonymously and preferred to bow out of ribbon cuttings or dedications in his honor. He was a modest man, who pushed the name Kodak rather than “Eastman Kodak” and named organizations after his friends rather than himself, such as Strong Hospital in tribute to the friend who helped him start Kodak, Henry Alvah Strong.

To get a sense of Eastman’s impact on Rochester, you can take a driving tour of “George Eastman’s Rochester,” which includes many of the organizations, parks, and businesses he influenced and supported.

Just click here to download the driving tour—  and you are ready, set, go!

[Even if you're not in the Rochester area, the map is a great way to get to know our city and see what a difference one person can make ...and there's even a crossword puzzle!]


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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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