Rochester’s Icons: The George Eastman House

One of the most recognizable homes in the Rochester area, George Eastman began building his East Avenue residence in 1902. Originally situated on 8.5 acres purchased from Marvin Culver Farms, upon its completion in 1905 it was a true working farm with formal gardens, greenhouses, stables, barns, and pastures. Coming in at a whopping 35,000 square feet, the residence included 50 rooms, 17 bathrooms, and 9 fireplaces. The entire project’s initial cost of construction was $335,000, which would be about $9 million today.

And what a house it is! Mr. Eastman hired architect J Foster Warner to design his Colonial Revival mansion based on the design of the Root House in Buffalo. In among those 50 rooms, he managed to incorporate many modern conveniences such as an electrical generator, an internal phone system, a built-in vacuum system, an elevator, and the iconic great Aeolian pipe organ. With the organ pipes distributed on all three levels of the house, Mr. Eastman implemented a system that allowed him to focus the sound of the organ so that wherever he was in the house, the organ would sound the best in that location. The beauty of the home and the magnificence of the organ meant the house became the “center of the city’s rich musical life”. It became such a popular place to congregate that, in 1919, in order to more graciously accommodate his guests, he enlarged the conservatory by cutting his house in two and moving the rear section 9 ft 4in to the north.

Mr. Eastman lived in his home until his death in 1932 at which time he bequeathed both the home and his private art collection to the University of Rochester. From 1932 until 1947 the house was used as the primary residence for the university’s President. As for his collection, although the originals are housed in the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, the walls of the Eastman House are adorned with incredibly realistic photographic reproductions of the paintings.

Since 1947, the Eastman House has gone through many restorations and expansions in order to more safely and securely house one of the largest collections of 19th-century photography in the world.

The most recent expansion was completed in October 2020 and relocated the museum’s main entrance and created a new visitor center which includes a new café and museum shop. Another exciting project, which is slated to be completed in June 2021, is the restoration and renovation of the colonnade which provides an interior route between the main entrance and galleries and the mansion and gardens. At its conclusion, museum visitors will experience an unobstructed, comfortable view of the property and gardens.

For more information about this amazing home, these are some of the links we used to research: ,

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