When the George Eastman Museum opened its new gallery and collection storage building in 1989, it was a transformative event for our institution. As part of the project, the museum’s main entrance was placed at the north end of the new structure, facing University Avenue. The original plan included creation of a new parking lot in the northwest corner of the historic estate, closer to this entrance. Because of budget limitations, this lot was never built.
The museum’s current main entrance is inconvenient and hard to find for those who arrive by car — the vast majority of our visitors. During inclement weather, getting from one’s car to the main entrance can be unpleasant and potentially hazardous, especially for those with limited mobility.
During the first half of 2020, the Eastman Museum will build a new main entrance pavilion, centrally located next to the Dryden Theatre. The objectives of this project are simple but compelling. A more convenient, visible, welcoming, and accessible entrance is essential to serving our visitors. The project will also improve guest amenities and create a single hub for museum entry, the Dryden Theatre, the Curtis Theatre, the café, and the shop.
The new entrance will be a glass-and-steel pavilion in front of the west façade of the building where the café and museum shop are currently located (originally George Eastman’s garage). This façade will be mostly preserved and will remain visible from within and outside the new pavilion.
Through the entrance will be a new admissions desk, places for gathering and resting, a more focused shop, and a redesigned café. Additional seating for the café will be available in the Palm House. The restrooms near the Dryden Theatre will be renovated and expanded.
Improved accessibility has been a key objective. Eight handicap parking spaces will be located closest to the entrance. The drop‑off driveway in front of the entry pavilion will be graded to eliminate any curb in front of the entrance doors. Within the new and renovated buildings, elevation changes will be accomplished with floors that will slope gradually enough so as not to require handrails.
This new entrance will serve both visitors and museum staff. The current staff entrance, under the porte cochere, will be closed except for very special events. This will allow us to remove the weather-resistant vestibule enclosure and reveal the beautiful original two-sided stairway, where most of George Eastman’s visitors entered his home.
The Eastman Museum engaged Flynn Battaglia Architects, of Buffalo, to design and oversee the creation of a new main entrance to the museum. Design drawings have been approved by the New York State Office of Historic Preservation and conceptually approved by the Rochester Preservation Board. We expect to present the design drawings to the Rochester Preservation Board for its final review on Wednesday, February 6, 2019.
The estimated cost of the new entrance is approximately $3 million. The project was launched after the Eastman Museum received a benevolent donation of $1.1 million from a longtime patron and a $1 million grant of public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The Elaine P. and Richard U. Wilson Foundation has also committed to support the project.
Our vision for transforming our visitors’ experience will be realized through a successful campaign to raise the final $1 million needed to complete this project. As opportunities for support are made public in the coming year, I hope that you will consider making a special contribution to our campaign — and investing in the George Eastman Museum’s progress.
Bruce Barnes, PhD
Ron and Donna Fielding Director
Originally published in the Eastman Museum January/February 2019 Bulletin