Director’s Note: An Imperative Project: Restoring the Colonnade
When George Eastman’s mansion and gardens were extensively restored almost thirty years ago, there were many parts of the structure that were beyond the scope of that ambitious project. Since fall 2012, our institution has made great progress in preserving additional portions of the historic mansion. Restorations of the Palm House, the porte cochere, the Conservatory roof, the North Organ, and the East Porch have been completed. We will soon begin a major project to restore and repair 68 windows and 43 existing shutters in the historic mansion.
The George Eastman Museum is most grateful for the essential financial support for these projects provided by individual donors, private foundations, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The most important, complex, and costly restoration project remains. The Colonnade of George Eastman’s mansion is the corridor, lined with windows onto the Terrace Garden, between the Dining Room and the Palm House. It provides the only interior route between museum’s main entrance and galleries and our historic mansion and gardens.
For most of the year, the temperature in the Colonnade is inhospitable. The single-pane windows provide poor insulation. There are gaps between the wooden sashes of the window panels, so that the east façade is not airtight or watertight. The heaters are inadequate during the winter, and there is no air conditioning during the summer. Remedying these issues will transform our visitors’ experience of the museum.
The museum will also undertake other crucial restoration work in the Colonnade. Its roof must be replaced and the roof’s support structure restored. The central gable structure is unsound and shows signs of significant vertical deflections, including large cracks at the apex of the barrel vault, above the doors to the Terrace Garden. The floor structure, which is the ceiling of a basement hall, shows significant deterioration as a result of moisture infiltration from the exterior. The seriously deteriorating windows must be addressed. Five wooden columns that were installed after a fire in 1949 should be replaced with cast stone columns to match the originals. New gutters and downspouts should be installed to better protect the structure.
The Eastman Museum has engaged Bero Architecture PLLC to design and oversee the restoration of the Colonnade. They have completed a set of construction drawings that have been conceptually approved by the Rochester Preservation Board and are being reviewed by the New York State Office of Historic Preservation. Construction on the project will begin in July 2019 and, because of state grant requirements, must be completed next year.
The estimated cost of the Colonnade restoration project is $1,340,000. The Eastman Museum has secured $879,000 for the project from Georgia Gosnell, the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, the William and Sheila Konar Foundation, and the Davenport-Hatch Foundation. We will be applying, through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council, for an additional grant from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
TAKE PART IN THIS HISTORIC RESTORATION PROJECT
If you’ve visited the museum, you’ve almost certainly walked through the Colonnade. Help us complete critical restoration work of this key area of our museum — contribute today online at eastman.org/donate or by phone (585) 327–4833.
Regardless of whether our state grant application is successful, additional private funds will be necessary to complete the project. I hope that you will make a special donation to the George Eastman Museum to support this imperative preservation project, which will also transform your experience when you visit, through a more hospitable and beautiful Colonnade.
Bruce Barnes, PhD
Ron and Donna Fielding Director
Originally published in the Eastman Museum July/August 2018 Bulletin