Director’s Note: Restoring the Colonnade

George Eastman Museum
George Eastman Museum
3 min readJun 27, 2019


When George Eastman’s mansion and gardens were extensively restored almost thirty years ago, many parts of the structure were beyond the scope of that ambitious project. Since fall 2012, we have completed overdue restorations of the Palm House, the porte cochere, the Conservatory roof, the North Organ, and the East Porch. We are grateful to those whose contributions made these preservation projects possible: Georgia Gosnell, Dr. Richard and Mrs. Mary Zipf, the Davenport-Hatch Foundation, the Eastman Museum Council, Drs. Patrick and Gail Riggs and family, the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and many other donors.

Photograph shows a historic view of the colonnade, an open air walkway. Credit: George Eastman (American, 1854–1932). Conservatory expansion from terrace garden, 1919. Negative, gelatin on nitrocellulose roll film. George Eastman Museum, gift of Eastman Kodak Company.

The most important, complex, and costly restoration project is the Colonnade, which is the corridor — lined with windows onto the beautiful Schuyler C. Townson Terrace Garden — between the Dining Room and the Palm House. This structure provides the only interior route between museum’s main entrance and galleries and our historic mansion and garden.

Yet, for most of the year, the temperatures in the Colonnade have been inhospitable. The single-pane windows provide poor insulation. There are gaps between the wooden sashes of the window panels, so that its east façade is not airtight or watertight. The heaters are inadequate during the winter, and there is no air conditioning during the summer.

In addition to new windows, the Colonnade requires extensive restoration. The roof must be replaced and its 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 passageway, has significantly deteriorated as a result of moisture infiltration from the exterior. New gutters and downspouts must be installed to better protect the building. Five wood columns that were installed after a fire in 1949 should be replaced with Indiana limestone columns to match the originals.

During George Eastman’s life, the Colonnade was open to the east during the months of mild weather, allowing an unobstructed view of the garden. Our plan is to transform our visitors’ experience and re-create the original view of the Terrace Garden by installing a continuous wall of glass (with each of the seams aligned at the center of each of the columns) facing the garden.

The timing of the restoration of the Colonnade has been delayed and uncertain because the high cost of the project has until recently exceeded our available resources, which have been generously provided by Georgia Gosnell and the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. This spring, Bruce Bates, a longtime benefactor of the Eastman Museum, donated $500,000 to enable us to proceed with the critical first two phases of the project — the structural restorations and installation of the new glass system. A third phase will follow.

Work on the project will commence by early July. The Colonnade will necessarily be closed while the current structural floor is removed and replaced and other work is performed. During its closure, visitors moving between the café and shop area and the mansion will travel on the brick path on the east side of the Terrace Garden (away from the construction site), from the exterior door of the Palm House to the exterior doors of the Conservatory (see schematic at left). The pathway will be made accessible to all with temporary ramps. On days with inclement weather, umbrellas will be available at the exterior doors of the Palm House and the Conservatory.

Because the Colonnade serves as the path of egress for two emergency exits, the Dryden Theatre will take an intermission from July 15 (after the conclusion of the Jewish Film Festival) until October 11 (the day of the first film in our Labor Film Series and the day before the ImageOut Film Festival).

We regret any inconvenience and the intermission in our film program, but we hope that you will join us in our excitement about the renovated Colonnade and its transformation of the visitor experience at the George Eastman Museum.

Bruce Barnes, Ph.D.

Ron and Donna Fielding Director

July/August 2019 Bulletin