Restoration of the George Eastman Museum's historic Colonnade will begin this week

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Restoration of the George Eastman Museum's historic Colonnade will begin this week
The Colonnade of George Eastman’s mansion in 1907.

ROCHESTER, NY.- This week, the George Eastman Museum will begin a major restoration of the Colonnade of George Eastman’s mansion, a National Historic Landmark.

The Colonnade is the passageway—lined with windows onto the Schuyler C. Townson Terrace Garden—between the Palm House and the dining room in George Eastman’s historic mansion. This structure provides the only interior route between the museum’s main entrance and galleries and the historic mansion and Terrace Garden.

The Colonnade will soon be closed, and museum visitors will be rerouted through the Terrace Garden through October 10. During this period, the Dryden Theatre is taking an intermission because the Colonnade serves as the path of egress for two emergency exits from the theater.

“The Colonnade restoration is the most important and complex preservation project our institution has undertaken since the extensive restoration of the historic mansion in 1990, and we are grateful for the financial support we have received during the past few years that has made this project possible,” said Bruce Barnes, Ron and Donna Fielding Director, George Eastman Museum. “We regret any inconvenience to our visitors, including the intermission in the Dryden Theatre’s film program, but we hope that they will share our excitement about the renovated Colonnade and its transformation of the visitor experience at the Eastman Museum.”

The Colonnade’s floor structure, which has deteriorated because water has infiltrated the steel-reinforced concrete, will be replaced. New gutters and downspouts will be installed to protect the structure. The five wooden columns that were installed after a fire in 1949 will be replaced with Indiana limestone columns that match the originals. The Colonnade roof will be replaced, and its support structure will be restored. The current single-pane windows provide poor insulation and their wooden sashes are not airtight or watertight. A new insulated glass system and a new heating and cooling system will be installed to ensure visitor comfort year-round.

Through October 10, during the closure of the Colonnade, visitors moving between the museum’s café and shop area and the mansion will travel through the exterior door of the Palm House, along the brick path on the east side of the Terrace Garden (away from the construction site), and through the exterior doors of the Conservatory in the mansion. The pathway will be made accessible to all with temporary ramps. During inclement weather, umbrellas will be available at the exterior doors of the Palm House and the Conservatory.

The Pike Company will be the general contractor for this project, and the preservation architects are Bero Architecture PLLC. The project was reviewed and approved by the City of Rochester Preservation Board and the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

The Colonnade restoration project has been supported by benevolent contributions from Bruce Bates and Georgia Gosnell and a grant from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through Title 9 of the Environmental Protection Act of 1993 under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative.

The Colonnade restoration is the largest project in the ongoing preservation of the historic structures of George Eastman’s estate. Restoration has been completed on the Palm House, the porte cochere, the conservatory roof and clerestory windows, the North Organ, and the East Porch. The next project will be the restoration of 68 windows in the mansion. The Eastman Museum is currently applying for a grant from the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation for restoration of the historic garden structures—the pergola in the Terrace Garden, the grape arbor in the Rock Garden, and the loggia in the West Garden.

The aggregate cost of these historic preservation projects will be more than $5 million. The Eastman Museum is grateful to individuals, private foundations, and New York State for financial support of these critical projects. Leading private donors have been Georgia Gosnell, Bruce Bates, Dr. and Mrs. Richard Zipf, the Davenport-Hatch Foundation, the Pace Family Fund, Drs. Gail and Patrick Riggs and family, the Eastman Museum Council, the Gleason Family Foundation in memory of Georgia Gosnell, and the Rochester Area Community Foundation. Two critical grants were provided by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through Title 9 of the Environmental Protection Act of 1993 under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Council Initiative.

Further transforming its visitors’ experience, the George Eastman Museum will break ground in January 2020 on a new main entrance and visitor center, including the ESL Federal Credit Union Pavilion. Leading funders of this project are a longtime individual patron, ESL Federal Credit Union, and the New York State Council on the Arts under Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Regional Economic Development Initiative.

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