There is no doubt that the history of George Eastman and the Kodak Company are deeply engrained in Rochester. Ghosts of its former glory are scattered throughout the city if you take a second to look for them. Nowhere is that more evident than the Eastman Kodak Museum. Built at the estate of George Eastman, it is a tribute and continued educational effort in honor of the ground-breaking life's work of Eastman himself.
Driving down East Ave in Rochester is always a treat for me. No matter how many times I slowly creep down the street the beautiful architecture and giant estate homes draw me in. There is so much history and you can just feel it in every hand-carved arch and hand-laid brick. I've been meaning to visit the Eastman Museum for years. Driving by on my way to other places, I would make a mental note to stop. Finally, when I saw the Dutch Connection event coming to a close this weekend it was the final push to get me there.
Each year from fall to early spring, George Eastman would fill his estate with various varieties of dutch flowers rotating them as the winter progressed into spring. The Dutch Connection event recreates his annual indoor flower garden from his original 100 year old order. Unfortunately, almost all of the species from his original list are now extinct. They've been replaced with varieties of tulip, daffodil, hyacinth, and amaryllis bulbs; freesia corms; and clivia, begonia, primrose, and azalea. I can imagine it was his way of bringing life into the dark and sometimes long Rochester winters. I certainly felt cheerier after spending time amongst the tulips. There is so much beauty to this idea. I truly believe that having living plants around your home are good for the soul.
The potent and intoxicating smell of the blooms hit our noses the second we started down the main corridor into the Eastman estate from the museum entrance. It smelled like spring and it was wonderful. It was almost as if two worlds were combining down the long stretch of hallway. The natural world of fragrant floral blooms and the ritzy upper-class world that a poor boy from Waterville, NY had built for himself.
Although the flowers themselves were beautiful, the entire estate was just as noteworthy and inspiring. Each tiny little detail was deliberate and crafted. The rooms transported me back in time. The architecture, textiles, wallpaper, carvings, and antique furnishings set the stage for life 100 years ago. They're also an amazing inspiration to pull into my ceramic work.
It is funny to say, but I have some SERIOUS bathroom envy after visiting this amazing home. I also have a lot more inspiration for my own personal master suite face-lift that will eventually happen.
Apart from the actual home, There are multiple gallery spaces within the attached museum full of vintage photo equipment, sensational remnants of the past, and a greater explanation and understanding for the craft and dedication of Eastman.
In the end, George Eastman donated more than $100 million to educational and arts institutions, public parks, hospitals, dental clinics, and charitable organizations around the world. He was a strong advocate for arts education as well as healthcare. He knew that if public appreciation for the arts continued alongside medical advancement that his company would continue long after his death and the entire Rochester community would benefit. At it's peak Eastman - Kodak employed 145,300 people. The peak for Rochester employment was in 1982 with a payroll of 60,400. Knowing how history has played out since is a little bitter-sweet but I think that it is safe to say his impact has certainly far surpassed his death.