Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Saw the House in Half, of Course

The next time you find yourself wondering if that last home improvement was really worth the money and all the trouble, think of George Eastman. I visited his mansion in Rochester, New York, recently. This camera and film tycoon (think Kodak film and Brownie cameras) stopped at nothing to achieve his ambitious goals, at home as in business.

After his magnificent house was completed in 1905, Mr. Eastman found that the conservatory, which occupies the center of the house, seemed somehow a little too small, a bit too square. Not by much, but still . . . .  I imagine that every time he descended the stairs and took his seat at the little breakfast table in that room, he squirmed with the vague discomfort of knowing that the space was not quite right. 

So Mr. Eastman put his architect and builders back to work. The assignment: Cut the house in half and push. Then insert nine more feet into the conservatory and do your best to match the existing marble in the floor. And that's what they did. I can only imagine the mess.

The result was superb, and you would never know that the room had been altered unless someone pointed out the slight variation in the floor. Now Mr. Eastman could eat his breakfast in peace, enjoying the music being played for him by his organist just across the room. (Eventually the great man realized that one organ was just not sufficient and had a second one installed to accompany it.)

Suddenly your plan for that addition does not look over-reaching after all, does it?
Pictured: The conservatory at the George Eastman Mansion and Museum, Rochester, NY. Photo by Ann Doyle.

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