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George Eastman Museum to host community forum to request funding for the Rock Garden's Grape Arbor project



Rochester, N.Y., June 23, 2023—The George Eastman Museum will host a community forum in the museum's Multipurpose Hall at 6 p.m. on Monday, June 26, to inform the public about the significant restoration projects that are underway to sustain the museum's National Historic Landmark. 

The museum will look to submit a grant to the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation through the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council in July to propose a restoration of the Rock Garden's Grape Arbor, located on the University Avenue side of the Eastman Museum. The application will request $500,000.

The project cost is estimated to be about $1,107,435 and will create 15 jobs in construction and building trades, contribute to job retention, and provide economic benefits from increased tourism. Within one year of grant award notification, the museum will raise additional matching funds of $257,435 to fully fund the project. Grant funding from New York State will assure that this project is completed and that the historic Rock Garden and its Grape Arbor may be reopened and fully accessible.

George Eastman’s historic mansion is surrounded by lush gardens designed by renowned architects. Alling Stephen DeForest provided the overall landscape design for the Rock Garden and collaborated with J. Foster Warner, who designed its Grape Arbor (1921). The Rock Garden and its Grape Arbor are located on the north end of Eastman’s estate, near University Avenue in the Neighborhood of the Arts.

In 2014, Bero Architecture PLLC conducted a condition survey which prioritized structural repairs and restoration of the historic garden structures—the Pergola, Grape Arbor, and Loggia—to prevent further deterioration and damage.  In 2019, the Eastman Museum applied for and received a SHPO grant award of $600,000 to support restoration of all three garden structures. In 2022, the Pergola restoration was completed at a cost of $540,000 (20% higher than estimated). In 2024, the Loggia restoration will begin.

The restoration of the Grape Arbor has been delayed because of dramatic construction cost increases.  This past spring, a public bid process resulted in three bids that were more than twice the amount of the original cost estimates (2019). Because construction costs have increased precipitously, the Grape Arbor restoration has been extracted from the original 2019 grant project and will be undertaken separately.

For more than a century, the Grape Arbor has been exposed to Rochester’s annual freeze/thaw cycle, which has led to severe deterioration and instability. Extensive wood rot has compromised the structural stability of the Grape Arbor.  To protect the safety of museum visitors and community members who use our property as a park, a fence has been erected to restrict public access to the Rock Garden and its Grape Arbor.

The project will address necessary and urgent repairs to the Grape Arbor so that all museum visitors and community members may safely enjoy it. Significant accessibility improvements will provide a welcoming experience for all visitors regardless of physical limitations. Restoration work will assure that this key structure in the original Rock Garden design is sustained for future generations.

About the George Eastman Museum
Founded in 1947, the George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States, located on the historic Rochester estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 28,000 motion picture films, the world’s preeminent collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema, and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. As a research and teaching institution, the Eastman Museum has an active publishing program and, its L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation’s graduate program (a collaboration with the University of Rochester) makes critical contributions to film preservation. For more information, visit eastman.org.


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ATTN. Media: High-res images from the Rock Garden's Grape Arbor can be downloaded here: https://eastmanmuseum.box.com/v/GECommunityForum.