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Extreme Makeover: Skyscraper Edition

April 12th, 2011

Kodak Tower in Rochester NY was built in 1916 and is absolutely dripping with history. But quite frankly it could use a makeover. Photoshop to the rescue!

If you didn’t already know I have severe OCD, this post is surely going to tip my hand. But here goes.

I LOVE Kodak. I own 3 Kodak cameras (one on me at all times) and countless “Kodak moments” hanging on my walls. In fact the very first thing my children saw after the nurses wiped the goop out of their eyes was—you guessed it—a Kodak camera. But there’s one itty bitty thing that bugs me about Kodak… their 19 story office tower. It looks like it was blown up and patched back together with superglue (which by the way was invented by a Kodak chemistexternal link).

I pass by Kodak tower everyday on my to and from work; and everyday I cringe a little bit. Don’t misunderstand me, it’s a gorgeous building with great bones. I just think it needs the 1970′s dusted off. And by George, with a little Photoshop magic I’m going give it my best shot. First a bit of history…

A postcard showing how Kodak Tower looked originally with 16 stories and a flat roof. This view shows an early building in front of the tower, designed around 1899 by renowned local architect J. Foster Warner. Unfortunately this building was razed in the 1950s.At 19 stories Kodak Tower is currently the 4th tallest building in Rochester NY. Built in 1912 on the site of the original factory, to this day it serves as the world headquarters for Eastman Kodak.

What most people don’t realize is it was originally constructed (left) with only 16 stories and a flat roof! At the time it was Rochester’s tallest building. However, it lost this status in the 1920s following the addition of a 42 foot sculpture on top of the Genesee Valley Trust (Times Square) buildingexternal link. Not to be outdone, George Eastmanexternal link ordered the addition of the 17th-19th stories and a tower on the roof. Below is an artist’s rendering of what the building would look like after the addition…

After losing the title of Rochester's tallest building, George Eastman ordered the addition of the 17th-19th stories and a tower on the roof. This must have been an artist's rendering of the new addition prior to construction (the perspective lines are a wee bit off).

In 1930 the tower achieved the current height of 360 feet, re-obtaining the status of Rochester’s tallest building. On a sunny day if you look closely you can see the color change in the exterior masonry (above the 16th floor).

Here's how the building looked in the ...1950's? Looks pretty good I think.And here’s how the building looked after the addition (left). I’m thinking this photo (below) is from the mid 1950′s although I’m not sure of the exact year. Anyway it’s been downhill ever since. The smaller building in front of the tower, designed around 1899 by renowned local architect J. Foster Warner, was razed in the 1950s.

Today the tower is virtually encased in bulky-looking 1950/60′s additions. There’s not much we can do about those other structures, so my focus is on the tower itself. Its original pane glass windows are long gone and have been replaced somewhere along the way with single panes that don’t quite fit the openings leaving awkward beige panels to fill the gap above each window. The metal roof, though durable and rugged, is a patchwork of different colors and griminess. The cupola for some reason has been painted the same shade of gray as the grimy roof. And the giant metal KODAK sign could use some straightening out.

Kodak Tower TODAY: as it stands today with bad windows that don't fit the openings, dirty patched up roof, dinged up sign, and a cupola that is painted gray for some reason.

Now, recently the building was fully encased in scaffolding. And I thought, “FINALLY! The Kodak gods have heard my cries!” But then the scaffolding came down. The facade was cleaned and a pedestrian bridge was removed… But why stop there? I was baffled!

So now I’m taking my plea to the blogosphere, where I am CERTAIN Mr. Eastman is listening. And with the help of Photoshop (which I’m getting pretty darn good at if I do say so) I’m hoping the right people see this post and get inspired.

Kodak Tower is one of Rochester’s crown jewels. It deserves the spa treatment. Now, drumroll, MOVE THAT BUS!

Kodak Tower AFTER MAKEOVER: with new period-correct windows, a fresh patina paint job on the roof, and some clean up applied to the KODAK sign and cupola. Of course, the Falcon's nest might have to be relocated during the work, but only temporarily.

Kodak Tower AFTER MAKEOVER: with new period-correct windows, a fresh patina paint job on the roof, and some clean up applied to the KODAK sign and cupola. Of course, the Falcon’s nest might have to be relocated during the work, but only temporarily.

I know I know, renovations like this cost money. But surely I’m not the only one who’s had these thoughts, am I? If we can find $4 million to build the addition to Eastman Theatre, I think we can find money for paint and new windows.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 at 11:04 pm and is filed under Opinion, Rochester Images. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

8 Responses to “Extreme Makeover: Skyscraper Edition”

  1. Bob Williams says:

    You madman!!! You’re trying to play god!

    But to be completely serious, I did not know the building was originally shorter with a flat roof. I also had never seen the original surrounding building. It certainly puts the work in a sensible urban context. As always when I see the quality of what used to be, I am sad now.

  2. Woo ah ah ahhhh!! Photoshop is power my friend.

    But don’t be sad… there is good stuff happening right across the street. Have you seen the rehab being done to the old storefronts? Very exciting.

  3. Michael Krauklis says:

    Good points and very interesting. I had no idea the building was built in two steps.

    I will say this: we should not paint the roof. It looks to be copper with maybe tin patches? The patches (or the whole roof) should be replaced with new copper and the old copper restored to a penny finish. It would be glorious! Just needs some TLC.

  4. Kristine says:

    The Peregrine Falcon nestbox was removed from Kodak Tower in 2008 and has been relocated to the Times Square building where there is currently an active Peregrine pair with 3 eggs!

  5. Shaky says:

    Yes, you should really start with a current photo of the tower. The facade of the build just underwent a major refurbishment. The concrete railing on the 19th floor has been replaced with a wrought iron one similar to the railing on the 18th floor.

  6. @Shaky, thanks for pointing that out. I just looked out my window and noticed you’re correct about the 19th floor railing! As soon as we have another sunny day I’ll reshoot.

    I think I prefer the old concrete railing. Do you know why it was replaced? I assume the concrete had deteriorated to the point it would have been very difficult and costly to repair? Too bad.

    Lots of little design decisions like this detract from the overall character and history of the building. Over time we end up with something drastically different and unintended. Am I being too much of a purist?

  7. Mittens says:

    Ha ha. Good article, I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and I thought you perished! Good to see you’re back, but start writing more often!

  8. @Mittens, fear not. The Rochester Subway lives on! It’s just tricky balancing a 60 hour a week full time job, two kids, Reconnect Rochester, and this blog. But I’ll do my best to turn up the frequency for you ;-)


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