A visit to the home of Kodak’s founder never disappoints
I know I am going to like my visit to the George Eastman House in Rochester, N.Y. just as soon as the docent makes a request: “Please do take pictures.” We’re in a mansion as grand as those in Newport, R.I., but here we are not limited. Poke around, make memories, take memories.
Of course, this isn’t my first visit to the George Eastman House. Growing up in Rochester, I took what felt like dozens of field trips there. What always fascinated me as a kid was the pool (which I seem to remember as larger, which I seem to remember always had a log floating in it to prevent freezing), which now seems more of a place to wade, and the Big Guy’s suicide. He shot himself when his work was through. As with Ernest Hemingway’s suicide, I’d always wonder, How do you know when the job is done?
This time through, I like that he took such good care of his mother. Having grown up money-challenged, he made sure things were as good as they could be for her. I like that instead of setting an alarm clock to sound each morning, he hired an organist to come and play. I like that, even as busy as his work at Kodak must have kept him, he managed to travel the world. The formality of his dining room is sort of surprising, but this does seem to be a guy who spent a good deal of his time in a suit.
I like that he gave anonymously to so many charitable causes. I like that he took care of his family. I wish that, in addition to cataloguing his accomplishments in photography and making picture-taking accessible to the masses, the George Eastman House tour would provide more indicators of his personality. How did he adapt to managing an empire? Was he quiet and unassuming, a scholarly scientific sort, or a hard-driving salesman? Why no spouse? Were there other suicides in his family? What did his niece really think about changing his will to give more to the University of Rochester and less to her?
I like the amalgam of mystery and memory I find here, but still wish I knew more.
Next: On to Niagara Falls