History of the Campuses and Buildings of the University of Rochester
United States Hotel Prince Street Campus Eastman School of Music Medical Center River Campus Mid-Campus South Campus Mt. Hope Campus Graduate, Family and Veteran Housing Central Utilities Other Off-Site Buildings
Eastman School of Music Eastman School



Eastman School in the 1920s, from Rochester Public Library


"Plan of Great Building that George Eastman Is to Erect," Democrat and Chronicle, February 25, 1920, Page 21.

Ground was broken for he new School of Music building at the beginning of 1920 and after a tumultuous period of construction it opened its doors to students on September 12, 1921..

References
1920 "Plan of Great Building that George Eastman Is to Erect," Democrat and Chronicle, February 25, 1920, Page 21.

1920 "First Contract for Pianos for Use in Eastman School Provides for Delivery of 38," Democrat and Chronicle, March 19, 1920, Page 13.

1920 "Because of High Costs and Uncertainty as to Future Eastman Suspends Building," Democrat and Chronicle, March 19, 1920, Page 28.
Decision affects School of Music.

1920 "Brick Building Will be Moved to Swan Street from Site of Eastman School of Music in Gibbs Street," Democrat and Chronicle, April 5, 1920, 1920, Page 17.

1920 "One of Seven Organs Planned for Eastman School of Music will be Model of Kind, Contract Promises," Democrat and Chronicle, November 16, 1920, Page 21.

1921 "Gigantic Task of Erecting New Eastman School of Music Would be Much Greater Without Motor Truck," Democrat and Chronicle, February 6, 1921, Page 16.

1921 "Eastman School Now Ready for First Classes," Democrat and Chronicle, September 18, 1921, Page 40.

1923 "The Electrical and Illuminating Equipment of the Eastman Theatre and School of Music," by Frederick A. Mott and Loyd A. Jones, Journal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers 42(6):569-582 (June 1923)

1926 Plat Book of the City of Rochester
Plate 2:  Eastman School and Theatre

1927 A descriptive and pictorial presentation of some features of the Eastman School of Music and the Eastman Theatre

1927 "Eastman Theater Issues Booklet," Democrat and Chronicle, March 1, 1927, Page 24.
Building and Music School Pictures and Described.

1927 Rochester, the making of a university, by Jesse Leonard Rosenberger, with an introduction by President Rush Rhees.
Page 302-316:  Eastman School of Music

1935 Plat Book of the City of Rochester  
Plate 1:  Eastman School and Theatre

1977 History of the University of Rochester, 1850-1962, by Arthur J. May.  Expanded edition with notes
Chapter 18, The Birth of a Music Center
On Monday, September 12, 1921, the Eastman School of Music opened its doors to students, one hundred and four of them "regulars" of whom fifty-nine were candidates for certificates and forty-five were aspirants for a bachelor's degree; women outnumbered men in a ratio of seven to one. Over 1,200 entered as special students or in the preparatory department.
It was decided that the music school and a small concert hall would occupy the south end of the property, while a theatre with a large auditorium would be erected on the north side. Musical entertainment would be furnished in the great concert hall one day of each week, and for six days it would be used as a cinema house de luxe, imitative of motion picture theatres in New York City, in that film showings would be accompanied by performances of good music and ballet. This feature of the whole enterprise was dear to the heart of Eastman, who reasoned that many moviegoers would thereby develop a taste for music of quality and thus patronage of symphonic concerts and opera would be enlarged. 6
Planning of the vast edifice was entrusted jointly to McKim, Mead, and White, a leading New York City architectural firm, and to Gordon and Kaelber, Rochester architects. A Rochester company, A. W. Hopeman and Sons, was chosen as general contractor. By St. Patrick's day of 1919 preliminary overall plans had been designed, but before construction was finished many revisions had been made; from first to last, some 2,500 blueprints were drafted covering every feature of the huge complex.
To get ideas, architects inspected many American schools of music, concert halls, and cinema houses. Eastman personally visited several institutions and supplied the builders with detailed instructions on plans and their execution. Between competing designs for the principal entrance to the theatre, for instance, Eastman chose one which placed the doors at the corner of Main and Gibbs; so furious was the McKim firm by the rejection of its recommendation that the theatre face on Main Street that it threatened to withdraw completely from the project, but, through the tactful intervention of Eastman's friend, Frank L. Babbott, reconsidered and agreed to design the facade and the interiors of the two concert halls. Thinking that the seating capacity planned for the theatre might exceed current needs and anxious to avoid a "barn-like" atmosphere, Eastman proposed a semi-permanent curtain to cut off the top level.
During the construction Eastman stopped at the site almost every day, and he was saluted as the master architect, as had been true of Hiram Sibley when the library on the Prince Street Campus was rising. To erect and equip the building, Eastman "spent money like water," Rhees wrote; the President, too, kept a supervisory eye on construction, as did George W. Todd, Rochester industrialist, an original member of the managerial board, and a central figure in the expansion of the University as a whole. Clarence A. Livingston, who was intimately associated with the, construction of the musical center, subsequently became its general superintendent; in 1927 he took a similar position for all University properties, remaining until 1950.
No fewer than twenty-seven Rochester firms shared in the construction and equipment of the center, supplying all manner of products from structural steel to wood carving, and nine companies from outside of the city also participated. Between 500 and 700 Rochester workmen were employed.
Delays in the arrival of materials and labor troubles interrupted progress in construction. Following a strike, the pay envelop of workmen carried a sketch of the complex as it would look upon completion and a statement that "this building is not being erected for profit." Whatever money was left over from the construction fund or was earned by movies in the big auditorium would be devoted to the provision of "musical education and entertainment for yourself and your children at the lowest practical rates" and for no other purpose. As another means of cultivating esprit de corps among the artisans, a "Building Progress Bulletin" made its appearance in September, 1920, and was published now and then until all work was finished. Readers were reminded that the structure was being erected "for yourself and your children and your children's children."
Reluctantly, Eastman acquiesced in the assignment of his name to the School and the Theatre. Jocularly, he inquired of a long-time friend who recommended that the donor should be commemorated in art form, "Would it not satisfy your portrait aspirations if I should be sculpt'd heroic size for one of the figures on the roof, with a camera in one hand and a horn in the other ?..." At the summit of the Theatre facade an inscription, devised by Rhees, "For the enrichment of community life," proclaimed the supreme objective of the music center. By the terms of the Eastman gift (which with an endowment for the School approached $6,500,000, excluding the cost of constructing the Theatre, nearly $3,000,000 more) ownership of the property was vested in the University, of which the School would be an integral division, but management was entrusted to a small, separate, self-perpetuating board, subject to nominal approval by the University trustees. Eastman, who selected the original board, had a place on it as had Rhees and Todd, who served as the first chairman. It was charged with the promotion of musical culture in Rochester generally. 7
For the dignified exterior of the entire edifice, the Italian Renaissance style was freely adapted and Indiana limestone was used. Rusticated masonry was applied on the first story, and above that the principal wall was divided by windows and Ionic pilasters, surmounted by a cornice in a classic pattern. The whole was topped off by a crest of metal and a tiled roof. Columns of Vermont marble were set over the main entrances to the School and to the auditorium. A long marquee, on which attractions would be advertised, stretched across the width of the sidewalk, affording protection to patrons from inclement weather. Powerful projectors could flood the entire building with brilliant light.
On the first floor of the School, a broad corridor traversed the whole length of the structure; pilasters separated the walls into panels. Administrative offices and a temporary library fronted on the corridor. Considering its spaciousness, it is not altogether surprising that this portion of the School in the early years was sometimes assumed to be something it was not. Raymond S. Wilson reports, "After being seated for more than an hour in the main corridor... a rather elderly woman, laden heavily with baggage, arose and went to the information booth. Mistaking the School for a railway terminal she expressed surprise [that] the Empire State Express had not yet been announced!
From the east end of the corridor a fine staircase passed through twin columns of gray Sienna marble and led to a corridor on the second level; treads and risers were made of gray Tennessee marble and the balustrades of cast bronze. Walls of the upper corridor were divided by pilasters of brown marble; lower down was wainscoting of buff-colored marble imported from Italy. Two noble white marble pillars stood at either end of the corridor, while a band of black and white marble circled it just above the floor level. Paintings, some of them to be borrowed periodically from the Memorial Art Gallery, would be here displayed. The corridor, like the one below connected by doorways with the Theatre, ran the full extent of the building. It would serve as a promenade during concert intermissions and be used for School dances and other social functions.
Off the corridor to the south and on two upper floors were faculty studies, classrooms, and studio and practice rooms. Other practice and tuning rooms were laid out in the basement, where storage space was reserved for orchestral scores; an attic above the fourth level remained vacant. School equipment was of the best, including nearly forty (soon increased to over one hundred) pianos, two (later thirteen) organs, and a special organ to train students to play in cinema houses. When the first students arrived, School facilities were not yet finished, and until February of 1922 pupils and teachers gained access to classrooms through a wooden gangway proceeding from Gibbs Street to an elevator that lifted them to the third and fourth levels.
At the southwest corner of the first floor corridor, an exquisite hall was erected as an adjunct to the School. A memorial to the donor's mother, Maria Kilbourn Eastman, it was named Kilbourn Hall. This beautiful room was noted for choice walnut panelling on the lower part of the side walls, while the upper third of stone was draped with blue tapestries stencilled with patterns in gold; heavy beams studded the panelled ceiling, embellished in blue and gold. A grille over the proscenium arch emitted music from a great four-manual organ (enlarged in 1951). The acoustics of Kilbourn Hall, which was equipped for motion pictures, were flawless. Seats for 512 listeners were arranged in a Roman-style amphitheatre with rising tiers so that everyone could see the stage without obstruction; light was furnished by small windows and by chandeliers suspended from the ceiling. Concerts, of chamber music, recitals by faculty and students, and School assemblies would be held here.
For the formal dedication on March 3, 1922, 2,000 guests crowded into Kilbourn Hall or followed the ceremonies in the adjoining foyer or in the School corridor.

1987 "A History of the Eastman Theatre," by Vinci Lenti, Rochester History 49(1):1-24 (January 1987)
This city block-bordered by Main Street on the north, Barrett Alley on the south, Gibbs Street on the west, and Swan Street on the east-underwent a profound and dramatic change during the years 1919-1922. George Eastman had selected this site for the new Eastman School of Music and adjoining Eastman Theatre, and only two buildings were spared demolition. The owner of the large building at the comer of Main and Swan demanded too high a purchase price from Eastman. Rather than agreeing to what he considered to be an exorbitant amount, the mil-lionaire philanthropist ordered his architects to redesign the plans for the new theater and abandoned his efforts to acquire the building. It stood there for over forty more years, cutting a triangular wedge into the side of the theater, and was finally purchased by the Eastman School of Music and demolished.

1996 "The Eastman School of Music," by Vincent A. Lenti, Rochester History 58(4):1-32 with illus (Fall 1996)


2021 Morris A. Pierce