Kodak Tower

Rochester, New York | C.1914

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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One doesn’t have to venture around Rochester too long to run into a reminder of George Eastman’s legacy. There’s the Eastman School of Music, the Eastman Museum of Art, and even Eastman Avenue. But no trophy or city landmark is more well-known than Eastman’s 19-floor Kodak Tower. When it was completed in 1914, it was the tallest building in Rochester, and the “inspired” George Eastman made sure to keep it that way. 

Colloquially known as “Kodak,” Eastman Kodak is an American company that changed how people viewed the world. Founded by that famed man of Rochester in 1888, Kodak’s instant cameras and film would become staples in households all over the globe over the next 100 years. Though a made-up name by Eastman himself (he liked the sound of the letter “K”), “kodaking” became a common verb for any amateur immersing themselves in photography or casual photo-ops. Before social media and photographic phones, it was Kodak’s cameras that allowed the public to take selfies and personal photos of life’s memories. 

More than most companies, Kodak, as camera connoisseurs, had to present a headquarters that was photogenic. In 1912, business was booming for the Kodak company, and George Eastman commissioned a new office tower to be built to showcase the Rochester behemoth. Completed in 1914, Kodak Tower soared to over 16 floors with a detailed terra-cotta exterior in the French-Renaissance style. The company took great pride in having the title of the tallest building in the city, and when the nearby Genesee Valley Trust building was projected to overtake that record in the 1920s, Eastman had three floors and a spire added to crown the already royal skyscraper. 

Catching an evening minor-league baseball game at Frontier Field, spectators can observe the alluring neon glimmer of the Kodak name hoisted on top of the tower by the outfield. Glowing in red, it’s a symbol of the company’s continued mark on “Flower City,” still evolving after having to navigate some hard times in the late parts of its history. It’s a mighty landmark of Rochester’s history, and though it lost the tallest building title in 1967 after almost 50 years, one will never see that neon burn green with envy. 

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