Fledge watchers and fans of the Rochester falcons have grown accustomed to the area around the Kodak Tower where the Peregrines do much of their flying. Over the years, a common set of terms has evolved to help orient everyone to the various locations where the birds might be spotted. For new watchers or those unfamiliar with the area, these terms can be a little confusing, or just plain incomprehensible. We’ll try to de-mystify the area with this quick tour around the Kodak office complex and its surroundings.
The Kodak Office complex is a series of interconnected buildings that sprang up throughout the first half of the 20th century. You will not be surprised to learn that the heart of the complex is the Kodak tower. This 19-story building serves as the world headquarters of the Eastman Kodak Company. Its art deco facade contains a number of ledges and other features that mimic the natural cliffside environment of the wild Peregrine, which is one reason it’s such a good spot for Mariah and Kaver to raise their young.
Courtesy of fledge watcher Lou comes the illustrated view of the Kodak tower at the right (click the small image to see it full-sized). Taken from the visitor parking lot across State Street, it shows the east face of the Kodak tower.
At the very top of the tower is a square structure that contains the machinery for the tower’s elevators. The Peregrines’ nest box is installed on its south face. Watchers call this structure the cupola. The playpen is a catwalk around the base of the cupola. It’s surrounded by an iron railing. The playpen is about four feet below the nestbox– an easy hop for the pre-fledge eyases. Above the nest box is the eight-sided turret-like steeple. It sits on a broad square platform that watchers call the Launch Pad. It got its name from the four decorative objects at each corner, which resemble squat rockets. The launch pad is a popular perch for the falcons. At the peak of the steeple is a decorative iron flag containing the letters EK. At one time it functioned as a lightning rod. At the base of the flag pole are several decorative iron lilies on curved stems. They’re favorite perches for Kaver, who likes to hunt from this high vantage point.
Below the cupola in large yellow letters are the KODAK signs on the north & south sides. This level is referred to as the Kodak Sign Level, or the 20th Floor. It features a decorative stone railing carved in the shape of stylized dolphins. The falcons often perch on this railing, which has been named (oddly enough) the Dolphin Railing. There is a catwalk behind the railing which can hide the falcons from view.
The 19th floor also hosts a stone railing, this one carved in a scalloped pattern. It’s called the scallop railing, or 19th floor railing by watchers. Like the dolphin rail level, there is a catwalk here that the falcons can access, hiding them from view.
The 18th floor features a wrought iron railing and decorative columns, with a deep balcony that surrounds the floor. The falcons can easily disappear on the balcony.
A wide flat ledge runs around the 17th floor, and it’s a popular landing spot for the fledglings and adults alike. It’s broad enough that if a falcon moves against the wall while on the ledge it can’t be seen from the ground.
The 16th floor features another ledge with cornices that provide a lot of nooks and crannies where the falcons can sit. They are often hard to see on this ledge, though it’s not as deep as the one above. The windows at this level are fitted into rounded arches in pairs, with a decorative disk cut into the stonework between each pair of arches. This level used to be the top of the Kodak tower, and George Eastman’s office was in the southeast corner on this floor. The floors above were added in the 1930’s during a construction boom in downtown Rochester.
The last true ledge on the building occurs on the 13th floor. This ledge is not as deep as the ones above, and the falcons are usually easy to spot here. The rest of the tower has flat sides, and the only good perches are the copper-clad window sills.
Building 9 sits to the south of the tower. It has six occupied floors, with machinery and other infrastructure in the seventh. It has a broad roof that is sometimes used as a landing spot by the falcons, especially when they first fledge. Between Building 9 and the tower is a small, mostly windowless structure called Building 3. The falcons do not often land here, but fledglings may use it from time to time.
Immediately north of the Kodak tower is the glass and black metal-sided Building 6. It also serves as an intermediate perch for the new fledglings, thanks to its wide flat roof.
Attached to Building 6 is the large Building 10, the northernmost building in the Kodak Office complex. Building 10 has nine occupied floors, and features the Kodak employee store and one of the complex’s two dining centers, both on the top floor. It has a peaked roof that runs east to west and makes a popular perch for the fledglings (two can be seen in the image at the right). Steam pipes and air conditioning machinery dominate much of the flat part of the roof. Stair towers at the southeast corner (the near corner in this picture) and the middle of the east facade are characterized by vertical columns of frosted glass.
To the west are several more buildings, but the falcons rarely use them as perching or landing spots, so we won’t cover them here.
Across State Street to the east of the tower is the Kodak Visitor Parking Lot (V1). Beyond the lot and across Mill Street is Rochester Gas and Electric’s BeeBee Station. This mostly decommissioned power station features three tall smokestacks, none of which are in use, and a maze of tin-sided buildings.
The three stacks are aligned north to south. The southernmost stack is painted at the top with a logo for the High Falls historic district. Watchers usually refer to this one as the High Falls stack. The middle, or Center stack has its base some twenty feet below street level. If a falcon falls down this smokestack it can be tricky to get out, since the bird must work its way up along rusted stairways and a bewildering maze of cables and pipes. The good news is that a bird can basically walk up to ground level, though it usually takes some time to do that. The Northern stack is smaller in diameter than the other two. It’s iron catwalk is lower than those on the other stacks, and it has a ladder on the east side that is often used as a hunting and observation perch. Each smokestack has a wide iron catwalk and railing about halfway up its length. Fledglings and adults like to use these catwalks as perches. They’re easier for inexperienced juveniles to land on, especially if they tire themselves out from a long flight.
Here’s an overhead view of the area provided by Google Maps and annotated by Rochester Falconcam fan Mitchell. It gives a better idea of the relationship between the various buildings and other structures in the area around the Kodak Office complex.