Sixteen Years Old and Going Strong!

No longer a newcomer, Preservation Volunteers is advancing both nationally and, through its exchange program, internationally. Since 2002 French volunteers have been coming to the United States to work on American projects, and in 2004 and 2005 Preservation Volunteers has sent American volunteers to France.


The Founding of Preservation Volunteers

A 13th century French Chateau, its inner courtyard strewn with the stone blocks that seven centuries earlier had formed its walls and towers, was the inspiration for the founding of Preservation Volunteers. It was winter, 1978. Two Americans, Evelyn and Everett Ortner, traveling in Normandy, were intrigued by the fact that it was crawling with workers, perhaps twenty or more: French volunteers, the Americans were told.

In 1998, twenty years later, the Ortners returned to see an amazing transformation: the guard tower and fortifications had been resurrected. The loose stones had all been put back where they had been centuries before. Displays in the huge lower vaults showed drawings and photographs by the organization that had been responsible for the magnificent reincarnation of the ancient chateau.

That organization was REMPART. To Everett Ortner, an active preservationist, it was an inspiration. Everett Ortner is a photographer and his pictures of the Chateau Gratot, displayed at a meeting of the Brownstone Revival Coalition, got an instant response. Brownstone Revival Coalition's President at the time, Dexter Guerrieri, liked the idea from the start. So from then on the Brownstone Revival Coalition became the de facto “incubator” of Preservation Volunteers. Later, with the help and guidance of REMPART, Preservation Volunteers modeled itself after that organization, and, 3 years later its first projects came into being.


Preservation Volunteers' Startup Years: 2002-2004

2002:  PV's first year of operation. French and American volunteers worked at restoration projects in The Green-Wood Cemetery and in Brooklyn's historic Fort Greene Park. (A picture of the five French volunteers posing before a stone marker on a plot owned by a French association appeared in the cemetery's annual report--the first time that its report had carried a picture of live persons in its century and two-thirds' existence.) Other volunteers, French and American, started the restoration process -- carpentry and painting -- on a deteriorated century-old one-room schoolhouse in Gunnison, Colorado restoring it for use as a community center.

2003: Five Preservation Volunteers–three French, two American-- labored on the classic 1823 United Methodist Church in Nantucket, Mass. All were lodged in a private home (with back-yard pool). Six French volunteers painted the interior and much of the exterior of the 1776 Lefferts homestead in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park.

2004: Through arrangement with New York's Historic House Trust, five French volunteers worked at the 1776 Morris-Jumel house in Manhattan while four volunteers worked at The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. All nine were lodged in Park Slope homes in Brooklyn. At the same time, four American volunteers helped to restore a 19th-century structure in Gothic, Colorado, an abandoned mining town 9,000 feet high in the Rockies, for use by the renowned Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.