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Heritage >> Architecture & Monuments
The George C. Marshall Center
A Living Legacy of Cooperation
In a nine-year $5 million project, the U.S. State Department has restored the Official State Apartment known today as the George C. Marshall Center in the Hôtel de Talleyrand in Paris, France. The restoration was funded by private foundations and individuals from both sides of the Atlantic. Ten rooms were restored to create a setting for high level international conferences, meetings and receptions. Three rooms will also house a permanent exhibit commemorating the hard work and commitment of Europeans and Americans to successfully carry out the Marshall Plan for European Economic Recovery after WWII.

The State Apartment interiors have great historical and architectural significance for both France and the United States. Built in 1767 and completed in 1769 for the comte de Saint-Florentin, King Louis the XV’s own architects Ange-Jacques Gabriel and Jean-Francois-Thérèse Chalgrin worked with the finest of French artisans to construct the mansion. The building is a monument to 18th century French craftsmanship.

In the early nineteenth century Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, the famous French statesman, lived and received Czar Alexander I of Russia and Lord Wellington of Great Britain to negotiate peace in Europe in the Official State Apartment of the Hôtel de Talleyrand.

The Rothschild family later owned and cared for the building for over 100 years. After WWII the U.S. State Department rented the building from the Rothschilds as the headquarters for the Administration of the Marshall Plan for European Economic Recovery (1947-1952). The U.S. State Department purchased the building from the Rothschild Family in 1950.

Between 1952 and 2008 the building housed the Consulate of the American Embassy in Paris, the offices of Public and Cultural Affairs, the Benjamin Franklin Documentation Center and the George C. Marshall Center.

Today, the George C. Marshall Center reception rooms, the Paris offices of the law firm, Jones Day and the World Monuments Fund Europe and France together offer a new vitality for the building. Thus, the Hôtel de Talleyrand has launched upon a new era in its history of international communication and culture.

The Marshall Plan : A Vision of a Family of Nations

The George C. Marshall Center in the Hôtel de Talleyrand houses a unique exhibit honoring the pivotal European contributions to the success of the European Recovery Program (ERP), better known as the Marshall Plan. It took shape over four years through tough negotiations between the Americans, headquartered in the Hôtel de Talleyrand, and the Europeans in their new counterpart organization, the OEEC, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation. It was a short time to change the world—to rebuild after the war, to increase production, modernize industrial and agricultural economies, and lower barriers. As you look around the exhibit, you will see state-of-the-art products and projects—a German camera, an Italian typewriter, a Danish fishing net woven in Italy from American-grown cotton, and a Missouri mule plowing alongside a Greek donkey. These exhibits, images, and much more bear witness to the energy and enthusiasm of the joint rebuilding efforts at both the national and local levels.

The Restoration of the State Apartments as an Atelier for Franco-American Artisan Exchange

French Artisans, as well as the two French Artisan Exchange Scholars, and “Marshall Scholars,” representing the continuing academic interest in George Marshall and the Marshall Plan, will be present at the event and can be interviewed about their work.

The U.S. Department of State and the French-American Cultural Foundation prepared to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan in 2006 by creating an artisan scholarship program, recognizing that artisan crafts are an endangered art with few ateliers, few schools, and few students. Under the patronage of Ambassador Jean David Levitte, $80,000 was privately raised at an event at Gold Leaf Studios in Washington, D.C., to support three gilding artisan exchange scholarships between France and America. A French-American Cultural Foundation panel of expert judges selects qualified artisans to receive the Watin Scholarship for three-month international artisan apprenticeships. The scholarship is named in honor of Jean Félix Watin, who was born in 1728 and worked as a master gilder and interior designer in Paris throughout his life. Several French and American artisans selected through this program participated in the work on the Marshall Center Restoration, and they are present this evening.

Of particular note are two unique objects created under the first French/American Artisan Exchange Program: a gilded frame replica of the frame that holds an engraving of Louis XVI that was presented in December 1791 by the French Ambassador to George Washington, and a restored 18th-century-style console on which Elizabeth Holt, the American Artisan Exchange Scholar, worked under the guidance of Atelier Maury in Paris. The frame will be presented by the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD to that organization, which succeeded the European administrative side of the Marshall Plan, the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC).

The framed scarves to be presented this evening to the ambassadors of the seventeen Marshall Plan countries were designed and produced by the French firm, L.R. Paris, incorporating the flags of those countries, architectural details in the Center’s rooms, and salient words from George C. Marshall’s January 1948 Congressional testimony to urge passage of the legislation for the economic recovery of Europe. A close look at the scarves reveals architectural details of the panels and ceilings of the ten rooms of the Marshall Center. These were the rooms at the heart of activity during the Marshall Plan: the offices of Ambassador Averell Harriman, the Special Representative of the Marshall Plan and the liaison to the European nations

An Overview of the Marshall Center Restoration - Franco-American partnership at its best

The State Apartment interiors have great historical and architectural importance for both France and the United States, in order to ensure a high quality, irreproachable restoration the US State Department Overseas Buildings Operations office commissioned the expertise of Monsieur Robert Carlhian, a well known expert in Eighteenth-century interiors and Monsieur Fabrice Ouziel, interior architect and specialist in Eighteenth-century architecture and décors as historical and technical advisors. The two worked closely together until the death of Mr.Carlhian in August 2001. Mr.Ouziel has continued as advisor to the project.

Valuable historical research was conducted in various archive collections as well as public and private libraries in order to understand the building and its décors. Preliminary tests and restoration research were conducted in the rooms particularly to uncover original color traces and gilding. The findings from this study phase represented the basis on which the technical scope of work was established. A call for skilled artisans was launched in order to select the best firms specializing in restoration techniques for the project. Over 150 French artisans from 30 French firms specialized in restoration contributed to the project. Several experts from the leading French museums also assisted the project.

The George C. Marshall Center encompasses two distinct decorative groups of rooms. One group is the State Apartment of the Hôtel de Saint-Florentin which represents one of the first appearances of what would be later referred to as the style of Louis XVI. The other group combines three beautiful rooms which were added to the original State Apartment in the nineteenth-century by the Rothschild family.

The Minister’s State Apartment, designed for the reception of important visitors, is situated on the first floor of the residence. It consisted of seven official reception rooms representing an exceptional floor plan for French architecture.

The research provided confirmation, contrary to the general assumption, that almost all of the decorative elements dating back to the eighteenth-century were still in place in the State Apartment despite the more or less important alterations and the modifications that the succession of various owners had made to the building.
Historic research and laboratory analysis indicated that the sculpted wood panels in the eighteenth-century rooms were a light gray tone ornamented with gilding. This is quite exceptional since in the late Eighteenth-century, white and gold were more widely used.

Great care has been taken therefore to bring back the color of the glue-base paint that was used and can still be found under multiple layers of oil-base paint. The reviving of authentic water-base gold leaf was also a priority in this restoration program.

Three rooms decorated for the Rothschild family between 1860 and 1872 represent, in their own right, a coherent and “grand” décor of the nineteenth-century. One of the rooms, the Boudoir, contains precious painted arabesques panels from the end of the eighteenth-century.
To complement the restoration of the decorative elements in the Center, various examples of fabrics and furniture have been chosen on the basis of precise archival documentation. The addition of these elements helps recreate the harmony and splendor for which this official apartment was once known.


  A Tribute to Franco-American Friendship: The Restoration of the George C. Marshall Center in Paris

Talleyrand Building - Photo DOS

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