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The George C. Marshall Center: A Living Legacy of Cooperation

The Talleyrand Building

The Talleyrand Building

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.

Cultural Heritage Endowment Fund

Now that the historic restoration of the rooms has been completed, a Cultural Heritage Maintenance Program Endowment has been established to help fund the proper care of the Department’s Cultural Assets and Culturally Significant Properties. Cultural Asset Managers, stationed overseas and regionally responsible for these assets and properties, have been specially trained to assure their proper care. The Portland Oregon Friends of American Embassies held the first fund raiser for this program in 2009.

Marshall Scholars : Keeping History Alive

Angélique Durand (France): I was riveted by my first screening of “Copper and its Alloys,” a 1954 American technical documentary in “The American Films” collection conserved since 1960 by the French Ministry of Agriculture. Intrigued by the roles that the Marshall Plan and U.S. Information Service films played in the political and cultural French-American relations during the Cold War, I determined to complete my basic research in preparation for a doctorate at the University of Versailles-Saint Quentin. Dissertation topic: Visual Propaganda of the American Administration in France, 1948-1955

Altug Akin (Turkey): My Ph.D. dissertation at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain, is tentatively titled Communicating Trans-nationally: The case of Turkey. The Marshall Plan films played an important role in post-World War II communications for development, especially in Turkey. I will soon present the initial results of a project on Marshall Plan films at a conference in Hamburg, Germany, and plan to publish a book on the subject after graduation and post-doctoral research in Turkey.

Jeanpaul Goergen (Germany): As a film historian, I have specialized in German documentaries. I have studied and written on the re-education films distributed by the Americans in Germany after World War II, and co-curated a retrospective of Marshall Plan and other postwar films at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival. I am currently involved at the University of Hamburg in a research project of the DFG (German Research Foundation) on 1950s informational films, including Marshall Plan films, that promoted the concept of the unification of Europe.

Regina M. Longo (Italy): PhD Candidate, University of California, Santa Barbara: My father’s close attachment to his family in Italy has strongly influenced me, and my personal and intellectual lives straddle Italy and the United States. My research focuses on Marshall Plan films shown in Italy. They bring to light the continuities and cooperation between Italian and U.S. film industries throughout most of the 20th century. Dissertation Title: Giuseppe in the Factory, Giovanni on the Farm, and a ‘Gun for Gaetano,’ Marshall Plan Films in Italy, 1948-1955: A Project of Postwar Consensus Building

Wesley O’Dell (The U.S.): While studying at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, I became involved with the George C. Marshall Foundation, first as a Marshall Undergraduate Scholar studying George Kennan, and later as a researcher and annotator studying Marshall in the late 1940s. Currently pursuing a Master of Philosophy degree in history at the University of Cambridge, England, I study Marshall's administration of the State Department. Marshall's statesmanship is a major inspiration for me as I begin a Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins University studying International Relations in the fall.

Dr. Maria Fritsche (Austria): I became particularly interested in the Marshall Plan when my research focus shifted from World War II to the reconstruction of post-World War II Europe. I am currently analyzing visual representations of Europe in Marshall Plan films to discern how the medium of film helped promote the idea of a united Europe long before its political realization. The tentative title of the result of my post-doctoral research is The Making of Europe. Visions of Europe in American Marshall Plan Film Productions (1948-1954).

Anne-Lieke Struijk (The Netherlands): During research for my Master’s degree in American Studies at Utrecht University, I became interested in Dutch-produced Marshall Plan films, never before researched. They illustrate transatlantic cooperation and present questions concerning postwar American imperialism. Today, when public diplomacy seems increasingly relevant, the stories behind these films offer an example of the challenges and successes that came along with the economic rebuilding of a nation at that time. Thesis title: Marshall Plan on Screen: Joint Venture or American Imperialism?

"Hugo at the Circus" - The Quest to Retrieve Lost Marshall Plan Films from Obscurity

In late 1949 the Marshall Plan began to promote European unification using various media, including film. One of these, a 1950s series of six short animated films collectively called “Hugo at the Circus,” was all but lost and forgotten.

Early in 2005 Mette Peters of the Netherlands Institute for Animated Films emailed a query to Linda Christenson, an authority on the locations of Marshall Plan films. The Institute had a copy of one of the Hugo films, and Mette asked about any known connection between that series and the Marshall Plan. But Linda had never heard of them and could find no connection.

In early 2009 Linda got an email from Maria Fritsche, an Austrian film scholar looking for Marshall Plan films designed to promote European unification. Shortly afterward, Dutchman Lex Van Delden, Jr., wrote Linda, also trying to track down the “Hugo” films, for which his father had composed the music. Lex had a 1989 letter from the late Marten Toonder, the founder of “Toonder Studios,” confirming a Marshall Plan connection. Aha! Linda suggested that Lex contact Mette, who replied that three of the six Hugo films had indeed been located in the BundesArchiv (Federal Archive) in Berlin.

Coincidentally, Dutch author and cartoonist Jan-Willem de Vries wrote to Lex seeking information for a biography he is writing on Marten Toonder and the films of his studio. Thus began an almost-daily four-way correspondence among Linda, Maria, Lex, and Jan-Willem, with occasional exchanges with Mette and others. Exhilarated by the almost simultaneous convergence of interests, they began a mission to obtain copies of the three Hugo films. The quest was on!

In late April, Maria went to Berlin and, with the help of BundesArchiv staff member Babette Heusterberg, screened the three films. Maria also met German film scholar Jeanpaul Goergen, who had earlier shared the location of the three known films with Mette and who had purchased the only known copy of a fourth one.

Linda and her husband and business partner, Eric Christenson, shared this story with Vivien Woofter, the U.S. State Department’s Historic Conservation Officer in charge of the restoration project of the George C. Marshall Center. Vivien believed the story had a role to play in the Center’s May 25th celebration in Paris. But roadblocks remained.

The 16mm films were old, their color badly faded. They would have to be restored, digitized in DVD format, and their German narration translated. Permission would be required to get preview copies and later to show them—and on and on. And who would support the needed work?

In September Catherine Cormon of the Eye Film Institute Netherlands wrote to offer the Museum’s financial support for the restoration of the films in collaboration with the BundesArchiv! Paul Poelstra of the Toonder Studios and Willem Feltkamp, of the Toonder Heritage Foundation, gave permission for the films to be shown at the celebration.

The films have been rescued from obscurity, restored, and two are being brought to you here. All four will be available for researchers and scholars in the not-too-distant future.


Restoration of the George C. Marshall Center - Hôtel de Talleyrand - American Embassy in Paris - Donors

Major Philanthropist
The World Monuments Fund in collaboration with: 
Fondation TOTAL
Robert W. Wilson Challenge to Conserve Our Heritage
Kress Foundation European Preservation Program
Foundation for Art and Preservation in Embassies in collaboration with:
Mrs. Betty Knight Scripps
The Florence Gould Foundation
 Daimler Chrysler AG
Major Benefactor 
The Getty Foundation
FedEx Corporation
The Frederick H. Bedford Jr. and Margaret S. Bedford Foundation
 Ms. Linda J. Wachner

Sustaining Benefactor
French Heritage Society
French-American Cultural Foundation
Rothschild & Cie Bank
 Mr. and Mrs. Sid Richardson Bass
Baron et Baronne David de Rothschild
Baron Guy de Rothschild
Mrs. Jack C. Massey
Hermès International
 M. Claude Sere
 H.F. Lenfest Foundation
Mrs. Jayne Wrightsman
Mr. and Mrs. Roupen Gulbenk
Banque Transatlantique
The Mary W. Harriman Foundation
M. et Mme Bertrand Collomb
The George C. Marshall Foundation
Portland Friends of American Embassies
Lafarge North America, Inc.
The Honorable Howard H. Leach and Mrs. Leach
M. et Mme Stéphane Baquet, LVS Antiquités
Mr. Terry M. Parsons
Mrs. Margaret Sokol
The Honorable Craig R. Stapleton and Mrs. Stapleton
 Tishman Speyer Corporation
M. Michel Doligé
Cartier International
The Felix & Elizabeth Rohatyn Foundation
Ms. Vivien P. Woofter

Dr. and Mrs. James Ewing
Caterpillar Corporation
M. Pierre Bergé
DHL Worldwide Express
M. Yves Saint Laurent
The Achelis Foundation
The Honorable Walter J.P. Curley and Mrs. Curley
Mr. Richard K. McKee
DACOR Bacon House Foundation
Ms. Alexandra Stabler
Ms. Elizabeth Agnew
The Honorable Albert J. Beveridge III and Mrs. Beveridge
Mrs. Joan H. Colbert
The Honorable Bruce C. Gelb
Mr. and Mrs. David A. Kemnitzer
Mme. Martine Klotz
Livingston Foundation
The Honorable James G. Lowenstein
Ms. Harriet McGuire
Mr. and Mrs. Paul E. Rowe
Professor Thomas C. Schelling and Alice Coleman-Schelling
Richard L. and Jacqueline B. Sellers
Ms. Hildegard B. Shishkin

Mr. Richard E. Ford 
Dr. Roger L. and Donah J. Burgess
R.G. & M.M. Cleveland
The Honorable John Gunther Dean and Mrs. Dean
Mrs. Richard R. Hallock
The Honorable Patrick F. Kennedy and Ms. M. Elizabeth Swope
Frederick L. and Betty Morefield
The Honorable Thomas R. Pickering and Alice Stover Pickering
Ms. Gail Jackson
Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Kott
Mr. Allen Decuyper
Mrs. Mary S. Humelsine
Ms. Leah London
Mr. Steve Sirls
Mrs. Loretta Casey
Mr. and Mrs. Julian J. Ewell
Ms. Gabrielle Griswold
The Honorable Arthur A. Hartman and Mrs. Hartman
Dr. and Mrs. Jacob J. Kaplan
Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Krill
The Honorable George Quincey Lumsden, Jr. and Mrs. Lumsden
Mr. and Mrs. Raymond C. Malley
Mr. and Mrs. Frederick G. Mason, Jr.
The Honorable Robert H. Miller and Mrs. Miller
Mrs. Waldemar A. Nielsen
Dr. and Mrs. Eliot Sorel
Ms. Alexandra Sundquist
Ms. Ann V. Townsend
Mr. Keith L. Wauchope
Mr. and Mrs. Charles T. Cross
Ms. Leila F. Dane
Mrs. Alfred P. Dennis
Colonel Harry O. Amos (Ret.)
Charles and Patricia Bibbe
Ms. Grace M. Brunton
Mr. Robert L. Burns
Mr. William D. Calderhead
Mr. and Mrs. John B. Chambers
Mr. John T. Craig
Ms. Valerie Crotty
Ms. Caroline Cunningham
Mr. Ernest B. Dane III
Mr. and Mrs. Robert Duval
The Honorable Michael E.C. Ely
Ms. Shirley G. Fearey
The Honorable Edward Ridley Finch, Jr.
Mr. Richard N. Gardner
Dr. Aleen Grabow
Ms. Roberta W. Greene
Mr. and Mrs. Frank Herrera
Ms. Anne Kauzlarich
Ms. Wilma LaMee
Ms. Janine Lydman
Ms. Susan L. Mills
Mr. Mustafa Miseli
Mr. Ned Earl Morris
Mr. Kevin Lee Sarring
Ms. Catherine St. Denis
Mr. and Mrs. Monteagle Stearns
Ms. Betty Keene Taska
Ms. Cynthia A. Thomas
Mr. and Mrs. Morris F. Weisz
Ms. Sherrill B. Wells
Ms. Jean M. Wilkowski
Ms. Sandra Wilson

Photo Gallery

  • Mrs. Levitte and Ambassador Ripkin Photo gallery of the re-opening of the Marshall Center