Through its fundraising efforts in support of the French Architectural Heritage in France and the United States, and with the support of its Chapters and benefactors, French Heritage Society is able to attribute significant restoration grants for historic monuments, landmarked or registered, and open to the public. It regularly attributes grants to projects submitted by its partner associations: Le Comité des Parcs et Jardins de France, La Demeure Historique, and Les Vieilles Maisons Françaises.
Auch is the historic capital of Gascony and the prefecture of the Gers department. The city has many treasures: medieval houses, the 14th-century Tower of Armagnac, a 15th-17th-century Cathedral with exceptional stalls and facade, a remarkable 18th-century City Hall, the second largest Pre-Colombian Art Collection in France (from a private donation), the Prefecture in the former 18th-century Episcopal Palace.
In 1854, the Prefect Paul Féart suggested to the mayor of the city of Auch that a monumental staircase be erected, which was inaugurated in 1863.
This monumental staircase, serves as a vital and aesthetic passage from the higher part of the city to the lower part. It is 35 meters high and opens onto a double flight of stairs with 374 steps. Its impressive architecture, inspired by the Renaissance, makes it one of the most beautiful monuments of the Gers region.
Built on embankments remaining from the demolition of the former “Chanoinerie” the work quickly deteriorated and the first repairs had to be undertaken in the early 1930s. In 1931, the sculptor Michelet executed the statue of d’Artagnan, the famous Gascon, Captain of the King’s Musketeers. The statue was placed on the first landing of the staircase.
In 1943, the work was classified as an Historic Monument. In 1978 and in 1997, the city of Auch undertook heavy consolidation work, shoring up and even reconstructing parts of the monumental staircase. In 1994, it was registered in the supplemental inventory of historic monuments.
Restoration: the monumental staircase
The royal château of all the Kings and Emperors of France for eight centuries, and the site of the 30th Anniversary Gala Dinner, the Château de Fontainebleau holds a unique place in the history of France. French Heritage Society will award a grant to help restore the Pavillon de l’Etang (Pond Pavilion) built by Le Vau for Louis XIV, restored and redecorated with painted wooden panels in 1813 under Napoléon Ier.
This pavilion surrounded by water is one of the emblematic sites in the gardens which symbolize the continuity of the Kings’ presence and embellishments of the Royal Palace of Fontainebleau. The pavilion features striking decorative wooden panels depicting foliage, birds and flowers in harmony with nature surrounding it.
The location of this pavilion, which seems to float on water, presents challenges to preserve it from moisture, a persistent problem since its construction. This is mentioned in the records of royal buildings, and even cited by Colbert in 1664, calling for the use of iron for “the windows of the château on the pond rather than wood that would warp due to moisture.”
Despite this drawback, this body of water and the building that adorn it make this site a magical place, well suited for fireworks that Louis XIV and his court loved. It was a setting much appreciated by the court, including to dine, as did Louis XIV and his family at times, as well as Tsar Peter the Great in 1717.
The project for which French Heritage Society has a goal of raising $60,000, is to restore the finely decorated wooden panels that are damaged, cracked, and whose paint is peeling and losing its brilliance.
Restoration: Pavillon de l’Etang
Michèle le Menestrel-Ullrich’s passion for historic preservation has not waned over the years. She has chosen the Château de Gizeux, in the Loire Valley, for this special campaign, a perfect symbol of everything for which she has worked for so many years. “This château is on a human scale,” she says with obvious delight and the same passion that led her to found the association 30 years ago. “It is so noble in its construction, so representative of the French heritage. It has lived and evolved over the centuries.”
But it is not just a monument to the past. “Today, Stéphanie and Géraud de Laffon have chosen to raise their six children there, perpetuating a chain of generations that have invested the château with a true spirit. It is open to the public and the entire family displays an inexhaustible imagination in organizing activities, which are much needed to support it and to keep it alive.” Gizeux is famous for its Galerie des Châteaux dating from the 17th century. “The murals of the impressive gallery require restoration, including one that represents the Château de Fontainebleau. It is, fittingly, the Château de Fontainebleau that will host our 30th Anniversary Gala in October. Could this be a sign of destiny?” Michèle wonders with amusement.
Michèle believes deeply in the owners’ devotion to the Château de Gizeux. “I can appreciate the spirit that the Laffon family has – that determination to create, preserve and flourish, even against great odds. After all, that is also the history of French Heritage Society”. So what better way to pay tribute to Michèle and her enduring vision that is French Heritage Society than by helping to support a project that embodies its goals, the Château de Gizeux.
Restoration: 17th century murals in the Galerie des Châteaux
The Order of the Canon of the "Prémontré", founded in 1120, coincides with the foundation of the Cistercian, Chartreux and Camaldules Orders. The village of Prémontré in the Saint-Gobain forest gives its name to the Order. The Order flourished and 100 years later counted 600 Abbeys in Brittany, Scotland, Italy, Poland, Cyprus and the Holy Lands. The Order follows the rule of Saint Augustus.
In the 13th century, the Order had several abbeys in Normandy, including the Abbaye de Mondaye, which would suffer from the wars of the succeeding centuries. Its moment of true glory was reached in the early 18th century with the construction of the present monastery.
In France, only two "Prémontré" Abbeys survived the French Revolution, the Abbaye de Frigolet near Avignon and the Abbaye de Mondaye. But the monks were dispersed, only to come back in 1859. They were again briefly dispersed under the Third Republic.
In 2009, the Abbey de Mondaye celebrated the 150th anniversary of the return of the religious community. Near D-Day Landing Beaches, it was the first French abbey to be liberated during WWII. Today 44 monks live at the abbey. The present complex of buildings dates from the early 18th century and displays a classic harmony of style which makes it an exceptional example of religious heritage from the period.
Restoration: the commons building
In 1673, the Bouc estate entered into the Albertas family by marriage. The gardens are created in 1751 by Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, First President of the Court of Accounts and Finance of Aix, and a garden enthusiast.
These 18th-century French gardens, inspired by Italian gardens, are structured in four successive terraces. The upper terrace, where water is captured via four sources, overlooks the garden.
The terrace flower beds are boxwood hedge designs, enhanced by four monumental statues, Hercules, David and two gladiators surrounding an octagonal reflecting pool with a central water jet.
One terrace is called “the lawn” with its cool rooms on either side of the basin with 17 jets (in keeping with the original plan from 1751) where eight stone tritons spew water.
The terrace of the Grand Canal with its statue, a symbol of the river tamed, its alignment of plane trees and water table in the shape of a lyre, welcomes visitors.
The gardens also feature a grotto, an old mill, a statue of Neptune, a Montpellier Maple, and an ancient oak tree. The goal is to rehabilitate the garden by following the original plans which the family possesses.
Restoration: architectural elements of the gardens
A grant campaign in honor of Marie-Sol de La Tour d’Auvergne, President Emeritus, has also been launched. Marie-Sol has lent her patronage to the campaign to raise funds for the Château de Saint Géry, located between Toulouse and Albi, a beautiful part of France. “It is an extremely elegant château,” she remarks. “Originally, it was a fortress on the Tarn, which was partially rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries. At that time, we used brick, so it has a beautiful pink color like many buildings in the region.” It is the château’s imposing brick façade overlooking the Tarn which is in need of restoration. Marie-Sol, who knows the château well, continues, “inside the château, on the ground floor and first floor, are an impressive series of wonderfully decorated rooms. The family is remarkable, with three generations coming together to preserve and to support the Château de Saint Géry.”
As part of the trip to Gascony and French Heritage Society’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, Marie-Sol enthusiastically offers, “I am pleased to receive you as my guests for lunch at the château which belongs to my late husband’s family. It has a spectacular view facing the Pyrenees, in Lauragais, not far from Toulouse. I hope to have other members of my family join us as well.”
In the evening, the inaugural dinner for the trip will be held at the Château de Saint Géry. Marie-Sol continues, “You will understand why I want to raise funds for Saint Géry, and maybe ask you to help me to raise funds for this project. It is very important because that family, as we always tell you, and you will certainly realize that if you come, is really doing all that they can to maintain their château. Upkeep is extremely costly, as we all know. So contribute your stone, contribute your brick to help the Château de Saint Géry. That would be wonderful and the best possible tribute that I can imagine. After all, this is what has motivated me for most of my life – to share and preserve the values that I grew up with, that all these beautiful châteaux throughout France represent.”
Restoration: the brick facade overlooking the Tarn River
The Château de La Bussière was once one of the strongholds separating the Ile-de-France region from Burgundy. It hosted renowned figures including Joan of Arc and Charles VII. Destroyed during the Wars of Religion it was reconstructed in the 17th century by the Tillet family who took control of its lands.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, windows were pierced and a huge pond and a park were designed by Le Nôtre. The storms of 1999 and 2002 badly damaged the immense roofs of the château.
The square tower and its cast iron gallery was restored along with two towers and the slate roof on the entrance pavilion dating from the 19th century. French Heritage Society made a grant for this urgent need in 2001.
The restoration of the roof of the grand attic has continually been postponed because of its large surface (500 square meters) that has to be restored in its entirety. A mold invasion has further added to the delay.
Restoration: roofing of the grand attic
The Château de Caumale was built in the 11th century and remodeled in the 16th and 17th centuries on a flat plain among the vineyards that produce Armagnac. In the 18th and the 19th centuries, the château’s new owners, the Delisle family participated in the colonial adventure of many people from Aquitaine who left for the Caribbean. The Delisle family’s history traces the evolution of the wealthy plantation owners who cultivated coffee, cacao and sugar first in the Caribbean and then established successful commercial ventures in America and is thus a portrait of that milieu in the 18th century.
The Delisle family became ship owners in Philadelphia and planters in Saint Domingue, Cuba and Louisiana. Joseph Delisle was a great friend of Rochambeau whom he received often in Caumale. In 1870, the domain was sold and used as a farm. It suffered severely from the phylloxera epidemics but fortunately, the Armagnac production resisted.
In 2001, the château was given to the current owners who expressed the desire to restore it and open it to the public. In 2009, most of the roofs were badly damaged and now the entire building suffers from water infiltration threatening the solidity of the structure. The four angle towers are in danger of collapse, and need immediate restoration.
Restoration: the roofs of the four towers
Located at the limits of the Auvergne region, in the small village of Chavaniac in the Haute-Loire department, this fortified house from the 14th century, altered and restored several times during its history, is the birthplace of the famous General Marquis de Lafayette.
The charm of his manor house and true dedication to preserve his memory led an American organization, Memorial Lafayette, followed by a team of enthusiasts, to revive the history of Lafayette and preserve his family’s former estate.
The château, its outbuildings and the park have been listed in the Supplementary Inventory of Historical Monuments since 1989. This historic and exceptional site has been under the management of the Department of the Haute-Loire since 2009. The department plans to restore it and recognize it as a remarkable site that has significantly marked this region.
This grant is funded thanks to the generosity of a small group of private donors.
Restoration: the windows of the entrance façade
The château was rebuilt in the mid 17th century on the ruins of an ancient medieval château. It has belonged to the same family since the mid 13th century. All three of the Thy brothers saved King Louis IX (Saint Louis) from what could have been a fatal attack with a sword during the 7th Crusade. The family motto then became: “Loyal in Adversity”. The family belongs to the Society of the Cincinnati as Alexandre de Thy participated in the American War of Independence and fought at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay as commander of the ship “Le Citoyen”.
The younger generation has actively and enthusiastically assumed its role in the restoration and management of the château. It is a U-shaped building surrounded by a moat. The central body is flanked by two rectangular pavilions, and completed by two wings ending with round towers. Its “Grand Vestibule” is a spacious and bright hall opening onto the park.
Restoration: carpentry and roofing of the northern façade of the central building
The Château de Mortiercrolles is a milestone in French architecture, illustrating the transition from the Gothic to the Renaissance style. At the end of the 13th century, the château de Mortiercrolles was a defensive fortress on a flat plain, at the crossroad of the Maine, Anjou and Brittany regions. Remodeled by its owner, Pierre de Rohan between 1480 and 1500, the transition between Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles is particularly visible on the façade of the main building. On the first story, the windows are Gothic while the dormer windows above date from the Renaissance.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the choice and the layout of the materials, the façades with an alternation of brick and freestone, the large openings, the delicately ornate pediment of the dormer windows replaces the heavy mass that had a defensive purpose only 50 years earlier. The estate is surrounded by a defensive wall with four towers and moats. Transformed into a farm in the 17th century, the château had not undergone any architectural modifications until 1965 when the Conseil Général of Mayenne purchased it in a very advanced state of disrepair.
An initial restoration campaign was undertaken, for the chapel that had suffered from a fire in the 19th century. In 1975, it was purchased by the current owners who continue its preservation, and have already undertaken important restoration work.
Restoration: the dormer windows on the southern façade of the main building and the surrounding wall
In 1516, the land of the Rochambeau family entered into the Vimeur family by marriage. The young couple had a mansion built on the site of 11th century ruins. In the 18th century, Jean-Baptiste de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau, Maréchal de France and hero of the American War of Independence inherited the estate.
He made major changes, eliminating the moats, the defensive walls and the towers overlooking the Loir River. He enlarged the main building and added square pavilions with mansart roofs. He also had the main building’s roof lowered, and changed the Medieval windows. What results is a coherent château with a military touch.
On the east side, a horseshoe staircase was built in 1805 with cour d’honneur on the west side. Facing the château is a semicircular façade built in 1841 after the collapse of the hill. A chapel was added in 1873.
In the 18th century, the caves were used to shelter the craftsmen employed by the Maréchal to sustain a garrison of 200 men. In 2010, part of the hill collapsed, blocking the entrance of the property and damaging the electrical system. The owners undertook urgent work to remove the collapsed stones and repair the electrical system.
Restoration: restoration and consolidation of the hill and the caves
In the 16th century, Raoul Moreau, treasurer of the King, had a château built on the site of Thoiry, a small hill surrounded by equidistant hills of the same height. Mathematical science nourished Raoul Moreau’s esoteric vision, inspired the calculation of perfect proportions of architectural forms to capture celestial energy to create the ideal climate for the alchemist’s research and meditation.
In 1559, the great Renaissance architect, Philibert Delorme, using the Golden Mean and the Divine Proportion, constructed a rare esoteric monument in perfect harmony with the forces of Nature and the Sun’s path. Perfectly placed in Time and Space, the château appears to be a bridge of light, in whose central arch, the Grand Vestible, the sun rises or sets following the summer and winter solstices.
In 1708 Claude Desgot, LeNôtre’s nephew, remodeled the park, adding terraces, central alleys, and flowerbeds. In the 19th century, that French garden was replaced by the more fashionable English one.
In 1970, the owners began restoring the park to its true historical dimensions. The central axis was restored, recreating the perspectives around the château. A violent storm devastated the park in 1999.
Restoration: stone benches, fountains and statue of Diane in the park
Built circa 1692, Deyo House is a striking example of the architectural transitions that took place between the 17th and 20th centuries in early colonial homes. The house reveals itself both as an example of a Flemish-style peasant structure as well as a more modern adaptation of an Edwardian-style “family” home.
Originally constructed by Pierre Deyo, Deyo House is one of seven stone houses on Historic Huguenot Street that serve as reminders of the location’s important role in the history of early French settlements in the Americas.
Along with his parents, Deyo immigrated to the United States from the Artois region of northern France, and his descendants continued to live in the historic New York home until the early 20th century. Now owned by the Huguenot Historical Society, Deyo House has been opened to the public as a museum since 1972 and is distinguished as an important representation of French contribution to the establishment of New York as it is known today.
Restoration: exterior painting of the house
La Belle is listed in the maritime archives of Rochefort as part of Louis XIV’s fleet and thus, in accordance with international maritime law, is a French naval vessel. The ship had been under the command of the famous French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, as he explored the Mississippi River and discovered its source.
After years of conservation since its excavation in 1997, a final resting place for the ship is under preparation along with other French Colonial artifacts at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin.
As one of the most important shipwrecks ever to be discovered in North America, La Belle is a visible testimonial to the French Colonial presence in the Mississippi Valley and Texas. The ship offers a window into the world of early 17th-century French explorations, including trading goods, muskets, munitions and other items required to establish a colony – all in remarkably good condition.
Restoration: preservation of the hull of La Belle
Situated on a mountaintop outside Charlottesville, Virginia, Monticello, a 5,000-acre plantation, was the home of Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States, and founder of the University of Virginia.
Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts about domestic architecture were transformed by the five years he spent in Paris from 1784 until 1789. Upon his return to America, he planned to radically remodel his Palladian-inspired house into one that reflected French neoclassical ideals.
Among the features that he adopted were French sash doors. But he also admired their long casement windows that extended to the floor. At Monticello, he introduced his version in the form of a triple-sash window. Monticello’s current window blinds, which date from the late 19th or early 20th century, have been repaired numerous times and have reached the point now where many are no longer serviceable.
The plan for a general substitution of new and more accurate exterior blinds is to begin with the Dining Room and Chamber windows on Monticello’s iconic West (Garden) Front. These are the most prominent of all the triple-sash windows used at Monticello and will be restored with the help of this grant.
Restoration: the French inspired blinds for the windows
Constructed in 1929 and administered by the Philadelphia Museum of Art for more than seventy years, the Rodin Museum is renowned for both the beauty of its grounds and its architecture.
More than 120 sculptures representing every aspect of Rodin’s career and all of the artist’s major projects, including bronze casts of the master’s greatest works, are showcased within a neoclassical Beaux Arts gem set amid an elegant garden designed by the French-born visionaries: architect Paul Cret and landscape designer, Jacques Gréber.
Restoration: historic bronze-framed windows
Meridian House was constructed in the early 1920’s, and was designed by John Russell Pope, a student of both Columbia University and the École des Beaux-Arts of Paris, and the architect of sites of national importance such as the Jefferson Memorial and the National Archives in Washington, DC.
Considered one of the greatest examples of 18th-century French style architecture within the United States, Meridian House has been recognized on the National Register of Historic Places since 1973. The famed Louis XVI-inspired entrance hall of the house is host to four oil-on-canvas paintings acquired by the original owner of the home, Ambassador Irwin Laughin, during his frequent travels throughout Europe.
The building is currently part of The Meridian International Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting international understanding.
Restoration: four oil-on-canvas decorative mural paintings