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Everett H. Ortner

Everett Ortner is an editor, writer, and photographer by profession. His retirement from Popular Science magazine ended a 33-year career with that publication, starting as an Assistant Editor and ending as Editor. Prior to joining Popular Science he worked for several other publishing houses. He has written hundreds of articles on building technology, photography, preservation, and urban revival.

Since 1963, when he and his wife, Evelyn, bought a brownstone in Park Slope, Brooklyn, he has been a missionary for the brownstone-revival movement in New York City, and for urban revival nationally. He was a leader in the early days of the revival movement in Park Slope, a photographer and public-relations man for the Park Slope Civic Council, and a founder, with Joe Ferris, of the Park Slope Betterment Committee, which organized many series of particularized house tours (hard-selling houses that needed work). With Ken Patton as chairman, he was a co-founder and first president (1968) of the Brownstone Revival Committee of New York, now the Brownstone Revival Coalition--a citywide organization devoted to the promotion and preservation of New York City's older communities. He is currently its Chairman Emeritus. The BRC publishes a newsletter, "The Brownstoner," sponsors lectures and workshops on architectural history and preservation topics, and acts frequently as the voice of New York's brownstone communities. He continues to write for and edit "The Brownstoner."

In 1966, with his wife, Evelyn Ortner, the two persuaded the Brooklyn Union Company to restore an abandoned brownstone in Park Slope. It was so successful in attracting attention that the company made a movie of the restoration, which received considerable publicity. Following on the success of that endeavor, again at Everett Ortner's sug-gestion, in 1968 the Brooklyn Union Gas Company, embarked, over a period of 7 years, under the direction of Everett Ortner and Nat Hendricks, a fellow brownstoner, on a series of Brooklyn Brownstone Fairs at the company's downtown headquarters to publicize Brooklyn's great 19th century housing stock. As many as 25,000 people, mostly non-Brooklynites, attended each of these weekend fairs, and many continued on to busses that were provided for tours of any of six brownstone communities. Many, as a result, came to live in Brooklyn brownstones. Also with Brooklyn Union, Ortner assisted in the creation of a series of films about Brooklyn brownstones that were widely circulated, both throughout New York City and elsewhere, and were enormously influential in bringing new residents to Brooklyn’s older communities. To celebrate the bicentennial of the Battle of Brooklyn, he wrote the script for a movie, “The Battle of Brooklyn,” produced by Brooklyn Union.

Based on the success of his New York program for urban revival, in 1972 Everett Ortner conceived and directed the first Back to the City Conference in New York--a conference that brought together 250 representatives of 82 cities across the nation. Out of the conference and the strongly felt need for a national organization to focus on urban residential revival through the preservation of old communities, came Back to the City, Inc. This organization, of which Everett Ortner was president until 1983, sponsored a series of annual conferences in a dozen major cities: Washington, Milwaukee, Cleveland, San Antonio, Saint Paul, Hartford, Miami Beach, etc.

Over the years, Everett Ortner has also served as a Board member of Preservation Action (Washington, D.C.), trustee and Vice President of the Brooklyn Historical Society, Vice President of the Park Slope Civic Council, Board member and President of Brooklyn's historic Montauk Club, and other organizations.

Now, in his eighties and retired since 1985, he continues, as Chairman Emeritus, his preservation activities with the Brownstone Revival Coalition, writing and editing its newsletter, contributing photographs to its annual Calendar, and offering occasional lectures sponsored by that organization. He is also, with his wife, Evelyn, founder (1998) and Chairman of Preservation Volunteers, a new organization linked to REMPART, a French association that enlists volunteers of all ages to work on preservation projects, primarily in France, but also in England, Italy, and, now, in the United States. Every year, since 2002, Preservation Volunteers has brought French volunteers to the United States to work on American preservation projects, and has sent American volunteers to France.

He is the recipient of many awards for leadership in urban revitalization: Among them: "Distinguished Citizen Award" from the City of Louisville, "Keys to the City" from Miami Beach, Brooklyn Borough President's "Leadership Citation," "1972 Cinderella Award" from Brooklyn Union Gas Company, "Community Service Award" from the Brooklyn Independent Democrats, "George Lovgren Memorial Award" from the Park Slope Civic Council, "Spirit of Life" award from the New York Congregational Home, “Lifetime Achievement in Excellence in Historic Achievement” from the Preservation League of New York State, “Exemplary Service in Community Preservation” from the Historic Districts Council of New York City, "Lifetime Achievement Award" (2005) from the New York chapter of the Victorian Society of the United States, one of six recipients of the 2005 Fulbright College, University of Arkansas, "Distinguished Alumni Award," and most recently (March, 2006), jointly with his wife, Evelyn, the New York Landmarks Conservancy's prestigious Lucy G. Moses Preservation Leadership Award for 2005.

He has served as a volunteer photographer for Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The Garden has used many of his photographs for postcards. As a history buff, he has taught a course on "The Brownstone Age" at the New School, and he lectures frequently on the Brownstone Age and Brooklyn and New York history.

Also: he is a native of Lowell, Mass., a graduate of the University of Arkansas (1939), and a decorated veteran of World War II. (As an infantry lieutenant in France com-manding a machine-gun platoon, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with a V for Valor and a citation for "meritorious achievement in ground operations against the enemy.") He is an ardent traveler and a skilled photographer. He maintains a huge archive of photographs of New York and Brooklyn. He is listed in "Who's Who in America."

And also: he was married to Evelyn Ortner, (recently deceased), an interior designer and preservationist, a founding member of the Victorian Society in America, former Chairman of the St. Ann Center for Restoration and the Arts, a Board member of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, a docent at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and a leader in cultural causes in New York City.