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Guide to the Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs ARC.306

Brooklyn Historical Society
128 Pierrepont Street
Brooklyn 11201

Brooklyn Historical Society

Collection processed by John Zarrillo. Digital materials processed by Erica López in 2019.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 08, 2021
eng using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Last updated by John Zarrillo Revised by Maggie Schreiner to include links to digitized AV material. Revised by Maggie Schreiner to reflect born digital materials  , May 2017 , July 2019 , January 2021

Biographical note

Everett H. Ortner was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, on August 25, 1919. When he was child his family relocated to Brooklyn, New York. He attended P.S. 99, Jamaica High School, and James Madison High School, from which he graduated in 1935. He attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1939. He then entered the U.S. Army as an officer and trained at Fort Benning, Georgia. In 1945 he was deployed to the European theater of World War II, where he was wounded in action and taken prisoner. He received a Bronze Star Medal for his service in 1948. After the war he was employed as an editor at Popular Science magazine from 1952 until his retirement in 1985.

Evelyn F. Gelbman was born in Manhattan on July 4, 1924. She was raised in the north Bronx and attended Washington Irving High School, graduating in 1942. She then attended Hunter College, graduating in 1952. Later she studied design at Parsons School of Design and Pratt Institute, and historic preservation at Columbia University. She was employed as an interior designer from the 1950s to the 2000s, and was a design columnist for the Brooklyn Heights Press and  Homeowners How To Handbook. She was also the Director of Facilities and Collections for the New York Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1979 to 1984, where she curated the organization's archives and portrait collection.

The Ortners married in 1953. They lived in the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn in the 1950s and early 1960s. In 1963 the couple purchased an 1882 four-story brownstone at 272 Berkeley Place in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. This would be the catalyst for their involvement in the "Brownstone Revival" movement. The Ortners soon became active in a variety of community organizations. They lobbied local banks to provide mortgages to prospective Park Slope home-buyers at a time when lenders had "red-lined" the neighborhood. According to the Park Slope Civic Council, "they also encouraged the Brooklyn Union Gas Co. (now National Grid) to purchase and transform a dilapidated brownstone on Berkeley Place into a modern two-family home featuring a variety of gas appliances." These buildings became known as "Cinderella homes" and were used in advertising to entice new residents to the neighborhood. The couple were also a leading force in the designation of the Park Slope Historic District in 1973.

Starting in the 1960s, Everett was involved with the Park Slope Civic Council (as photographer and vice-president), the Park Slope Betterment Committee (founder), the Brownstone Revival Committee of New York (co-founder and president), the Back to the City Conference (co-founder and president), the Montauk Club (board member and president), the Brooklyn Historical Society/Long Island Historical Society (board member and vice-president), and Preservation Volunteers (co-founder with Evelyn). Evelyn was involved with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (board member), Brooklyn Museum (president of the Community Committee), the St. Ann Center for Restoration and the Arts (co-founder and chairman of the board), Brooklyn Stained Glass Conservation Center (vice-president and board member), the Long Island Historical Society (member), the Montauk Club (board member), the Victorian Society in America (New York Chapter, board member and secretary), the Fine Arts Federation of New York (board member), the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment (board member), Develop Don't Destroy Brooklyn (board member), and Preservation Volunteers (co-founder with Everett).

The Ortners were the recipients of numerous awards and honors, including the Brooklyn Union Gas Company's Cinderella Award (1978), the Preservation League of New York State's Excellence in Historic Preservation Award (2002), and the New York Landmarks Conservancy's Lucy G. Moses Preservation Leadership Award (2005).

Evelyn Ortner died at 272 Berkeley Place on September 19, 2006 at age 82. Everett followed on May 22, 2012, at age 92.


Harris, Elizabeth A. "A Couple Who Gave Brownstones New Life," New York Times, June 4, 2012.

Hartocollis, Anemona. "Evelyn Ortner, 82, a Booster of Brooklyn Brownstones, Dies," New York Times, September 22, 2006.

Hevesi, Dennis. "Everett Ortner, Leader in Brooklyn Brownstones' Revival, Dies at 92," New York Times, May 26, 2012.

Park Slope Civic Council. "Remembering Everett Ortner," last modified July 13, 2012. "">

EGO school work, resumes, correspondence, and ephemera, 1945-1958; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306, Box 1, Folder 2; Brooklyn Historical Society.

Who's Who - Biographical, 1984-2009; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306, Box 19, Folder 4; Brooklyn Historical Society.

EHO curriculum vitae and award correspondence, 2006-2009; Everett and Evelyn Ortner papers and photographs, ARC.306, Box 19, Folder 21; Brooklyn Historical Society.