Prague, Czech Republic Next: Rome, Italy
In the spring of 1984, Wendy Luers (now FAPE’s President Emerita) was serving with her husband, Ambassador William H. Luers, in Prague, Czechoslovakia. The Ambassador’s Residence in Prague is the magnificent Petschek Palace, one of the finest residences owned by the U.S. government. Mrs. Luers began a project to document the history of the grand sixty-five room palace built by industrialist Otto Petschek in the early 1930s for his wife and four children. The Petschek family was forced to abandon the house and all of their belongings in the face of the Nazi invasion. From 1939-45, the palace was occupied by the governor of Prague. After World War II was won, American Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt leased the house and other buildings as the official U.S. residence, and in 1948, the U.S. government purchased the properties.
Mrs. Luers recognized the intrinsic value and great beauty of the furnishings, porcelains, crystal, stucco work and boiserie, but she was unable to obtain any viable appraisals in a Communist state. She contacted Sotheby’s New York and then, at their suggestion, John Stancliffe, Director of Valuations at Sotheby’s London. After she visited Mr. Stancliffe in London in the spring of 1985, Sotheby’s President, Michael Ainslie, and Chairman of Sotheby’s Holdings, Alfred Taubman, generously agreed to provide pro bono publico appraisals of all U.S. government owned property in Prague.
The appraisers classified more than 600 items by value, condition, and location; the objects were appraised at more than $1.8 million. FAPE’s most important achievement during its first year was the initiation of a continuing pro bono relationship between Sotheby’s and the State Department. Since the appraisal in Prague, Sotheby’s has carried out evaluations in Belfast, Belgrade, Berlin, Bonn, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Edinburgh, The Hague, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Paris, Rabat, Rome, Santiago, Seoul, Sofia, and Tokyo.
In honor of FAPE’s 10th anniversary in 1996, FAPE received a grant from the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation to fund the restoration and preservation of Petschek Palace. The renovations preserved the mansion’s exquisite architectural details, including the Wintergarden’s interior and exterior gilding, and refinishing the boiseries of the State Dining Room, Library and Red Rooms, among others.