Louis Hertle was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on February 12, 1860. His German-born parents came to America in 1850 seeking a better life. Very little is known about his family in those early years, except that his father soon set himself up in a business. When Louis was about six years old, tragedy struck as his mother died, leaving his elder sister to care for him and two other brothers.
Louis was given little formal education but was an exceptionally bright young man. At the age of thirteen, he became employed in the hardware business in Cincinnati and then moved to Chicago. In 1887, Hertle captured the attention of Marshall Field, Sr., of Marshall Field and Company, who employed him to manage his rapidly growing hardware department. Over the years, Hertle’s strong business acumen brought him success and increased responsibilities, but in 1910, he retired in order to care for his invalid wife, the former Miss Ada Turnbull of Illinois, whom he had married in 1887.
After the death of his wife, Hertle began his search for a farm or property to occupy his time and energies and in 1912 he acquired Gunston Hall. After the Civil War, the house had fallen into serious disrepair, and various additions had changed its character and appearance. Although the mansion was maintained during the time it was owned by Edward Daniels (between 1868-1891) and Joseph Specht (between 1891-1907), real restoration work was not undertaken until Mr. Hertle came into possession of Gunston Hall. He enlisted the services of an eminent Washington architect, Mr. Glenn Brown, to advise him in the restoration process, during which time a large crew of workers lived and worked at the house.
In 1914, Hertle married Miss Eleanor Daughaday of Chicago, a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America. The Hertles lovingly and painstakingly began to re-establish the dignity, beauty and splendor of Gunston Hall and its gardens. Gradually both house and gardens returned to their former charm and glory, becoming in the 1920’s a gathering place for diplomats, statesmen and leaders in business, finance and the arts.
Mrs. Hertle died on June 5, 1929 and services were held in the Chapel at Rose Hill Cemetery in Chicago. In 1932, Hertle wrote a Deed of Gift bestowing Gunston Hall to the Commonwealth of Virginia upon his death. He intended the property to remain a national memorial to George Mason, the author of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
Louis Hertle died in September 1949 at the age of eighty-nine, leaving no children. He is buried in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago alongside his beloved wife, Ella Hertle. Funeral services were held at Pohick Church where he was remembered not only for his remarkable achievement for restoring Gunston Hall, but also for his ability to have carved out a life of distinction from his humble beginnings to accomplish an individual standing enjoyed by few men.
- Hertle, Louis. “The Recollections of Louis Hertle”. 1912-1934
- McCoy, Charles S. “Personal Recollections of Louis Hertle”. Sept. 30, 1950
- “Louis Hertle Dies; Owned Gunston Hall.” The Washington Post, Sunday Sept. 18, 1949.
- “Mrs. Ella Hertle Dies at Her Home.” The Washington Post (1877-1954); June 6, 1929; ProQuest Historical Newspapers The Washington Post : page 20