An impressive amount of the original flooring, wall plaster, and woodcarving remains at Gunston Hall. Over decades, historic preservation experts have painstakingly investigated the building to learn about its construction and to discover which pieces date from the Masons’ residency.
Eleanor and Louis Hertle, who owned Gunston Hall in the early 20th century, preserved the mansion both by caring for it and by sharing information about its architecture and George Mason. During their tenure, they allowed the house to be documented in several books, including the 1939 volume Some Historic Houses: Their Builders and their Places In History (John C. Fitzpatrick, ed.). In her book Historic Houses of Early America (1927), Elise Lathrop suggests that were it not for the Hertles, Gunston Hall would have been lost, writing that
“After passing out of the Mason family ownership seventy years ago, various persons had from time to time bought and sold it, making changes, or allowing lack of repairs to effect others, until a few years ago it was again put up for sale. A dairyman seemed about to acquire it, and boasted that he intended to ‘tear down all that old stuff,’ and convert it into a first class dairy farm. . .”
Lathrop explains that the Hertles’ initial restoration of Gunston Hall was a huge undertaking: they “employed twenty workmen for an entire year to restore it to good condition.”
The Hertles’ ultimate preservation decision was for Gunston Hall to become a museum after they died. In 1949 the newly created Board of Regents undertook a new round of restoration. The second floor especially needed attention, as it had “been rebuilt and the space so arranged as to make it agreeable for present day living” (Fitzpatrick).
Preservation work continues. Throughout the spring of 2020, we will be installing a new fire suppression system.