Visitors who’ve roamed The Huntington might have noticed a bronze plaque near the pool at the south end of the Jungle Garden dedicated to William Hertrich, Henry Huntington’s first superintendent of the gardens. But over the years the plaque gradually became obscured by the surrounding flora, an off-the-beaten track recognition for a man who is as central to the story of how The Huntington came to be what it is today as Henry Huntington himself. If you walk by the Lily Ponds today, you’ll see that Hertrich now has the place of honor he deserves.
William Hertrich was born in Germany in 1878. He immigrated to the United States and then moved west around the turn of the century. He began working for Huntington in 1905. Hertrich would remain with Huntington until his employer’s death in 1927 and was superintendent of grounds and buildings until his retirement in 1948. Hertrich continued on in an advisory capacity until his own death in 1966.
Hertrich crafted the grounds to satisfy his employer’s passion for collecting, starting with the Lily Ponds and Palm Garden. Hertrich also established the Rose Garden, to provide for Arabella Huntington’s desire for cut flowers, and the Japanese Garden, which has become one of the most popular attractions at The Huntington.
The Lily Ponds were a favorite place of Hertrich’s and, thanks to a generous donation from the San Marino Historical Society, we were able to relocate the memorial there. The monument was rededicated on April 25, 2013. John Morris, president of the San Marino Historical Society, welcomed the special guests in attendance, including people who were close to Hertrich and who recognize the importance of honoring his legacy. Midge Sherwood, founding president of the San Marino Historical Society, was responsible for the creation of the original memorial plaque; Oskar Thurnher, son of Hertrich’s good friend Armin Thurnher, the designer and first superintendent of Lacy Park in San Marino; Dick Keichler, Hertrich’s nephew; as well as members of the San Marino Garden Club, San Marino Historical Society, and the San Marino City Council.
Jim Folsom, the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens, is only the third person to be charged with the responsibility of growing and maintaining the grounds of The Huntington. When Folsom arrived at The Huntington, he saw the Hertrich plaque in its former location and was moved by it. At the rededication, he said, “The Huntington grows and changes, but we don’t get rid of the things we cherish.” He spoke of the significant historical developments that have occurred in the institution: “It was the hand of William Hertrich that lay the foundation of a place that thousands love.”
The Lily Ponds, a place of quiet reflection, are a fitting home to memorialize a man who built one of the most unique collections in North America and brought to life the vision of Henry Huntington.
Aaron Campbell is associate director for donor engagement at The Huntington.