115 Linden Drive - Louis Herman House

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Louis Herman is probably best known for his role as owner and operator of the department store which bore his name, but he had many other notable accomplishments and affiliations during the years he spent in Danville, Virginia.

Louis Herman (May 30, 1859 – January 24, 1950) was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the son of William H. Herman and Theresa Schloss. His father was an immigrant from Germany with his birthplace listed as Prussia and Bavaria in various census records. He often went by his middle name which is given as Hass, Henry and Hirsh in various census records. He was in the shoe business either as a shoemaker or in a shoe store. His mother was also an immigrant from Germany with her birthplace listed as being the same as that of her husband. The family was of the reformed Jewish faith.

Mr. Herman was educated in the public schools of Baltimore and entered the mercantile business as a clerk for the Philip Gehrman Company of Baltimore, later representing the firm as a traveling salesman for four years before locating in Danville in 1886. He had married Kate Heller (January 21, 1860 – November 29, 1931), a native of Baltimore, in Baltimore on March 8, 1885. She was the daughter of William H. Heller and Rosa Reisse, both immigrants from Germany.

Mr. Herman began business in Danville in partnership with a Mr. Benheim in a store called the Bee Hive located on Main Street two doors above Craghead Street, but after one year the business was dissolved and he began business under his own name, L. Herman. The first store at 329 Main Street was at the site later occupied by the Bijou Theater and the Rialto Theater. It was a small general merchandise store with dimensions of 19 by 65 feet and four employees. Effective service and honorable policies led to continued success of the business which grew in scope and importance over the years and resulted in a number of moves including a move to 341 Main Street, a site later occupied by the First National Bank, and later a move to 413 Main Street, a site later occupied by Efird’s Department Store. In 1910-11 the modern four-story L. Herman building, which still bears the L. Herman name, was built at 515-517 Main Street (GPS coordinates 36 degrees 35.254’, W 079 degrees 23.579’, Elevation 453’) which was considered an aggressive move in its day. The store prospered and became the leading department store in the City. After the death of Mr. Herman the store was acquired by Thalhimers and continued to operate successfully until the 1990s when the construction of Piedmont Mall and the advent of national big-box stores led to the decline and eventual closure of many local downtown stores. The 1993 City Directory lists the building as being an office building with a number of tenants, but also a number of vacancies. The building was eventually acquired by the City of Danville and today houses the City Registrar and other City offices.

L. Herman Building (515-517 Main Street)

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The 1888-89 City Directory lists Louis Herman as living at 329 Main Street, the site of his store, but by 1890-91 he was living at 121 South Jefferson Avenue, and in 1908 at 179 West Main Street where he lived until about 1930 when his address began to be listed as Hawthorne Drive in Forest Hills. Although Forest Hills was annexed by the City in 1932, it was a number of years before house numbers were assigned to all houses in the development and, until that was done, the addresses given for residents of Forest Hills was simply a street in Forest Hills. The address of L. Herman continued to be Hawthorne Drive, Forest Hills until 1947-48 when it began to be listed as 115 Linden Drive (GPS coordinates N36 degrees 34,653’ W o79 degrees 25.118’, elevation 538’) where he lived until his death in 1950 at age 90.

L. Herman was one of the directors of Danville Knitting Mills when it began operations as Danville Textile and Fabrics Manufacturing Company on April 18, 1899. After struggling and changing locations for several years, Mr. Hodnett, then President offered to the stockholders to sell his entire stock for twenty-five cents on the dollar. Urged by Mr. R. L. Dibrell, the Directors accepted the offer and then prevailed upon Mr. L. Herman to take over the company as President. He accepted and immediately began to take measures to revitalize the company. From that point on the company began to grow and prosper and L. Herman remained its President until his death. His son, J. Allan Herman continued to serve as a Director.

Early in his career Mr. Herman affiliated with the Danville Commercial Association which later became the Danville Chamber of Commerce. He served both organizations as a director. He was a director of the First National Bank and the Masonic Building Corporation and assisted in the establishment of the Retail Merchants Association. He helped organize Temple Beth Sholem on Sutherlin Avenue and did much to promote the Danville Golf Club, and the Wildwood Fishing Club. He was a member of Roman Eagle Lodge No. 122 A. F. and A.M. and a charter member of the Danville Scottish Rite bodies and a member of the Shrine. He was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Danville. He was a charter member and director of the Tuscarora Club. Politically he was a Democrat.

Mr. Herman and his wife had seven children, four of whom survived him, Jacob Allen Herman and Moses Milton Herman of Danville, Solomon Stanley Herman of Greenwich, Conn. and Mrs. Harry Calisch of Danville.