The Haas-Lilienthal House

The History of the Haas and Lilienthal Families at 2007 Franklin Street

Jewish Americans: Religion and Identity at the Haas Lilienthal House

Haas and Lilienthal Family Tree
(To help you follow family lines when reading this history)
William and Bertha Haas
Building the Haas-Lilienthal House
The Haas Children
The Lilienthal Family
The Great Earthquake and Fire
A New Generation Occupies the House
Heritage Receives House Donation

William and Bertha Haas

William Haas, a Bavarian-born wholesale grocery merchant.

William Haas was born in the village of Reckendorf, Bavaria on April 24, 1849 to a large family of modest means. Little is known about Haas’ parents, other than his father’s career as a weaver. William Haas was the youngest of nine children.

In 1865, a 16-year-old William and older brother Abraham sailed to New York City. Abraham started a business venture in Los Angeles and William lived briefly in Missouri, and then tried mining in the Boise Basin and Silver City areas of Idaho. William arrived in San Francisco on October 9, 1868. He joined the wholesale merchant grocery firm of Loupe & Haas where his cousin Kalman was one of the partners. In 1869, William’s address was recorded as the Nucleus Hotel at Third and Market streets. After Leopold Loupe, partner of Loupe & Haas, retired a rich man in 1875, the firm became Haas Bros. with offices at 100-2 California Street at Davis Street. The firm prospered and in 1897 it became incorporated with William as its first president.

Bertha Haas in the upstairs study of the Haas-Lilienthal House.

In 1880, William married Bertha Greenebaum, the 19-year-old daughter of Herman and Rosalie Greenebaum, a prominent German-Jewish family in San Francisco. At the time of Bertha’s marriage to William Haas, the Greenebaum family was living at 1917 Franklin Street, just down the street from 2007 Franklin Street. For the first few years of their marriage, William and Bertha lived in a succession of residences including a house on Van Ness near Pacific Street before building their family home at 2007 Franklin Street in 1886. William and Bertha had three children: Florine (October 7, 1881), Charles William (February 16, 1884), and Alice (March 21, 1885).

Bertha and William Haas in Venice in 1911.

Both William and Bertha led active social lives, particularly within the Jewish community. They were members of Temple Emanu-El and were busy with many charitable and cultural activities. During his lifetime, William held posts as a director of Wells Fargo, as president of Mt. Zion hospital, and on the Board of arbitration of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. He was one of the largest contributors to the Federation of Jewish Charities. Bertha Haas served as one of the first directors of the Emanu-El Sisterhood of Personal Service (est. 1894), which founded the successful Boarding Home for Jewish Working Girls. She was a member of the Council of Jewish Women and, like her husband, served as a director of Mt. Zion hospital. She also worked zealously to establish the Philomath Club Jewish women’s organization.

The Haas Bros. new offices in 1908.

William Haas died very suddenly on May 31, 1916 after a full day of work. A local Rabbi wrote that his death “created a void in the ranks of merchant princes and philanthropists in San Francisco.” William left a varied portfolio of stocks in banks, sugar companies, insurance, mines, utilities, and manufacturing companies. His son, Charles William Haas became the new president of Haas Bros.

Building the Haas-Lilienthal House

The Haas-Lilienthal House was designed by Peter Schmidt in 1886.

The Haas-Lilienthal House was designed by Peter R. Schmidt in 1886. As the only period era home open to the public in San Francisco, the house beautifully exemplifies upper-middle class life in the Victorian era. Built in the Queen Anne style, the house features prominent open gables, varied styles of shingles and siding, and a turreted corner tower topped by a “witches cap” roof. Built of redwood and fir, the house withstood both the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes with only minor damage. The house cost $18,500 to construct and deeds in the family’s possession indicated a property cost of $13,000. The great majority of dwellings listed in the same year were quoted at costs between $700 and $2,000, making the Haas home quite expensive for its time.

The turret of the Haas-Lilienthal House.

Peter R. Schmidt, a prominent San Francisco architect, pursued a lengthy career and worked as partner of many firms.  It isn’t known exactly why the Haas’ selected Schmidt as the architect of their home, but it is likely attributed to Schmidt’s German heritage and past projects, which included many grand Victorians in the Pacific Heights area.

Schmidt’s work included factories, warehouses, wine depots, the Stockwells Theatre (later named the Columbia Theater) on Powell Street (destroyed in 1906), and even vaults and monuments for Laurel Hill Cemetery. Schmidt’s clients included Levi Strauss, George Moffatt (O’Connor-Moffatt Co.), O.H. Liebes (H. Liebes & Co. Cloak and Suit House) and O.A. Roos (Roos Bros.), and C.G. Hooker (president of the Merchant’s Exchange) (information taken from architect profile). A list of extant homes built by Schimdt can be found on the Victorian San Francisco website.

The contracting firm responsible for the house was McCann & Biddell.

The Haas Children

Charles, Florine, and Alice Haas.

In 1903, Florine, the eldest Haas child, married Edward Brandenstein (spelling later revised to Bransten) and, until her death in 1973, lived at 1735 Franklin Street in a handsome brick residence built in 1902 (the home still stands). The Brandenstein family came to San Francisco in 1850 when Edward’s father, Joseph, founded a mercantile company. Edward attended Boys High School (which subsequently became Lowell High) and the University of California at Berkeley. He joined his brother’s firm, the MJB Company, which became one of the nation’s largest importers of coffee, tea and rice. Edward was an internationally known tea expert.

Charles Haas with his wife Fanny Stern and their daughter Madeleine. Fanny’s father was Jacob Stern, former head of Levi Strauss.

Charles William, the second child, was involved in the family business, but did not marry or leave home until 1913 when he married Fanny Stern. Charles and Fanny had two children, Madeleine (April 2, 1915) and William (May 28, 1916). The Levi Strauss Connection: Fanny Stern was the daughter of Jacob Stern, the second president of the Levi Strauss Company. William Haas Sr.’s brother, Abraham, had a son, Walter (Charles Haas’s cousin and contemporary), who worked for Haas Bros. as a young man. Walter married Elise Stern, daughter of Sigmund Stern and Fanny Stern’s first cousin (Charles’ wife). Control of Levi Strauss passed from Jacob Stern (Charles Haas’ father-in-law) to his brother Sigmund, then to Sigmund’s son-in-law, Walter Haas Sr. His son, Walter Haas Jr., served as CEO and president from 1958 to 1971 and chairman of the Board from 1971 to 1976. Walter Haas Jr. was Abraham Haas’ grandson and William Haas Sr.’s grand-nephew.

Alice and Samuel Lilienthal’s wedding.

On November 3, 1909, Alice, the youngest child of William and Bertha, married Samuel Lilienthal in a ceremony held at the Haas home where three hundred guests attended.

The bride’s sister Florine was the matron of honor and the groom’s brother Ben was the best man. San Francisco’s most stylish decorators, the Misses Worn transformed the house “into a veritable flower garden” with yellow chrysanthemums and autumn foliage. After the ceremony, the young couple sailed by steamer to Honolulu for several weeks.

The Lilienthal Family

Samuel Lilienthal as a boy.

The Lilienthal family, like the Haas’, was of German-Jewish descent and was well-to-do in the old country. In the 18th century they had become fiscal agents for the Bavarian court and were recognized leaders of the Jewish community. Samuel Lilienthal’s grandfather, also named Samuel, immigrated in 1840 and became a well-known homeopathic physician in New York. Samuel’s father, Ernest Reuben Lilienthal, a contemporary of William Haas, was born August 30, 1850, in Lockport, New York. In the summer of 1871, Ernest arrived in San Francisco and opened an office at 223 California Street as a wholesaler of Cyrus Noble whiskey. This was the beginning of Lilienthal and Company, which was the largest wholesale liquor firm in the west up until 1890.

On May 10, 1876, Ernest married Hannah Isabelle (Bella) Sloss, daughter of Louis Sloss, another Bavarian emigrant, who had amassed a substantial fortune from mercantile activities in Alaska, particularly the lucrative fur trade, and had helped found the Alaska Commercial Co. A local paper reported: “Heiress Weds Prominent Merchant.” After a trip east to the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, they moved into a home at 1818 California Street (the house is still standing) built by the bride’s parents as a wedding gift.

Samuel Lilienthal and Alice Haas’ engagement photo.

Samuel, their fourth child and Alice Haas’ future husband, was born August 1, 1884, in San Rafael, where the family was summering with the Sloss family. Samuel attended Pacific Heights School, Lowell High School, and the University of California at Berkeley. Samuel Lilienthal’s childhood was probably quite similar to his future bride’s. The houses in which they grew up were remarkably similar.

Alice Haas Lilienthal, wife of Samuel Lilienthal, and their daughter Elizabeth.

Before entering the family firm, Samuel traveled east, visiting and studying operations in several distilleries. In 1904, he joined Crown Distilleries. Two years later, the firm’s offices burned to the ground during the earthquake of 1906. The family was evacuated to San Rafael and their home on Van Ness was dynamited as part of the fire break to halt the fire’s spread. In the fall, the family moved back to the city and rented a home on Washington Street, and from there into a succession of relatives’ homes. Samuel and his brothers were kept busy restoring the firm’s business affairs. In 1909, after a short formal engagement, he married Alice Haas. Sam and Alice Lilienthal made a home of their own at 2221 Gough Street, a modest establishment compared to her parents’.

Close family ties, and a sense of responsibility for the welfare of collateral relatives, was characteristic of both the Haas and Lilienthal families.

The Great Earthquake and Fire

William Haas supervises the opening of the Haas Bros. vault at 100-110 California Street.

The 1906 fire was effectively stopped at Van Ness and the Haas home was saved, although the Haas Bros. offices on California Street were reduced to rubble. The daily routine was temporarily upset as various cousins who had been forced to leave the downtown area moved in with the family. For several weeks, William transacted business from 2007 Franklin Street. Soon their relatives found new lodgings and the firm moved to King Street between Second and Third streets, and then to bigger quarters on the original site. Haas Bros. still exists today under private ownership and is located at 2400 Army Street.

A New Generation Occupies the House

Alice’s first child Ernest and his nurse.

Samuel and Alice Lilienthal and had three children: Ernest Reuben (September 6, 1910), Elizabeth Pearl (July 29, 1913), and Frances Marie (April 3, 1921). The family joined Bertha Haas in the Franklin Street house shortly after William Haas’ death. In 1917, Ernest Lilienthal (Samuel’s father), anticipating a long era of Prohibition, decided to liquidate Crown Distilleries, he joined Haas Bros. Ernest and Bella Lilienthal (Samuel’s parents) died in 1922 and 1923, and Bertha Haas in 1927. When Alice’s brother Charles died in December of 1927, Samuel Lilienthal succeeded him as president of Haas Bros. Charles’ two children, Madeleine and William, were welcomed into the Haas-Lilienthal household after being orphaned (their mother Fannie Stern died in 1920). The garage wing, with its suite of rooms above, was designed by Gardner Dailey to accommodate the enlarged family. In 1929, the entire family traveled in Europe, while work on the new wing was completed.

For the next few years, the house at 2007 Franklin Street was as full as ever. Living with the family were a Chinese laundryman, cook, upstairs maid, a second maid, a waitress, and (earlier) a nursemaid. Here is Census data on the family’s hired help:

1900 Census shows servants:
Mary Dougherty, 38, Ireland
Lena Gegner, 40, Germany
Martha Berry, 27, France
Mary Campbell, 48, Canada
Lee Wing, 49, China
Mary Regan, 28, Ireland
Bertie Nelson, 35, Sweden

1910 Census shows servants:
Mary J. Campbell, 60, Canada, nurse
Miss Dahnke, 44, German
Martha Ivanoff, 32, German, Mrs. Haas’ personal maid
Margaret Gray, 27, England
M.S. Takahashi, 28, Japan

Servants in later years:
Morton Vrang, German, chauffeur
Came with Madeline and Billy (William) in 1927 when they moved into the add-on wing. He was very close to the children and built a doll house for the girls and designed the train layout for Billy (both of these are still in the house).
Freida Weidman, German, Madeleine and Billy’s nurse
Tillie Richter, cook when Frances Lilienthal was a child
Charlotte Beck, Frances Lilienthal’s nurse
Tom Wong, laundryman

1958 Christmas party at the Haas-Lilienthal House.

Ernest Lilienthal graduated from Stanford in 1931 and joined the family business. He continued to live at home until he married Suzanne Hyman on August 14, 1940. Even after all the children had homes of their own, close ties were maintained between the generations. Alice Haas Lilienthal and Florine Haas Bransten held alternate Sunday evening dinners for the family and close friends. It was a tradition to go to the Bransten’s for Thanksgiving dinner, and to the Lilienthal’s for a Christmas Eve party (click here for an album of Christmas parties over the years). The latter continues to this day.

Like his father and father-in-law, Samuel Lilienthal was both a prominent businessman and active in the community. He held directorships in Wells Fargo Bank and the California Insurance Company, served as president of the Federation of Jewish Charities, and was a member of the Board of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce. When he died on January 20, 1957, his son Ernest became president of Haas Bros.

Heritage Receives House Donation

After Samuel Lilienthal’s death, his wife Alice Haas Lilienthal, continued to live in the house at 2007 Franklin Street and was visited frequently by family and friends. She was a vigorous woman who enjoyed horseback riding and swimming. She was swimming in Frances L. Stein’s pool in Nicasio, Marin County, when her heart stopped on June 30, 1972.

In 1973, Alice Haas Lilienthal’s heirs (Ernest R. Lilienthal, Elizabeth Lilienthal Gerstley, and Frances Lilienthal Stein) donated the house to the Foundation for San Francisco’s Architectural Heritage. Madeleine Haas-Russell (Charles Haas and Fannie Stern Haas’ daughter who grew up in the house) contributed many of the furnishings.

The Haas-Lilienthal House today.

The Haas-Lilienthal House is San Francisco’s only Victorian house museum open to the public year-round for docent-led tours. The house has never been significantly remodeled or modified and remains one of the very few examples of its era in the neighborhood. In addition, it houses the offices of San Francisco Heritage (Heritage) and functions as a popular event rental site. Heritage holds the house in trust for the enjoyment of future generations of San Franciscans.