WILLIAM HAAS AND BERTHA GREENEBAUM

In 1880, William Haas at thirty-one married the American-born Bertha Greenebaum, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Herman and Rosalie Greenebaum. Bertha’s father also came to California from Bavaria in 1850, where he established a large and prosperous mercantile company in San Jose, San Francisco, and Sacramento. The Greenebaum family was then living at 1917 Franklin Street, near Washington Street, less than a block from the present-day Haas-Lilienthal House.

WILLIAM HAAS (1849-1916)

William Haas at thirty-seven was a highly successful and respected businessman when in 1886 he built an imposing mansion for his family in San Francisco. He and his tight-knit circle of friends and relatives enjoyed freedom, prosperity, and admiration in the City by the Bay, a world apart from the village of Reckendorf in the Kingdom of Bavaria, where he had been born and raised, and which he had left barely two decades earlier.

 

With his brother Abraham, two years his senior, William sailed to New York three months after the Civil War ended and lived briefly in Missouri, Idaho, and Los Angeles before arriving in San Francisco in October 1868, not yet twenty. His rise in the business world over the next decade would be meteoric. He went to work at Haas Brothers, the wholesale-grocery concern headed by his older cousin Kalman, the pathbreaker in the family. Wolf’s brothers and several cousins later joined the firm as well, quickly making it one of the largest companies of its kind in the American West. In one decade, William, as Wolf now called himself, ascended from clerk (when he sometimes slept on a shelf in the store), to salesman, and finally to partner. Abraham Haas, meanwhile, established himself in Los Angeles, then a small city, and rose to great heights there as a businessman and philanthropist.

BERTHA GREENEBAUM (1861-1927)
BERTHA GREENEBAUM (1861-1927)

Like her husband, Bertha Haas was an active and influential member in the Jewish-immigrant community in San Francisco. She served as one of the first four directors of the Emanu-El Sisterhood of Personal Service (est. 1894) which founded the Boarding Home for Jewish Working Girls. She was a member of the Council of Jewish Women, and like her husband, served as a director at Mt. Zion Hospital. She also worked zealously to establish the Philomath Club, an organization of Jewish women which sought to promote the general cultural level of its members through lectures and discussions on educational, moral, and social topics.

Like her husband, Bertha Haas was an active and influential member in the Jewish-immigrant community in San Francisco. She served as one of the first four directors of the Emanu-El Sisterhood of Personal Service (est. 1894) which founded the Boarding Home for Jewish Working Girls. She was a member of the Council of Jewish Women, and like her husband, served as a director at Mt. Zion Hospital. She also worked zealously to establish the Philomath Club, an organization of Jewish women which sought to promote the general cultural level of its members through lectures and discussions on educational, moral, and social topics.

HAAS CHILDREN

For the first few years of their marriage, William and Bertha Haas lived in a succession of residences. They eventually rented a house on Van Ness near Pacific. Within the six-year period before moving into the mansion, they had three children, Florine, Charles, and Alice, who grew up in the Haas-Lilienthal House with all of the advantages of an upper-class family in the Gilded Age. Each of the Haas children would marry into the families of other prominent local Bavarian Jewish businessmen.

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