Biography of Charles M. Wollenberg
San Francisco, CA Biographies





CHARLES MAURICE WOLLENBERG
In charitable and philanthropic affairs, one of the most notable figures in the United States is Charles Maurice Wollenberg, who is superintendent of the Laguna Honda Home in San Francisco; president of the board of the Masonic Homes of California; president of the Children's Orphanage in Los Angeles county; president of the Home for the Aged in Alameda county, California; and in many other capacities has manifested his sincere desire to be of service to humanity.

Mr. Wollenberg was born in Castroville, California, on March 13, 1873, and he is a son of Louis and Fannie Wollenberg. When he was three years of age, his family traveled by the traditional covered wagon from the village of Castroville to Prescott, Arizona, where he attended the grade and high schools in subsequent years. He next took up the study of pharmacy at the University of California, and graduated in the year 1894, after which he engaged in the drug business in San Francisco as manager of the Langfelts pharmacies in this city. Then, on that fateful morning of April 18, 1906, when the first earth tremor shook the foundations of San Francisco and was followed by the disastrous sweep of flames, the life career of Mr. Wollenberg was abruptly changed, and a new field of endeavor, that of charity, opened before him. Seeing the destruction around him, he entered into the work of rescue and reorganization with intense zeal, and on the second day of the fire he was commissioned by General Frederick Funston as chief civilian aide and in this capacity served with the United States Army medical relief until August 1, 1906, his duties involving the arrangement of camp sites for the homeless people, the procuring of food for the Red Cross, and scores of other necessary tasks to relieve the general suffering. He laid aside his own interests entirely, and gave his time and energy only to others who were so sorely in need. It was a work he loved, and no trace of desire for reward or compensation entered his mind. There were sixty camps to be maintained and the occupants fed through the Red Cross, headquarters of which were at Ingleside track. At the request of Mayor Taylor, Mr. Wollenberg consolidated the almshouse with the camps and acted as superintendent of both until February, 1908. When the Red Cross building was completed, the camps were abandoned and eight hundred persons were transferred to the almshouse tract. Mr. Wollenberg was made superintendent of the almshouse in the same year, and has held the position ever since.

Through the suggestion of Bishop Montgomery, in recognition of his outstanding work during the catastrophe, Mr. Wollenberg was appointed in 1907, by Mayor Taylor, as superintendent of the Laguna Honda Home, where he has since held office, and has directed the tremendous development of this model institution. The almshouse, now the Laguna Honda Home, was founded in the year 1854 on Market street opposite Bush, moving to the present site in 1855. The present buildings were erected after the fire of 1906 and in 1925, after a two million dollar bond issue, the present fireproof home was constructed, which now houses over fifteen hundred people. In 1927, additional buildings costing eight hundred thousand dollars were erected. New buildings are contemplated which, when finished, will accommodate twenty three hundred people. Mr. Wollenberg's work at the Laguna Honda Home has received national attention and approval. Prominent visitors, such as President Roosevelt in 1909, have come to the site to inspect the magnificent effort being made in this relief home.

For sixteen years, Mr. Wollenberg has been a director in the American Red Cross, and for six years budget director of the San Francisco Community Chest. He was president of the Social Workers Alliance of San Francisco, and for four years was governor of the Commonwealth Club of this city. He was president for two years of the Civil Service Employes of San Francisco City and County, and since 1907 has been a director of family and migratory relief of unemployed. At this writing, Mr. Wollenberg is lending every effort to meet the unemployment situation in San Francisco.

Another phase of high distinction in Mr. Wollenberg's career is his association with Masonry. He is past grand master of Masons of the state of California, past master of Starr King Lodge, and, as previously noted, is president of the board of trustees of the Masonic Homes of California. He received his first degree in Masonry on March 14, 1906, and his second degree April 11, 1906. On the night of April 18, 1906, when the earthquake visited the bay district, he and his family were encamped at Golden Gate park. On the following night, he was due to receive his third degree in Masonry in King Solomon's Temple on Fillmore street. The next day, after the terrors of the early morning hours, he walked to the temple to keep his appointment, but he found that structure in darkness and partially destroyed. However, on the night of May 30, 1906, within the roofless walls of this temple, he received his third degree in Masonry in Starr King Lodge, No. 344, F. & A. M. In December, 1906, he was appointed junior steward and in 1912 became worshipful master of the lodge. He became a member of San Francisco Bodies, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, in 1909, and received the degree of Knight Commander, Court of Honor, October 20, 1919, and the thirty third degree December 19, 1925. He is also a member of Islam Temple of the Mystic Shrine. In 1926, he was elected junior grand warden of the grand lodge and advanced through the different chairs until October 11, 1929, when he was elected grand master of Masons of the state of California.

In 1918, Mr. Wollenberg was appointed trustee of the Masonic Homes of California, and in 1919 became president of that board and has so continued. He is largely responsible for the erection of the new million dollar home in Decoto, also the new buildings of the Covina home, costing more than three hundred thousand dollars.

On September 17, 1899, in San Francisco, Mr. Wollenberg was married to Romilda Jude11, who was born in San Francisco and is a daughter of H. L. and Henrietta Jude11. To them have been born three sons, Albert, Harold, and Ralph. Mrs. Wollenberg worked faithfully by her husband's side during the days of hardship in 1906, giving him added courage and inspiration to carry on the work which appealed to him.

A fitting and brief description of Mr. Wollenberg is that printed in a small brochure issued by Starr King Lodge on the occasion of its celebration in honor of his election as grand master of the California Masons; this excerpt follows: "So blameless has been his life, so conciliatory his manners and so unobstrusive his conduct that he has always enjoyed the rare felicity of being loved and esteemed by all. Each revolving year that has circled around his head has left in its trace a new ring of glory."

From:
The History of San Francisco, California
Lewis Francis Byington, Supervising Editor
Oscar Lewis, Associate Editor
The S. J. Clark Publishing Company
Chicago-San Francisco 1931


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