Friday, January 15, 2010

Grace Cathedral: Part One

My Great-Grandfather, Samuel Berger emigrated to San Francisco in 1904 from Bucharest, Romania, where he learned his trade as a second generation wood carver. I was fortunate enough to have known him; he died in 1970 when I was ten years old.

Sam's woodcarvings grace some of California's most beautiful public and private buildings. His works can be found in many churches in San Francisco including, Grace Cathedral, Basilica of Mission Dolores, St. Peter and Paul's, Star of the Sea, St. Cecilia's and St. Brigid's, to name of few. Some of his crowning achievements were at Hearst Castle at San Simeon where he did most of his wood carving. Sam collaborated with the renowned architect, Julia Morgan, on much of his work.

Berger as a young man (on right) in his workshop in San Francisco

Sam Berger's work has not been catalogued, and this is my attempt to chronicle some of his work in a series of postings. I stumbled upon some wonderful old family photo albums filled with church interiors and architectural elements. Other than a few living relatives that can identify his work, there are still many photos of carvings that are not labeled. This is going to be my journey to investigate and identify Sam Berger's most beautiful work from a bygone era.

The following are photos of Sam in front of the magnificent organ covers that he carved for Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Please be sure and click on the photos for super-enlarged detailed shots.

All photos property of Lynn Goldfinger-Abram


  1. Oh you have got to be kidding me.... Never have I seen SO much exquisite beauty in photos... You come from incredible stock, Lynn!!

    Can't wait to follow along and see all you post about here!!


  2. What an amazingly talented man! I think your blog about him is a great way to celebrate his skill and accomplishments. I enjoyed seeing those amazing photo's and learning about him. Good luck with your search for more information!

  3. Those photos are something. I think it's absolutely wonderful that you are doing this!

  4. Lynn~
    I cannot wait to share this with my husband! He loves every single morsel of history he can read ~ especially when dealing with artisans, architects and San Francisco!

  5. What a great idea. His work really does deserve its own blog! What a great way of putting it out there for everyone to see. I'm sure he's smiling down on his beautiful grand daughter.

    Also, I can't believe these columns! I never realized that they made them like this and then put them up. Incredible!