Julius Jacobs (Alfred Henry's father) was born in Prussia, in 1840, and relocated to California in 1853. Initially, he worked in a firm concerned with tobacco and then a general merchandise store, before beginning work in insurance underwriting. By 1898, he was appointed as Assistant U.S. Treasurer, in charge of the Sub-Treasury in San Francisco. Alfred Henry Jacobs was born in San Francisco, in 1882, to Sarah Adler Jacobs and Julius Jacobs. After graduating from the California School of Mechanical Arts (now known as the Lick-Wilmerding High School), in San Francisco, he studied for a time at the University of California at Berkeley and then went to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Jacobs received his B.S. degree in architecture from MIT in 1904 and his M.S. degree in architecture from MIT in 1905. After graduating from MIT, Jacobs studied at the École des Beaux Arts, in Paris, before permanently relocating back in San Francisco. In 1907, he began a short partnership with Walter Ratcliff and, in the following year, he helped co-design what was then the Berkeley Tennis Club. In the same year, he married Lillian Wollenberg. In 1909, he joined San Francisco's Fidelity Lodge, Number 120, Free and Accepted Masons of California; the same year he struck out on his own and established his own architecture practice. In a short time, he designed the Hotel Californian (1910), at 308 Eddy St., San Francisco; the Religious School House for Congregation Emanu-El (1910), now known as the Grabhorn Press building, at 1337 Sutter St., San Francisco; a commercial building at 1244-1268 Sutter St., (this building is still standing) (1911); his family's residence at 80 21st Ave., San Francisco (also still standing) (1915); the California Theatre (1916), later renamed the State Theatre, at 787-799 Market St., San Francisco (this building was torn down in 1954); the Winema Theatre (1920), on Main St., in Scotia, Calif., (this theater, made entirely of redwood, is still in use as a theater); Homewood Terrace, for the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home Society, San Francisco (1920-1921); the Granada Theatre (1920-1921), later renamed the Paramount Theatre (this theater was closed and dismantled in Apr. 1965); the Curran Theatre (1921-1922), at 445 Geary St., San Francisco; and a home for the photographer Ansel Adams (1929), at 129 24th Ave., in San Francisco. By the time Jacobs died, on 14 Dec. 1954, he held emeritus membership status in the American Institute of Architects and had been a Freemason for more than twenty-five years.
The collection consists of biographical material relating to Alfred Henry Jacobs and his father, Julius Jacobs, including Julius' 1863 certificate as an "Exempt Fireman of the Fire Department of the City and County of Sacramento" and an illuminated In Memoriam book produced by Congregation Emanu-El after the death of Julius Jacobs in 1907. Also included are a small amount of Alfred Henry Jacob's correspondence; ephemera and a photograph of President Taft from the presidential visit to San Francisco in 1911; a program for the opening of the Winema Theater in Scotia, California; essays that Alfred Henry Jacobs wrote while a student at MIT; and a manuscript of Alfred Henry Jacob's recollections of his entrance exam to the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Among the photographs and portraits of Alfred Henry Jacobs and Julius Jacobs, as well as portraits (some unidentified) of other family members and beloved dogs. There are also class pictures of Alfred and his classmates at the California School for Mechanical Arts (1895-1898); many photographs of various buildings that Jacobs designed, including the Winema, Curran, Granada, and California theaters; some photographic negatives taken by Jacobs (which consist mainly of family members and his Bull Terriers); In addition the collection includes three family photo albums (with family photographs taken by Alfred Henry Jacobs) and one photo album (1920-1921) documenting the construction of San Francisco's Granada Theater, from groundbreaking to opening day. The collection includes some photographs and originals of some of Alfred Henry Jacob's pencil and architectural drawings, including a large drawing of his memorial for the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum at the Home of Peace Cemetery, in Colma, California.