Former East Sacramento resident Louis F. Breuner played essential roles in East Lawn’s establishment, Breuner’s store
Editor’s Note: This is part seven in a series about the rich history of and associated with East Sacramento’s award-winning East Lawn Memorial Park.
In the history of Sacramento, one of the most recognized surnames is Breuner. And had it not been for one member of that family, East Lawn Memorial Park might not exist today.
That member of the family was Louis Frederick “Lou” Breuner (1869-1947).
In 1904, Lou, who was born in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 1869, purchased 42 acres of the old Newton Booth place, which was previously known as the Twin Oaks Farm.
It was on this property that Lou, with the assistance of other local men, including Fred W. Kiesel and Chauncey H. Dunn, established East Lawn Cemetery, as East Lawn Memorial Park was then known. East Lawn Cemetery was dedicated on April 23, 1905.
Lou also had his home built on a portion of the same property in about 1911.
The Breuner family was best known for its involvement with the John Breuner Co.
John Breuner (1828-1890), who was Lou’s father, was born in Baden, which at that time was part of the German Confederation, which consisted of 39 German states in Central Europe.
John had arrived in California in the early 1850s with dreams of getting rich in gold. But he would instead begin acquiring his greatest wealth making furniture and tools for miners.
In 1856, John opened the first cabinet store in California in a single-story building near the corner of 6th and K streets.
Originally operating his Sacramento business as a one-man workshop where furniture was sold and repaired, John, who resided in a house behind the store, eventually expanded the operation to a much greater level as the business grew along with the city.
Early abstracts of titles of 6th and K streets properties show John’s ownership of a 20-foot parcel alongside the store in 1861, followed by the April 1866 purchase of the property where the store was located. Next, John purchased the corner of 6th and K streets in July 1868.
Despite setbacks from floods, fires and other obstacles, the store continued its development.
And during the progressing early years of this store, the business grew to a staff of two employees.
In 1869, arrangements were made for Breuner’s to manufacture desks and chairs for the Senate and Assembly chambers at the then-under construction state Capitol.
During its history, the company also sold furniture for other notable Sacramento places, including the Governor’s Mansion at 16th and H streets.
In 1884, the company expanded to a larger building at the 6th and K streets site.
With his health declining, John retired from his business while Lou and his older brother, John, Jr., were still in their youth. The two brothers then carried on the business, which by 1890 had a staff of a dozen employees.
Eventually, four generations of Breuner family members would head the operations of their furniture and home furnishing company.
An extensive enlargement of the 6th and K streets store occurred in 1900 with the construction of a three-story building that was built alongside the old Breuner’s building.
The old and new buildings were joined together as one structure and covered with red sandstone – the same material used about a decade earlier in the construction of the nearby post office building at the northeast corner of 7th and K streets.
The company, which opened a store in Oakland in 1906 to accommodate those who had lost their homes in the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, later grew to include 12 stores in Northern California and Nevada.
Several years after the opening of the red sandstone Breuner’s building, the L Street portion of the store was converted into a warehouse.
Furthermore an addition to the building along the same side of the building was constructed in 1922, and six years later, the main portion of the building was enlarged, remodeled and given a Spanish architecture-style appearance.
The building later experienced other changes during its history, including the devoting of the entire structure to merchandise.
Breuner’s, which became the oldest and largest furniture firm in Northern California, operated at 6th and K streets until Sept. 20, 1972, following a five-week, “Once in a Lifetime” store closing sale, in which prices were drastically reduced.
Lou, who served as the company’s president from 1890 to 1940, greatly contributed to the success of Breuner’s.
Much of the business’s growth and expansion occurred under Lou’s guidance.
In addition to his contributions to the company, Lou was the first westerner to serve as president of the National Retail Furniture Association, and he was the founder, chief organizer and three-term president of the Retail Furniture Association of California. He served two terms in the first of these named organizations.
Lou was also a charter member of the Sacramento Rotary Club and the Del Paso Country Club, a past president of the Sunset Parlor of the Native Sons of the Golden West and a member of the Sutter Club, the Woodmen of the World and the Union League and Olympia Clubs of San Francisco.
In 1900, Lou became the youngest man called to the presidency of the Sacramento Chamber of Commerce. He was also a founder and advisor of the Sacramento Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Furthermore, Lou belonged to various fraternal organizations, including the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, Lodge No. 6, the Washington Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, the Ben Ali Temple of the Shrine and local Scottish Rite bodies.
His leadership abilities also served him well as grand commander of the Knights Templar of the state of California and commander of the Sacramento Commandery of Knights Templar.
Lou and his wife, Clara F. Louisa Schmidt (1873-1928), who Lou married in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 14, 1893, moved into their new East Sacramento home at 1128 45th St. in about 1923. The house is located two houses to the north of the former home of Alden Anderson, who was featured in the last article of this series.
The couple’s sons, Louis John Breuner (1894-1974), Clarence Henry Breuner (1896-1960), Richard Weston Breuner (1899-1986), Wallace Emerson Breuner (1902-1975) and Robert Alvin Breuner (1909-1969), all held leading roles with the Breuner’s firm.
Following a nearly decade-long illness, Lou passed away at the age of 77 on Monday, May 12, 1947 while he was residing in Carmichael.
Private funeral services in his honor were held in the East Lawn chapel two days later and his remains were entombed inside the East Lawn mausoleum.