Alfred Salom Eichberg was a prominent Victorian-era architect and one of the first Jewish architects to practice his trade in the Southeast. At historic Oakland Cemetery, he’s also known as the only person who has a copyrighted tombstone.
Alfred was born in New York on August 23, 1859. His father Joseph owned a successful plumbing business. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, Joseph relocated his family to the Atlanta area in 1869. Joseph and his wife Caroline had six children together, including Alfred.
Alfred developed an interest in design and architecture at a young age. His family sent him to Germany for his architectural training. After completing school, Alfred moved back to Atlanta and soon partnered with another Georgia architect, Calvin Fay. The two formed the architectural firm Fay and Eichberg, which operated from 1881 to 1888.
During his seven years with Fay and Eichberg, Alfred designed a number of notable structures in Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia. These buildings include the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Savannah’s Telfair Hospital for Females, the Central Georgia Railway Building (now Clark Hall, home of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s architecture program), small buildings for Atlanta’s 1881 International Cotton Exposition, and other residential and smaller commissions throughout the state. During this time, Alfred relocated to Savannah so that he could focus on his architectural designs full time.
[Eichberg’s designs] include the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Savannah’s Telfair Hospital for Females, the Central Georgia Railway Building (now Clark Hall, home of the Savannah College of Art and Design’s architecture program), small buildings for Atlanta’s 1881 International Cotton Exposition, and other residential and smaller commissions
When Calvin Fay’s health started to decline (he would pass away in 1890), Alfred began practicing on his own. He was one of the few Jewish architects working in the South, with projects in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Some of his famous North Carolina projects include the design for the F. Rheinstein and Company Building and the New Hanover County Courthouse, both in Wilmington, NC. Alfred hired draftsman Hyman Witcover in 1894; they would later become business partners.
Alfred’s design style has been described as eclectic with a special focus on Romanesque Revival. His designs also included elements of Italianate, Queen Anne, Chateauesque, and Neoclassical Revival. Many of his buildings incorporate red brick or terra-cotta with ornate stonework trim, arches, spiky rooflines, and other decorative features. Some of Alfred’s other noted projects include Fox and Weeks Funeral in Savannah, Brunswick City Hall, and the Guckenheimer Grocery Store Building in Savannah.
In the mid-1890s, Alfred’s commissions began to taper off, likely due to the 1893 depression, and he moved back home to Atlanta. There, he helped run his family’s ironwork firm and manufacturing business. He was also very active in Georgia’s Scottish Rite Masonic Lodge. Alfred Eichberg passed away on May 15, 1921, at the age of 61. He was laid to rest the next day at Oakland Cemetery.
The Only Copyrighted Tomb at Historic Oakland Cemetery
Alfred Eichberg’s tomb is located in the area known as Jewish Hill. He is joined by his parents, Joseph Eichberg (1834-1904) and Caroline Eichberg (1841-1929).
While many stones at Oakland are marked by the engraver or funeral home, the Eichbergs’ tombstone is the only copyrighted tombstone in the entire cemetery. If you’re facing the front of Eichbergs’ tomb, the copyright (“Copyright 1906 A. S. Eichberg”) is on the left side, in the bottom corner.
Copyright Protection: 1906 to 1934
A copyright is a legal tool by which an author or creator can protect his or her original works, or intellectual property. When something is copyrighted, it means that the creator has the exclusive legal right to display, perform, copy, distribute, or adapt the work. A copyright doesn’t protect the idea itself; it limits who can express that idea, and how.
For a person to apply for a copyright, the work must be original and fixed. Fixed means that it is captured in a permanent medium (for example, a photo, sketch, painting, video, or printing), and that the work can be perceived, communicated, or reproduced. In other words, the person filing for the copyright has to be the one who created that work, and he or she must be able to produce the content in some kind of tangible form. A person can copyright creative, original works that are literary, artistic, educational, or musical. Examples include books, sheet music, plays, recorded choreography, pictures, paintings, sculpture, movies, sound recordings, and architectural designs.
A creator can claim copyright protection from the moment that their original work is fixed in a permanent medium. For those who register their copyrights, the length of protection under U.S. copyright law depends on a couple of different factors: If an author formally registered his or her copyright prior to January 1, 1978, the initial term of copyright was 28 years. After that time, the author could renew the copyright for another 67 years, bringing the total term of copyright protection to 95 years.
Alfred Eichberg registered his design copyright in 1906. That means his architectural design was protected under U.S. copyright law until 1934 (28 years). Had Alfred been alive in 1934, he could have extended his copyright through 2001 (an additional 67 years), but sadly, Alfred passed away in 1921. His architectural design copyright expired in 1934.
Much of Alfred’s work in Savannah, GA and Wilmington, NC still stands. His accomplishments and copyrighted tombstone make him a popular spot for Oakland Cemetery tour guides. If you are interested in learning more about Alfred Eichberg and seeing his copyrighted tomb, be sure to take Oakland Cemetery’s Jewish Grounds special topic tour.
Megan Hodgkiss, JD, Ph.D., is a tour guide at Oakland Cemetery, a special events volunteer, and a member of the Historic Oakland Foundation Board of Trustees. When she is not volunteering with Oakland Cemetery, Megan is the CEO and Principal Writer of Hodgkiss Consulting LLC. She works on content marketing and copywriting projects for law firms and businesses across the U.S.