Filed Under Entrepreneurs

Kundtz Castle

A Hungarian Lumberman's Lakewood Estate

Built by Theodor Kundtz between 1899 and 1903, the mansion known as Kundtz Castle featured a five-story tower, a bowling alley, and a music room with 12 stained glass windows. Kundtz did most of the woodwork himself. In 1925, the Cleveland Press called Kundtz's work "genius."

Theodor Kundtz immigrated to Cleveland from Hungary in 1873, at the age of twenty one. Trained as a carpenter, he found a job making cabinets for Whitworth Co. Kundtz was ambitious and wanted to make a name for himself, so in 1878 he left Whitworth and founded his own company, Theodor Kundtz Co. The main product was sewing machine cabinets, but the company sold many other wood items as well, including bodies for cars and vans. Kundtz accrued dozens of patents to protect his many ventures. Later on, he also founded a bicycle wheel company. Combined, the two businesses turned the poor immigrant into one of Cleveland's largest employers.

As his wealth grew, Kundtz invested his considerable wealth and woodworking skills in the construction of a grand estate situated on five acres of land stretching along the Lake Erie shoreline on the north side of Lake Avenue in Lakewood, Ohio. Each of the many rooms were adorned with Kundtz' own handcarved detail work.

Kundtz was active in Cleveland's Hungarian community. At the height of his success, nearly all of his 2,500 workers (92 percent, reportedly) were Hungarian. Kundtz also founded the Hungarian Savings and Loan Company and funded the Hungarian Hall on Clark Avenue. In 1902, his service to the Hungarian people was recognized and honored when Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary had the immigrant-turned-businessman/philanthropist knighted.

Kundtz sold his "castle" to Robert R. Morrow in 1945. In 1960, the Eggleston Development Co. purchased the property for $110,000 with plans for redevelopment. On December 18, 1961, the public saw Kundtz Castle for the last time. After a brief period during which the public was invited to view the interior of the castle, the company tore down the mansion to build 16 custom homes and a new street – Kirtland Lane. Before Kundtz Castle was demolished, the Eggleston Company salvaged some of the woodwork and sold it at auction. Most pieces went to private collectors, allowing the memory of Kundtz Castle to survive, if only in pieces.

Images

Postcard View of Kundtz Residence
Postcard View of Kundtz Residence The manor home of Theodore Kundtz was situated on five acres of land between Lake Avenue and Lake Erie, in Lakewood, Ohio. The tower was five stories tall and each room was decorated with a different type of hand carved wood. Source: Lakewood Historical Society Date: ca. 1910
Lakewood Lumberyard
Lakewood Lumberyard At the height of his success, Kundtz's company was housed in a five building complex in the Flats and a large lumberyard in Lakewood. In 1919, the lumberyard was sold to the White Sewing Machine Company. A year later, the yard went up in flames, burning for two days and causing almost $500,000 in damage. The lumberyard was then developed into four roads. Source: Lakewood Historical Society Date: ca. 1900
Theodor Kundtz
Theodor Kundtz Theodor Kundtz was born in Metzenseifen, Hungary on July 1, 1852. By the early 1900s, Kundtz was one of Cleveland's most successful businessmen. He held 44 patents for inventions, mainly for moving parts on sewing machines so they could fit into the cabinets Kundtz built. Image Courtesy of Lakewood Historical Society
Theodore Kundtz Co. Car
Theodore Kundtz Co. Car Originally working mainly in sewing machine cabinets, Kundtz's company eventually expanded into automobile bodies. The automobile branch of the company became one of the most successful of Kundtz's ventures. By the early 1900s Kundtz's company was one of the first vertically integrated companies in America. Image Courtesy of Lakewood Historical Society
Making Bodies for Army Trucks
Making Bodies for Army Trucks Kundtz's factory retooled to support defense needs in World War I. Source: National Archives Creator: Kundtz & Co. Date: April 4, 1918
Demolition of Kundtz's Castle
Demolition of Kundtz's Castle Although the house was entirely demolished, the Eggleston Company sold portions of the wood sidings and ceiling murals to the public. The house was also open to the public for a few days before the demolition was scheduled. People could experience the lavish structure and could even explore the five-story tower. Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer Date: March 9, 1961
Kirtland Lane, 1962
Kirtland Lane, 1962 When Kundtz Castle was demolished in 1961, developers built new homes and Kirtland Lane on the property. The houses were custom built and part of a small limited access residential area. Image courtesy of Cleveland State Library Special Collections

Location

Kirtland Lane, Lakewood, OH | Demolished

Metadata

Robin Meiksins, “Kundtz Castle,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 23, 2024, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/224.