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Galveston Monthly

Kaufman-Ujffy Mansion

Dec 06, 2019 10:43AM
Julius Kauffman, Sr. (1815-1880) and his wife Clara Jockusch were German immigrants who found
success after marrying in Galveston in 1851, bringing the lines of two prosperous families together. Kauffman was a dominant force in the business of providing a means of
immigration for Germans from Bremen to Galveston. As consul to Austria and Hungary, he used his skills as an importer, merchant, and shipping agent as well as his overseas contacts to establish methods for new Americans to prepay for their European families to join them on the
Island.

Kauffman passed away in 1880, leaving a sizable estate to his wife and three children: Augusta, Julius, Jr., and Edward. In 1884, Clara used part of the inheritance to build a grand home situated on four lots on the northeast corner of 11th Street an Avenue I. (Sealy Street). The two-story
structure with a slate and metal roof had sixteen rooms, four halls, and two bathrooms in addition to the luxury of two closets. Light and heating was afforded by gas, oil, and two fireplaces.

Four porches offered outdoor living spaces where the family and their guests could relax and enjoy the breeze from the nearby Gulf. Fencing around the property enclosed the mansion as well as the outbuildings behind it, including a wooden cistern that provided water to the home and a chicken house.

In 1888, Julius, Jr. added stables and a servants’ house with three rooms, set on brick piers. The space below the quarters was soon converted into a garage. Two years later, he showed foresight by having the home improved and raised above the known flood level, creating a basement
with seven additional rooms.

Despite having one of the grandest new homes on the Island, Clara decided to return home to Bremen but made occasional visits to the island. The home became the property of her son who had taken over his father’s position as Austrian consul. His wife Freda Bader joined him in the
home after their 1896 marriage. 

Later, the mansion was leased to Maurice Sidney Ujffy (1857-1930) after Julius decided to relocate with his wife to the Kauffman Farm on Sweetwater Lake on the west end of
the island, eight miles from downtown Galveston.

Arriving in Galveston from his hometown of LaGrange in 1876, Ujffy had worked for the wholesale grocery firm of La Giers & Co and remained with them until 1880 when he became a partner in the firm of Ratto, Luckett & Ujffy. When that partnership dissolved, he continued in the
wholesale merchandise business independently. In June 1883, he married Miss Clara Jockusch (1858-1917) and became a member of Galveston Cotton Exchange in 1889. The Ujffys moved from 1307 Market to their new home in 1900. The family, including two-week-old Loula and their
servant Amanda Anderson, a 27-year-old immigrant from Finland, rode out Great Storm in the large house.

The stable and servants quarters were destroyed by the hurricane. Though the home sustained damaged, it was repaired in the following months. The quarters at the rear of the property were rebuilt in 1901.

Friends and family were often guests at parties in the home, given by the couple and their five daughters: Elise (1884-1968), Clara (1885-1904), Herma Agnes (1887-1918), Edith “Dita” Cecile (1893-1950), and Loula Macgill (1900-1993). The young ladies were involved in numerous society
functions, members of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and presented as debutantes at Galveston’s Artillery Club.

Ujffy was keenly interested in music, and it played an integral part of entertainment in their home. Each of the daughters shared their father’s passion, playing instruments and performing at home and in the community. Regular musical evenings were also held in their home often for
35 or more guests, and included classical and sentimental selections by vocalists, pianists, and quartets.

In 1904, 19-year-old Clara, the violinist of the family, passed away after a short hospitalization almost four years to the day after the historical hurricane had struck. A junior at Ball High School, she had planned to spend the summer in Europe studying music. The Ujffys held her funeral
at their home, and she was buried in Cahill Cemetery (renamed Evergreen in 1923).

 The family resumed their activities in the community soon afterward. As a member of the county commissioners court from 1904 to 1906, Maurice was a prime mover in the building of the causeway. His wife Clara was one of the directors of the Playground Association, president of theWomen’s Health Protective Association, and active in many other clubs and societies.

After renting the home from the Kauffmans for several years, Ujffy purchased the property for $5000 in 1907 from Julius and Freda who had decided to move to Germany. Loula’s tenth birthday party was held on the lawn and in the music room of the Ujffy home in 1910 and described in detail in the local papers. Her older sister Dita played Master of Games for the group of forty friends who were served lemonade, ice cream, and bon-bons beneath the
pink and white oleanders of the garden before gathering indoors to see the large birthday cake crowned with pink candles.

Her mother played the piano as the girls danced, and her father acted as dancing partner for each guest in turn. The account of the festivities noted that the birthday table was so filled with presents, the mantle was used as a gift “annex.”

Later that same year, eldest daughter Elise married Herr Georg Schmidt von Johnson of Germany at Trinity Episcopal, and a fashionable reception was held at her parent’s home. After the wedding, the couple moved to the young husband’s home overseas where he served in the German army and later died in the service. Elise and Georg’s two sons, Karl and George were raised in Germany but returned to Texas to attend Ball High School and Rice University.

After his graduation and before returning to Germany to teach in 1933, George gave a lengthy interview to the Houston Chronicle expounding on the advantages being offered by the Nazi party. It was his view that they would provide many opportunities to his generation, and that talk
of war was merely propaganda put out by opponents.

Karl was killed in battle while serving in the German army during the invasion of Poland in 1939 while George was an instructor at the University of Munich. The von Johnson family’s estate in what was known as the Polish Corridor was confiscated, causing the family to flee the area.

Changing Times
Clara Ujffy became ill in June 1917 and was taken to John Sealy Hospital where she died following an operation. The lifelong Galvestonian was interred in Cahill Cemetery near her namesake daughter. The following year, loss struck the family once again.

When Loula was scheduled to have minor surgery on her tonsils, her older sister Herma traveled to Austin to be by her side. During the visit the sisters both contracted influenza and 31-year-old Herma, who had become an English teacher at Ball High School, did not survive. Her younger sister Dita brought her back to Galveston for burial, then she and her father returned to Austin to help Loula recuperate.

The following years held happier times such as Loula’s marriage to an Austin architect and Edith’s to a Houston doctor. Though Maurice lived in the mansion alone, his daughters and their new families often visited him. He soon employed a live-in cook and rented out four of the firstfloor
rooms as apartments.

Always mindful of sharing his good fortune with the community, one of Ujffy’s last public acts was to offer a substantial sum of money to be used to plant trees along the Houston-Galveston highway.

While visiting his brother in New Orleans in December 1930, Ujffy contracted a cold and he passed away from asthma and heart complications at the age of 73. He was brought back to Galveston where a funeral was held at his home before he was interred beside his wife and daughters.

It was the last Ujffy family gathering that would take place in the mansion. In 1931, the residence at 1026 Sealy, including all four lots and a “large house,” was sold for $10,000. Mill Cornelius
Bowden (1867-1938), of Bowden & Worth contractors and director of the Island City Woodworking Company, purchased the home. It was probably bought as one of his multiple real
estate investments, since he and his wife Martha Ellen Collins (1872-1955) remained in their home at 1227 Winnie.

One of the Island’s most successful contractors, Bowden built the Galveston Water Works plant, First Baptist Church, City National Bank, Pearson Building, Atlanta Hotel, Surf Hotel, Surf Bath house, Piers 12, 13, 37 and 38, and more. He retired in 1933 before any changes had been made to the Ujffy residence, and it was razed two years later.

With that decision, Galveston’s most elegant residential representation of the German community was lost. Bowden passed away in 1938 and is buried in Trinity Episcopal
Cemetery.