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03) John Kaufmann



By Maxie Duke

                Master Builder John Kaufmann was born June 24, 1827 in Thuringen, German, and died 69 years later, February 29, 1896, in Walhalla, SC.  His claim to fame is the St. John’s Lutheran Church which was founded in 1853, but built between 1859-1861.  That church, that building, has become Walhalla’s most recognized landmark, and is beautifully preserved.

                According to the Keowee Courier (September 12, 1889), Kaufmann was also the builder of the St. John’s Episcopal Church (except the pews) which went into service around 1889.  A popular Rural Gothic (called Cottage Gothic in the Courier) style of architecture was used.  Kaufmann insisted that all the timber donated had to be cut the winter before, when the sap was down, insuring that the boards would  have time to dry.  The St. John’s Church building, renamed Old St. John’s Meeting House, now belongs to the City of Walhalla, and has been appropriately relocated on Kaufmann Square, the City Park, at the corner of South Broad and South Catherine Streets.

                A respected and honored citizen, Kaufmann was a trustee of the Education Society, and served as both an Intendant (Mayor) and Warden (Council Member) of the City.

                He was in charge of the construction of many homes, one of the Methodist Church buildings that faced Main Street, and on July 2, 1869, a Mr. Wiseman of Newberry opened a new building that bore Kaufmann’s talents.  In 1875, Kaufmann owned and operated a brewery—a large commodious building.  He was in charge of the construction of a law office for S. P. Dendy.  When fire broke out in a lumber yard, he gave a keg of beer to the Rifleman’s Club.

                Perhaps Kaufmann’s other biggest prize was the Kaufmann Opera House, opened in 1883 with a performance of “Little Brown Jug.” That building was later remodeled and became the residence of Lola and Frances Kaufmann, both school teachers.  Miss Lola Kaufmann was the first female principal of Walhalla High School.  Presently, an open space and parking lot is where the Opera House once stood on the north side of East Main Street.

                He built the first school building for the Education Society which was destroyed by fire while Adger College was its owners.  That same site is where the old Walhalla Graded School was constructed.   The Walhalla Civic Auditorium is presenting there now, replacing the good times of the older Opera House.

From the Notes of Pastor George Shealy & the Keowee Courier, September 12, 1889.