August Kutzbock (also known as Augustus), was born circa 1814 in Bremen, Germany. He moved to the United States in 1852 and settled in Rochester, New York, where he was listed in the 1853-1854 city directory as an architect. In 1854 he moved to Sandusky, and in 1855 he moved to Madison. Kutzbock was married to Maria Bartels, also from Bremen, Germany, who had a least four children from a previous marriage and who was 10 years older than Kutzbock.
He formed an architectural partnership with Samuel Hunter Donnell around 1855 since the Governor Farwell residence of that date was attributed to both men in reliable sources.
The office of Donnell and Kutzbock was in the 100 block of King Street. The last known citation for their partnership was a newspaper advertisement from 1859. Donnell died in 1861 at the age of 37.
After Donnell's death, Kutzbock practiced alone here until the fall of 1864 or so. In late 1864 Kutzbock moved to San Francisco. He received many commissions there, but fell into ill health, which precluded him from doing any work. He was ill for about 13 months and, after recovering, decided to return to Madison. In the fall of 1867 he advertised that he had returned from San Francisco, where he had spent three years, and was taking orders for work at his son-in-law John L. Bartels' dry goods store. In November 1868 Kutzbock grew despondent over failed business ventures and lack of work and committed suicide by drowning in Lake Mendota. While in Madison, Kutzbock lived in a brick house on Main Street, between Blair and Blount.
Buildings known to have been designed by Kutzbock alone include those built after Donnell's death. These include the Italianate Hopkins house (1863), the German Romanesque Revival Shaire Shomain synagogue (1863) and Turner Hall (1863) of the same style. Since the McDonnell house, the Ott house, City Hall, the second state Capitol building and the first Van Slyke house are also in this very distinctive Germanic vein, it is likely that Kutzbock was the principal designer for these buildings, too (Kutzbock was listed on a sign requesting bids as the City Hall architect). Non-religious, high-style buildings with strong German influence were quite unusual for their day, even in heavily German communities like Milwaukee. The McDonnell house and the Old Synagogue may very well be of national significance as rare and beautiful examples of this style.
The Farwell Octagon, the F.G. Briggs house and the Lawrence house are excellent examples of the classic Italianate style. Other buildings in Madison bear a strong resemblance to these Italianate houses, such as the Perry house (152 East Johnson Street) and the Van Bergen block (120-128 South Pinckney). These buildings could very well have been designed by Donnell and Kutzbock, but there is no substantiation for this at this time.
In the 1850s and '60s Madison was quite a small town. For a smaller pioneer town to have skilled architects with such a command of their trade was quite unusual. Later 19th-century architects in Madison, such as D.R. Jones, Capt. John Nader, Stephen Shipman and James O. Gordon could not match the artistic finesse of Madison's first architectural firm
Known Buildings Designed by Samuel Hunter Donnell and August Kutzbock
||2 West Mifflin
|L. Guild House, Gardenhouse and Garden
||State at Waterloo Observatory Hill
|Robert Bashford House
||423 North Pinckney
|George V. Ott House
||21 East Wilson
|West Wing State Asylum Building
||Troy Dr. (outside city)
|Van Slyke House
||28 East Gilman
Known Designs by August Kutzbock
|Benjamin F. Hopkins House
||142 East Gilman
*W. Washington originally
Bibliographic References for August Kutzbock
Biographical Review of Dane County, Wisconsin, Biographical Review Co., 1893, p. 560
(biography of Donnell’s wife's second husband, John A. Bowman, containing
short biography of Donnell).
Centennial Edition, Wisconsin State Journal, 1939, v. II. pp. 3-4 (somewhat inaccurate
article about Madison architecture).
City directories, Madison, Rochester, San Francisco.
Holmes, Fred, L., ed., Wisconsin: Stability, Progress, Beauty, Chicago: Lewis
Publishing Co., 1946, pp. 564-565 (short entry about Kutzbock).
Kutzbock, August, Account Book, 1852-1863, in the collection of the Wisconsin Historical
Neckar, Lance, "August Kutzbock, b. 1814, d. 1868, Architect," Exhibition notes in
collection of city of Madison Department of Planning and Development
United States Census Records for Madison, Wisconsin, 1860.
Weekly Wisconsin Patriot, March 3, 1855, May 31, 1856, June 18, 1859 (adv. and notes
for S.H. Donnell and Donnell and Kutzbock).
Wisconsin State Journal, Nov. 2, 1868 (obituary for Kutzbock).