Kingwood in the ’20s: Part II Multidimensional Postcard Views

(A place so grand as Kingwood deserves its epic legend, and a story that big necessarily throws deeper shadows in all directions to give it more dimensionality.  What we know of CK King in the 1920s survives only in the ephemeral media of memories, glimpses, overheard tales—each of which is a little postcard from the past, with a different view of Kingwood during its halcyon days.)


A View from a Table of the Bridge Club

In the 1920s Mansfield was essentially controlled by a chessboard of two rows of royal and lesser families, in a tight social order constrained by certain proprieties, so as an interloper from the outside world CK King made a smart move right off by marrying the daughter of a major family on the board. 

Within 16 years, however, his wife had run off with the Chauffer because she said CK’s taste in women ran all up and down the social scale.  That scandal hit in 1913, and his next wife was much more tolerant of CK’s womanizing but unfortunately much less sober during the Great Prohibition when everyone was acting like they didn’t drink.  After she was gone King might show up at society events with almost any woman on his arm, so he wasn’t actually received in Mansfield any longer by the right families.


A View from the Wary Middle Management

In the 1920s there was a bright young talented man in the Ohio Brass Company whose crystal clear understanding of the organization quickly landed him in the middle of everything—as a personal assistant to the President for many years—so if anybody knew all the secrets of who was jockeying for what power plays, what the stakes were, and where all the money was, it was this guy.

In 1928 the bright young man was promoted to become the company’s Secretary-Treasurer at the same time when CK King was repositioned as the new President, and shortly after the power shifted, the bright guy fell down an elevator shaft.

He survived that, albeit with some wobbly aftereffects, and King invited him on a trip to England so the ocean air might restore his nerves.  Somewhere halfway across the Atlantic the bright boy mysteriously went overboard and was never seen again.

This 1957 aerial photo shows a parking lot at the right that was once Mr. King’s tennis court. Of the many trees that stood in the lawn then there are only a few remaining, including these two majestic guardians flanking the house as seen from Park Avenue West.

A View from the Caterers

Mr. King was rather footloose after the second wife was gone, and since his house was made for entertaining he did quite a bit of it—after all, it was the roaring 20s when the winds of change were sweeping away everything that smacked of old fashioned Victorian values.  When Kingwood was built, the edge of town was still well east of the hedges and so whatever loud parties, music, roars of outrageous hilarity and Prohibition-defying carryings on happened there were largely unreported by folks in town.

There were the lines of limousines, however, that everyone in town saw rolling off the highway from Cleveland through the streets to Kingwood, filled with smartly dressed women and their cigar smoking escorts.

There was a regular swimming pool on the grounds of course, with lovely bathers strewn about, but for the caterers, the less forgettable image was the one of young women who lost their shoes dashing through the fountain pealing laughter.

The pool at Kingwood was already in existence before the big hall was built in 1926, but it got the most use during the late 20s through the 1930s.

Look closely at the flagstones surrounding the water and you’ll see mint growing in the cracks- so that bare feet pattering around the pool created a sweet scented atmosphere.

A View from the Bar at the Leland

Joe Kearney the bartender turns and says When God Almighty is short of cash he goes to Mr. King for a loan.


A View from the Florist

CK King always wanted fresh flowers in his home, and when there were visitors in the house he checked personally to make sure the guest rooms had fresh bouquets.

When Mr. King was out of town for any length of time, the flowers were cut to his specifications and shipped to him at Palm Springs or Martha’s Vineyard.

These photos were taken just days after Kingwood opened in 1926, by the architect Clarence Mack.

It was a chance meeting by the pool at Kingwood that actually launched the fabulous modeling career of Dana Jenney. (below)

When she came to a High School swimming party with Mr. King’s nephew, CK immediately saw in her the makings of a photogenic star and then he did everything he could to provide her with opportunity to rise to her potential.

A View from the Top of the World

In the 30s and 40s one of the most successful, glamorous and photographed women in print media in the US was Dana Jenney, and she was quick to tell you, if it came up in conversation, that she would never have gotten where she was without the help of CK King.

He recognized in her the qualities of a star from the first time she happened into the grounds at Kingwood, and he unstintingly pulled out all the stops, cashed in all the favors, opened all the doors, and did everything it took to get her in front of the right people in Cleveland and New York so her career could launch.

Dana Jenney wound up with yachts and jewels and houses around the world, but whenever she came back to Richland County to visit her family in Shenandoah, Mr. King made sure his personal car and driver were at her service.


A View from the Children

The sisters, ranging in age from 4-9, grew up in a house not far from Kingwood, and they had a secret place to play underneath some giant shrubberies near Kingwood Hall.  They called it their Summer Cottage.  No one could see them in there, and so once in a while they left their summer playthings behind.

Mr. King got word from one of the gardeners that neighborhood kids were messing around on the grounds, so he took the necessary measures to protect himself.

One day when the little girls arrived at the Summer Cottage they found a large yellow-ribboned, heart-shaped box of chocolates under the shrubbery.



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