Joseph Kotecki - Cleveland 1896
The city was celebrating it’s 100th birthday, William McKinley defeated evolutionist Charles Darwin in a race for Ohio’s governor, and the Cleveland Spiders finished 2nd in the National League with an 80-48 record. It was then that a German immigrant named Joseph Kotecki (aka Josef) took hammer and chisel, carved history into stone, and began a legacy of building the region’s largest and most historic monument and memorial company.
Joseph Kotecki - The Stone Cutter - Family Support - Marriage
As a young journeyman, Joseph Kotecki was sent out to work and assist in supporting the family. Initially a stone apprentice, he worked on various city and state projects including the East River Bridge in New York. Following the death of his mother, Joseph assumed the role of raising his younger sisters (Magie, Kate, and Josephine). He would trap animals in the swamps of New Jersey where they lived and sold their furs at market.
Joseph Kotecki would later find his bride in Mary Dembroski, an immigrant from Polish Russia. The couple would wed at the Holy Trinity Church in Long Island, New York. In 1889, Joseph would bring his stone-cutting skills to Cleveland for the first time working on the Garfield Memorial.
Building The James A. Garfield Memorial - Cleveland 1890
In 1890, The James A. Garfield Memorial was under construction at Lakeview Cemetery. The building was the final resting place of the 22nd President of the United States. Garfield was born in 1831 in the community now known as Moreland Hills, Ohio. He was assassinated just four months after being sworn in as president.
The Garfield memorial was an aggressive architectural project standing 180 feet depicting beautifully-color marble and deep-red granite columns. This historic building needed skilled stone cutters from around the country and a young Joseph Kotecki answered that call. Today it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
First Home In Cleveland - Children - Partnership
Having found consistent stone work in Cleveland, Joseph looked to establish a foundation in the city. He and Mary would own a home on East 55th Street (near Harvard Road). Many friends and relations lived in the area and were employed by the U.S. Steel Company. The Koteckis were blessed with children (Gertrude, Edward E. Jr., Elizabeth, Eleanor, and Mary). Joseph’s first business venture was a partnership with Radomski Monuments on East 98th Street. It was later dissolved as Joseph opened his first independent granite company.
Early Sales - Calvary Granite Company - The Family Business Is Born
Joseph Kotecki had initially supported the family by carving grave markers at night and selling them during the day via horse-drawn cart. He would purchase property on East 96th Street at the back entrance to the Calvary Cemetery. The building sign would read … J. Kotecki … Calvary Granite Co. … Looking back, this footprint branded Joseph the “founding father” of his industry in Cleveland. It also began the legacy of it’s most historic monument company – Kotecki Family Memorials.