Santa Cruz' Kitchen Temple

One of the oddest architectural buildings in Santa Cruz, California

The "Court of the Mysteries" was built by Kenneth Kitchen (aka Claire, Clarke, Clarence), born in Five Points, Pennsylvania. He arrived in Santa Cruz in 1923. He bought the property at 519 Fair street and began constructing his "Temple", a truly odd piece of architecture.


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"Santa Cruz' Kitchen Temple" by Will Johnson,, Professional Genealogist at Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License

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In an article in "Good Times" 11 Jun 09, "Surreal Estate" I first encountered the story of Kenneth Kitchen and his odd building, that article will be cited here as "Surreal Estate".  The building at 519 Fair Street in Santa Cruz, CA is known to locals as the "Court of the Mysteries" but it's not known if this name was coined by Kenneth or later by others.  The real estate page where it is offered for sale calls it the "Red Castle", and at least one other article called it the "Kitchen Castle".  A number of folk tales have grown up around the building and it's odd builder.

Kenneth Kitchen arrived in Santa Cruz in 1923, originally from Five Points, Pennsylvania. He was followed in 1929 by his brother Raymond Kitchen (aka Sylvester).  Kenneth born in 1888 was a bricklayer and his brother Raymond born in 1894 was a stonemason. ("Surreal Estate")  The exact location of "Five Points" is evidently unclear as the Wikipedia article here tells us.  However, as you will see below, I trace the family back to Clearfield County, PA and there is a "Five Points" in that county.

It is said that Kenneth built the brick structures at night by the light of the moon. The article also, quoting various interviewees states that Kenneth transported all the bricks in a brand-new Packard or Cadillac.  That he believed he could hear submarines using a special device he constructed.  That he would douse his bed with water to keep himself awake so he could hear the submarines.  That he could possibly jam the submarine signals.  That the astrological symbols on the plaque in front of the building could move and when they lined up a certain way it would signal Armageddon..  And finally that he vanished in 1953.  His brother Raymond evidently passed away in Tulare in 1973. ("Surreal Estate")

Here is a picture of the entrance gate, as seen in 1996, hosted at a Santa Cruz Public Library page.  And another article about it, by Ross Eric Gibson dated 1993, but stating that he came to Santa Cruz in 1934 with his brother Raymond.  A much clearer picture of the entrance gate.  And a wider-angle shot of the same entrance. Another article about this house / templeMore photos of the property.

use of this picture is by permission from Pacific Cruz, LLC

The picture on the left is hosted on the page where the property is offered for sale for $2.7 million calling it the "Red Castle".

Using only these clues, what documentary evidence can I find about the Kitchen family?

1930 Census of Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County, California showing : "Walter J Kitchen, head, owns home worth $2000, age 27, single, born PA/PA/PA, Mechanic; Donald Kitchen, brother, age 24, single, born PA/PA/PA, Trapper ?; Raymond Kitchen, brother [scratched out] head, owns home worth $9000, age 36, single, born PA/PA/PA, Artester ? Rrk ? Mason, Veteran WW; Claire, brother [scratched out] head, owns home worth $10000, age 42, single, born PA/PA/PA, Master Stone Mason"

1930 Santa Cruz, California Voter Registrations showing : "Claire Kitchen, Democrat, Stone Mason, 332 Walnut Avenue; Raymond S Kitchen, Democrat, Mason, 332 Walnut Avenue; Donald Kitchen, Republican, Truck Driver, 21 Hollywood Street; Thomas W Kitchen, Republican, Cement Worker, 21 Hollywood Avenue"

1920 Census of Eureka Township, Rice County, Kansas showing : "Grover Kitchen [indexed at as "Kitchener"], owns home, age 35, single, born PA/PA/PA, Farmer, Truck and Poultry; Sarra J, mother, age 60, born PA/PA/PA, no occupation; Claire, brother, age 32, single, born PA/PA/PA, Laborer, Farm; Raymond, brother, age 26,  born PA/PA/PA, Laborer, Farm; Charlow ?, brother, age 23, single, born PA/PA/PA, Laborer, Farm; Walter, brother, age 18, single, born PA/PA/PA, Laborer, Farm; Donald, brother, age 17, single, born PA/PA/PA, Laborer, Farm"

World War I Draft Registration Card showing : "Claire Kitchen, age 30, resident of Frederick, Kansas; born 24 Jan 1887, at Five Points, Penn; laborer in brick yard;employed by Swanson in Lindsborg ? Kansas; single with dependent father and mother; signed Claire Kitchen; medium height, slender, light brown eyes, dark brown hair; not disabled; dated 5 Jun 1917 at Eureka, Rice County, Kansas"

1910 Census of Eureka Township, Rice County, Kansas showing : "William A Kitchen, head, age 70, second marriage, 29 years ago, born PA/PA/US, no occupation; Sarry J Kitchen, wife, age 50, first marriage, 29 years ago, mother of 11, 10 living, born PA/PA/PA, no occupation; Grover C Kitchen, son, age 25, single, born PA/PA/PA, Farmer, owns home; Claire Kitchen, son, age 22, single, born PA/PA/PA, Farmer, owns home; Sylvester A Kitchen, son, age 16, born PA/PA/PA, Farmer; Charles F, son, age 13, born PA/PA/PA; Harig? C, daughter, age 11, born PA/PA/PA; Tommas ? W, son, age 8, born PA/PA/PA; Donald, son, age 7, born PA/PA/PA"

1905 Special Kansas State Census of Eureka Township, Frederick PO, Rice County Kansas showing : "Renter, Wm S Kitchen, age 65; Sararh [sic] J, age 45; Grover C, age, 20; Melvina, age 18; Claire, age 17; Sarah J, age 15; Hazel, age 13; S R [a male], age 11; C H [a male], age 9; Maria E, age 6; T W, age 3; Donald, age 2"

1900 Census of Chest Township, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania
showing : "William Kitchen, head, born Jan 1840, married 18 years ago, born PA/Unknown/Unknown, Farmer, Owns Home; Sarah Jane, wife, born Jan 1860, married 18 years ago, mother of 10 [or 9?], 8 living, born PA/PA/PA; Grover C, son, born Oct 1884, born PA/PA/PA, Woodman; Melvina, daughter, born Jun 1886; Clare, son, born Jan 1888; Sarah J, daughter, born Dec 1889; Hazel, daughter, born Sep 1891; Sylvester, son, born Mar 1894; Charlie H, son, born May 1896; Maria E, daughter, born Jul 1898" [next door to two other Kitchen families headed by men who are probably William's brother]