James Lewis Kraft (December 11, 1874 – February 16, 1953) started a cheese empire – beginning with his humble Canadian upbringing to selling various cheese products from the back of his horse-driven wagon led by his horse “Paddy”, and onward to creating a nationwide brand.

J.L. Kraft, Pauline Platt, and some of the Platt family, circa 1910.

(back row, left to right) William H. Platt, Freddie Platt, J.L. Kraft, Pauline Platt, and Hanna Platt.  (Front) William H. Platt Jr. & John Henry (Jack) Platt, circa 1905.

He was issued the first patent for processed cheese in 1916, a process which allowed the product to be shipped over long distances and resist spoiling. Consequently, the U.S. Armed Forces were able to add it to their rations in both WWI and WWII, reminding the troops of home cooked meals.

Over time, Kraft Foods would grow to become a familiar staple of grocery stores across the nation, filling refrigerators with its innovative products. With Velveeta in 1928, and Miracle Whip in 1933, Kraft Foods had become one of North America’s leading food producers.

In 1926, Kraft Foods opened a manufacturing plant in Antigo, Wisconsin. Back then, there was a train route running from the north woods to Chicago which facilitated both industrial shipping, but also personal transport to the area. The area reminded Kraft so much of his childhood home – the trees, the lakes, the wildlife – that he decided to purchase some land. This decision would lead to building a sprawling estate, and spending his summers there with his wife Pauline, his family and friends. Kraftwood was built along the edge of the Lake Mashkinosiew, just 20 miles north of downtown Antigo.

This website is dedicated to the history of Kraftwood, the gardens, and the people that have visited – and to the preservation and continued enjoyment of the estate by his descendants, their families and friends.