Sunday, May 29, 2016

Bushwick's Lipsius - Cook Mansion

Red brick Mansion on street corner
Lipsius - Cook Mansion
Red brick Mansion on street corner
Lipsius - Cook Mansion
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Address: 670 Bushwick Avenue

Built in 1889, the Lipsius - Cook Mansion is a red brick building designed by architect Theobald Engelhardt in the Romanesque Revival style. Engelhardt was a well-known, prolific Brooklyn architect active around the turn of the last century. Some of his other landmarked buildings include three of the Pencil Factory Buildings, Greenpoint Home for the Aged, Northside Savings Bank and William Ulmer Brewery in Bushwick. As an observation, I’d like to note that the Cook Mansion has a very similar spooky quality to the Greenpoint Home for the Aged. The Mansion’s features include a rusticated stone base, terracotta and stone trim, a mansard roof with pilastered dormers and an imposing tower on one corner of the home. Similar to some of Engelhardt’s other buildings, this one has a storied history. 

Red brick Mansion on street corner black and white historic photo and recent color photo comparison
Lipsius - Cook Mansion Past & Present
The Owners
The mansion was originally built for Catherina Claus-Lipsius, owner of the Claus Lipsius Brewing Company that formerly operated at Bushwick Avenue and Forrest Street. The Brewery (also designed by Engelhardt) was one of fourteen breweries on “Brewer Row”. Its claim to fame was for creating the recipe for Brooklyn Lager. A successful business venture, the brewery’s profits allowed Catherine to commission the imposing mansion that she sold to Dr. Frederick Albert Cook in 1902.
Graphic cover of 1909 North Pole Expedition Booklet with portraits of Cook and Perry
Cover Image from 1909 North Pole Expedition Booklet
Grainy black and white photo of two men next to an igloo with an American Flag
Photo Claimed by Cook to Show he was the First at the North Pole
A Columbia Medical School graduate, Dr. Cook was an explorer, as well as a man of tall tails. He accompanied Robert Peary on his 1891-1892 arctic expedition and Belgium explorer Adrien de Gerlache’s Antarctic expedition. Upon returning Dr. Cook claimed that he was the first to summit Mount McKinley in Alaska and the first to reach the North Pole. Both claims were false. Cook’s claim of reaching the North Pole in April of 1908 was refuted by Peary, who is credited as being the first to reach the site in 1909. Regardless, Cook’s stories and hyperbole made him a sensation and he earned millions by selling photographs and stories to newspapers, as well as lecturing around the world. 
Black and white portrait
Dr. Frederick Albert Cook ca. 1906
In 1923 Cook was convicted of mail fraud for overstating potential oil yields from a tract of land for a Texas Oil Company he represented. Although, the land eventually yielded a far greater volume of oil than Cook originally claimed. The sentence was considered harsh and there is speculation that the Judge in the case was biased due to a possible connection to the Peary family. Dr. Cook served out his six years and was released in 1930 with his reputation in shambles. President Roosevelt pardoned him in 1940 shortly before his death.

Cook sold the house to an Italian family in 1920 that sold it in 1952 to a Catholic Religious order known as the Daughters of Wisdom. The order used the building as a convent until 1960 when they sold it to a doctor. According to Brownstoner the house was also used as a clinic and was abandoned prior to being repurposed for its current use as a four-unit apartment building.

  1. Brian Merlis & Riccardo Gomes Brooklyn's Bushwick & East Williamsburg Communities Gomerl Publishing, NY 2012
  2. Kurshan, Virginia "Cathrina Lipsius House (aka Dr. Frederick A. Cook House)" Landmarks Preservation Commission Report 25 June, 2013
  3. Spellen, Suzanne "Building of the Day: 670 Bushwick Avenue" Brownstoner
  4. Tietjen, Lib "The Lipsius Cook Mansion" History / Your Story 7 October, 2013
  5. Hybenova, Katarina "Spooky Mansion on Willoughby Avenue Named a City Landmark" Bushwick Daily 8 July, 2010

Friday, May 13, 2016

Abandoned Ridgewood Masonic Temple

Abandoned neoclassical brick Masonic Temple
Ridgewood Masonic Temple
Abandoned neoclassical brick Masonic Temple facade
Ridgewood Masonic Temple Facade
Neighborhood: Bushwick
Address: 1054 Bushwick Avenue

Designed by architecture firm Koch & Wagner, the Ridgewood Masonic Temple (Lodge No. 710) is a Beaux-Arts style fraternal hall built in 1920. The firm partners were both native Brooklynites that graduated from Pratt Institute. The structure is a four-story building constructed of limestone and buff-colored brick. The building’s dominant features are its rusticated first floor, tall arched windows and ionic columned portico entrance. In addition, the building has a terracotta cornice and details that include Masonic icons.

Abandoned neoclassical brick Masonic Temple entrance
Ridgewood Masonic Lodge Entrance
The Freemasons are a fraternal organization of an ambiguous nature. There doesn't seem to be one succinct definition of who they are but if you want some first hand knowledge, I recommend visiting the Masonic Hall in Manhattan during Open House New York weekend. During the tour, they will explain a little bit about their principals and practices. The Ridgewood Lodge that occupied Bushwick's Ridgewood Temple was formed from three Freemason lodges, the Ridgewood Lodge, Cypress Hills Lodge and Star of Hope Lodge. The Ridgewood Lodge, founded in 1870, moved at least five times prior to commissioning the neoclassical temple.  Regarding the Ridgewood Temple's Bushwick location and its Queens neighborhood name association, the Temple's location was once considered to be a Ridgewood, Queens address. The Lodge was active in the Temple until it closed sometime in the 1970s due to declining membership. It was then consolidated with the Anchor Astoria Lodge in College Point, Queens.

After the Free Masons vacated the building it was briefly used as a concert venue for shows produced by Todd P, an indie music promoter. However, the city put an end to that by disallowing alcohol sales at the location indefinitely after the building’s manager failed to get a liquor license for an event he held in 2010. Some of the bands that played at the venue included, Sleigh Bells, Vivien Girls, Dan Deacon and Das Racist. Like most other vacant historic buildings around Brooklyn, the current plan for the Ridgewood Masonic Temple is a condo conversion. The building was landmarked in 2014 though, so any modifications to the exterior shell should be minimal and would require the Landmark Preservation Commission’s approval. In addition, the neighborhood’s zoning should keep developers from raising a giant tower through the roof.

  1. Bindelglass, Evan "Mysterious Ridgewood Masonic Temple is Now a Landmark" Curbed 23 July, 2014
  2. Warerkar, Tanay "Landmarks OKs Bushwick Masonic Lodge's Rental Conversion" Curbed 20 January, 2016
  3. Noonan, Cristin "13 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Ridgewood Masonic Temple" Bushwick Daily 26 January, 2016
  4. "Cassie Did Play" Brooklyn Vegan 3 November, 2010
  5. "1054 Bushwick - Ridgewood Masonic Temple" The Bushwiki
  6. Presa, Donald "Ridgewood Lodge No. 710, Free and Accepted Masons" Landmarks Preservation Commission Report 22 July, 2014