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

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