BUSHWICK, Brooklyn

 

“Few men in all history … have ever been made to suffer so bitterly and so inexpressibly as I because of the assertion of my achievement.”

Was Dr. Frederick A. Cook the first American to climb Alaska’s Mount McKinley and the first explorer to reach the North Pole? Or, was he, as some detractors assert, a fake and a phony?

courtesy Peter Sefton

After Cook returned to the USA in the late 19-oh’s, New York City seemed to fall squarely in the pro-Cook camp, as this celebratory arch emblazoned with the words “We Believe In You” attests.

courtesy Peter Sefton

For a time, Cook resided in this mansion on Bushwick and Willoughby Avenues in Brooklyn. He died in New Rochelle, NY in 1940. The William Ulmer Mansion  has been rehabilitated and is now occupied after years of moribundity. The mansion had previously been occupied by brewer Ulmer, whose nearby brewery complex on Beaver and Belvidere Streets has recently been landmarked by the city Landmaks Preservation Commission. Ulmer also built a long-vanished amusement park in Bath Beach, which today is remembered by the Ulmer Park bus repair facility and storage yard at 25th and Harway Avenues and by the Ulmer Park Library.

Whether Cook was the true discoverer of the North Pole should be left to historians to decide.

What concerns your webmaster today is his house in Bushwick, for it symbolizes this Brooklyn neighborhoods’s steep decline and efforts to revive. Today we’ll look at what became of Dr. Cook’s mansion and others along Bushwick Avenue, as well as a foray or two elsewhere in this fascinating–if little- mentioned– enclave.

Bushwick, in northeast Brooklyn, is surrounded by Bedford-Stuyvesant on the west, Williamsburgh on the north, and Ridgewood to the northeast. Like many names in Brooklyn, “Bushwick” is derived from Dutch and means “town in the woods.” Once a separate town in Kings County, it became a part of Brooklyn in 1869.

Bushwick boomed in the late 1800s when German immigrants opened large breweries in the area, which were very profitable; brewers were able to build large, imposing mansions built in the exuberant, baroque Beaux Arts style of the day. Subsequent waves of immigration brought Italians and Latinos to the area.

After the breweries closed or moved, starting in the 50s and continuing into the 70s when all were gone, Bushwick suffered a slow decline, culminating in July 1977 when, during a blackout, Bushwick , in effect, was destroyed by arson and looting. Broadway, which with Bushwick Avenue comprise the main arteries of Bushwick, are still attempting to recover from the destruction that happened in just one night. On this page we’ll look at some of Bushwick’s gems which should be the keystones in such a comeback.



In mid-2006,
 the planks had been removed from the windows and it appeared to be in rehabilitation. (When I went past again in 2010, it was again occupied!)

A once-grand dwelling in similar condition to Cook’s old digs was just across Willoughby Avenue. It was demolished in the early 2000s.

The triangle across from the Ulmer/Cook mansion, Freedom Triangle, contains the first of two war memorials along Myrtle Avenue alongside the el structure. Both are works of sculptor Pietro Montana. The “Angel of Victory With Peace” was installed here in 1921 and honors Bushwick’s 93 casualties in World War I. (It was restored to its lost grandeur about 5 years after this photo was taken in 2000)

She appears to us to be wearing the crown of Victory, sword hilt forward and face transfigured. Her arm uplifted in a torch-like gesture to the vision of peace — the supposed end for which the Great War was fought, by America at least. The ninety-three dead who were sacrificed to it are carved on the handsome pedestal. Both statue and setting have been recently restored, thanks to the Department of Parks Division of Art and Antiques, and Greenstreets. — Cal Snyder in Out of Fire and Valor


A bit further up Bushwick Avenue, on Meserole Street, a building’s sign testifies Bushwick Avenue’s old name: The Boulevard.

Bushwick Avenue, though, offers few more of the ruins shown above. Many of Bushwick’s old mansions are now in surprisingly good condition.

This 1890 shingle-style home, built for a Charles Lindemann in 1890, was recently restored.

The 1890 Doerschuck House was built for a brewer, as were many mansions on Bushwick Avenue.

This mansion was built for Thomas Bossert in 1898; Bossert went on to build Brooklyn Heights’ Bossert Hotel.

John Hylan, NYC mayor from 1918 to 1925, lived at 959 Bushwick Avenue (the brownstone one over from the extreme right).

Hylan paid particular attention to transit issues during his tenure (he used to operate a loco on the Brooklyn els). He opposed raising the 5-cent fare, and, some say, had a hand in nixing the expansion of subway service to Staten Island. It seems fitting, then, that Staten Island’s longest boulevard is named for him.

This house at 1080 Greene Avenue at Goodwin Place is of particular note, since it’s been allowed to deteriorate with many of its original features intact, preserved in amber, as it were.

Flecks of its original red-and gold paint job are still there on the bay window.

The first floor is used as a storefront church, but the top floors seem unused for now. By 2010, it had been given a partial makeover.

Of all Bushwick streets, Linden Street is particularly gracious. The crenellation on the mansard roof (LEFT) has been allowed to remain, while these town houses have their original iron fences, which havebeen maintained through the decades.

The South Bushwick Reformed Churchat Bushwick and Himrod dates to 1853. Note the Ionic columns. These days it could use a paint job. Himrod was the name of its first minister.

The Bushwick is not the most imposing church in the area…

…That distinction goes to St. Barbara’s Roman Catholic Church at Central Avenue and Bleecker Street. Among the tallest buildings in Brooklyn, it can be seen from all over Bushwick.

St. Barbara’s was built in 1910. A major contributor was Leonard Eppig, a local brewer whose daughter’s name was Barbara.

St. Barbara’s is, if anything, more imposing inside than out, with gilding, stonework, stained glass and a magnificent pipe organ. It should not be missed if you’re in Bushwick.

Next door to St. Barbara’s, a stained-glass house number echoes the church’s detail.

On Broadway and Arion Place is the hulk of the old Arion Männerchor, Bushwick’s foremost German singing society. It later became a mansion and catering hall.

The building is rich in detail of its musical past; German initials, top, and lyre-shaped ironwork on the fire escapes.

Oddly the fire escapes don’t appear in pictures taken from the 1940s. The hall was converted to residential use in 2003-2004 as the Opera House Lofts.

Arion Place’s former name can still be seen on an adjoining brick wall.

Vigelius and Ulmer’s Continental Lagerbier Brewery (later the William Ulmer Brewery) was constructed in 1872 ay Belvidere and Beaver Streets by architect Theobald Engelhardt. It was recently granted landmark status by NYC’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Born in Wurttemberg in 1833, William Ulmer immigrated to New York in the 1850s to work with his two uncles, Henry Clausen Sr. and John F. Betz, in the brewing industry, eventually becoming the brewmaster for Clausen’s very successful New York firm. In 1871, Ulmer partnered with Anton Vigelius to form the Vigelius & Ulmer Continental Lagerbier Brewery on Belvidere and Beaver Streets in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Born in Bavaria, Anton Vigelius immigrated to Brooklyn in 1840 at the age of 18 and was involved in the produce business prior to opening the brewery. He purchased land at the corner of Beaver and Belvidere Streets from Abraham and Anna Debevoise in 1869. In 1877 Vigelius sold his share of the brewery to Ulmer. The building ceased to be used as a brewery at the dawn of Prohibition in 1920. Though compromised by time, its arched windows and details such as tie-rod caps stand the test of time. Currently awaiting true renovation, it’s home to offices and light manufacturing.


A “mansarded, cast-iron crested house” and a “Little Italianate castle of brick and terra cotta” with an ornate driveway gate over Belgian blocks and a courtyard, wagon house stable in the rear, this is the former offices of the nearby Ulmer Brewery complex. It has recently been owned by a stone sculptor and marble worker and later, furniture designer/restaurateur Zeb Stewart. In the central bay, molded terra-cotta ornaments “Office” and the brewery’s trademark “U” identify the building’s original function and owner. Note the then-current syle of maintaining a period after a title, even on a building front. The New-York Times. has lost both its hyphen and period over time.

2/25/01


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53 Responses to BUSHWICK, Brooklyn

  1. Rendak says:

    A correction is needed, please. 670 Bushwick Avenue was not the Ulmer mansion.
    680 Bushwick Avenue was the Ulmer mansion, the house in the photo you have labeled “A once-grand dwelling in similar condition to Cook’s old digs was just across Willoughby Avenue…”
    I’m friends with Ulmer’s great-great granddaughter, who lives in Pine Plains, NY and she assures me of this. This misinformation about the Cook house has also been used on Brownstoner.com and it’s time somebody did some record checking so that historians of the future are not mislead. Thank you.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      So you’re saying the house with the corner tower was not the Ulmer mansion? The AIA Guide gives the address as 670 Bushwick and says it’s on the corner of Bushwick & Willoughby, as the house pictured on this page is.

      • Vicente Wilson says:

        I just wish to say, my old doctor used to live in that house for many years. You didn’t mention him.
        His name was Dr. Clement Davis. He was a wonderful distinguished doctor that treated the entire
        neighborhood. He delivered me. Dr. Davis owned the house before I was born 1966 until I believed he died in 1989. So he must have owned the house for about 30 years . He was a great doctor, the whole family went to him and he always cured all his patients. He always smoked a rich smelling pipe. Please mention him with the house since I will always associate that house with him.

        • Linda Grooms says:

          Like yourself I grew up in Dr. Davis care from a child until he passed away. His office in that building from the ’60s was always packed on both sides. If you couldn’t pay then he never turned you away. Not only was he a pillar in the community but was an intelligent, sensitive, caring individual. His name should always be associated with that building.

          • Arionplaceguy says:

            I grew up on Arion Place ~ 1960-79 a few blocks away and always remember that house as being Dr. Davis’s office as well, way before it was Dr. Cook’s. Davis was a PILAR of the area community at that time. Too bad no one with similar aspirations of serving people instead of displacing them resides there now.

          • Chris says:

            I grew up on Arion Place too…From 1959 to 1970 and we continued to own and rent out our two family townhouse untill I sold it for my Mom after my father passed away in 1979.

            Dr. David’s house was always there and he was one of a dying bread of dedicated family physicians. Our doctor was as dedicated and also practiced out of his home in Brooklyn heights… He was known as the $5 doctor who also did not charge those who couldn’t afford it… Dr. Salvatore Altcheck was his name.

        • Kathy says:

          Mr. Wilson, I remember Dr. Davis too. Way back in 1969, when the City of New York demanded everyone take a blood test before they could get a marriage license, Dr. Davis did the test for my first husband and me. He was a very nice man.
          I also remember the old Myrtle Avenue El running right by his office as it crossed Bushwick Avenue. The south end of the El was still operating then, before they tore it down in 1970.
          One more thing. Did you ever know or go to Dr. Albion Ford the dentist on Bushwick Avenue? His office was just a couple of blocks down from Dr. Davis’s office. He was the best dentist I ever went to.
          Now I’m getting all nostalgic. We lived on Kossuth Place and I went to the old PS74 one block west on Kozciusko Street, then PS274 on Bushwick and Kozciusko. Also went to the Public Library on Bushwick and DeKalb. I’d be happy to read any of your memories here too. Best regards, Kathy

        • Lydia Miranda says:

          I remember Dr. Davis, My mother used to bring my little brother (now $9) to him. My mother swears he saved my brother from death arms

        • What hospital were you born in. I remember Dr. Davis. I lived on Troutman between Bushwick and Evergreen

    • Anthony Barcia says:

      Do you or anyone remember a BAR on a corner in the 50’s & 60’s that had a MICHANICAL PIANO PLAYER ON TOP OF IT’S CANOPY ? I remember seeing it all the time as a kd in the 60’s

      • vincent vanasco says:

        The bar was across the street from my Dads office at 1338 Bushwick avenue.It sat on the north/esat corner of Schaffer street. I was told it was a somewhat Gay bar,but never knew that.It was around since the early fifties as I can remember.

        • Martha Brown says:

          The Bar was called the “Gay Cafe.” It was not a GAY Bar. The White people who used to hang out in there seemed like they were having a lot of fun. My family moved to Bushwick in 1/4/1955 from Myrtle Avenue between Sumner and Throop Aves. We were the first Black people to move on Bleecker Street, between Evergreen & Central Ave. Used to pass the Bar when we went up to school and coming home as we went to Halsey Junior High School #85. Highland Park was walking distance. The bar name was changed to the Gig Cafe sometime during the early 60’s when the clientele changed to mostly Black customers who came from across Broadway from Ocean Hill and Bedford Stuyvesant. Also remember Dr. Davis. My sister was his patient. Dr. Puderback, Dr. Macaluso. Went to him on Bushwick & Bleecker. Judge Sala’s mansion at 992 Bushwick Aven. Still live on Bleecker Street for 62 years. Martha Brown, Bushwick.

      • Grace D'Alleva says:

        Wow yes I always remember that and never forgot it, that going back 64 years ago, I lived on Eldert Street

  2. Josephine Russo says:

    I want to know the name of a bar that was on the corner of Bushwick with a piano on the roof…

    • MARVIN ENNON says:

      THE NAME OF THE BAR WAS THE GIG IT WAS ON THE CORNER OF SCHAEFER ST & BUSHWICK AVE

      • Irene Barbuto says:

        Are there any pictures of the outside of The Gig of the piano-playing mannequin? If so, could you email me a picture. Thank you. Irene Barbuto

  3. William Grace says:

    The Gay Caf

  4. Linda Dawkins says:

    What was on the corner of Bushwick Ave and Decatur Street before that Daycare Center was there??

  5. PK says:

    What kind of jackass makes the decision to take a wrecking ball to such a grand piece of architecture and history? Referring to the photo with the caption “A once-grand dwelling in similar condition to Cook’s old digs was just across Willoughby Avenue…”

    • John says:

      Agreed. As a former NYC resident, I’ve become quite disgusted by what I saw when browsing through Google Street View Maps. PS133 & The Marboro Theater are among the great structures lost.

      • gina says:

        I grew up in bushwick on dekalb ave near evergreen ave Our parish was St. Joseph anybody remember Mr. Butters candy store on dekalb&evergreen and PS74 back in the early 60s went JHS 57 in befordsty love to hear from you

        • carmine lofaro says:

          i practically lived in butters candy store .

        • Kathy says:

          Gina, I do remember Mr. Butter’s candy store. We lived on Kossuth Place back in the 1950’s and 60’s. I went to PS74 and then PS274. Every chance I got, I went to the Public Library on Bushwick and DeKalb.
          I am an old Bushwick lady. I was born at Williamsburg General Hospital, and delivered by Dr. Salvatore Invidiada whose office was right up the street from our house on the corner of Bushwick and Stanhope (I think it was Stanhope).
          We went to St. John the Baptist way south of Broadway on Willoughby and Hart. Mom thought St. Barbara’s on Bushwick was too pretty and would be too much of a distraction during Sunday mass.
          Also remember the Little Sisters of the Poor convent and old age home on Bushwick and DeKalb. There was also the big white church on Bushwick and Himrod and the Menorah Jewish Home across Himrod on Bushwick.
          Gina, do you remember shopping on Broadway, down under the El? Mom and I used to go to so many of the stores there. I always had to lug that old two-wheel folding shopping cart along. We went to KeyFood for groceries, Tomaselli’s Meat Market, and Roma’s Italian Salumeria. There were also all the other stores. Still remember standing in front of the appliance stores at the corner of Kossuth Place and Broadway watching the first color tvs through the windows. Dad said we’d get a color tv after they were “perfected”.
          Hope you have lots of happy memories. Kathy

        • Grace D'Alleva says:

          I was baptized in St, Joseph’s in 1950

    • Kathy says:

      PK, I remember that old house from my childhood days. It was still occupied then as a private home. We lived in a row house with “railroad rooms” as they used to call apartments where all the rooms were connected in a row (no one needed privacy back then, least of all kids). Naturally, I thought of all the grand houses on Bushwick Avenue as mansions. When that old house had all the first floor lights on at evening time, it was amazingly beautiful. Sad to know its not there anymore.

    • Martha Brown says:

      Unfortunately, if you remember that was the Little Sisters of the Poor Convent Home there on Willoughby & Bushwick during the 1950’s. The nuns used to wear those hats like the Flying Nun. Then during the late 60’s, early 70’s, I think it became a residence (while the nuns were still there) for juveniles. I dont know if the Diocese of Brooklyn sold the property or what happened, but then it started deteriorating during the late 70’s, and then by the 80’s going into the 90’s it appeared derelict. Then I passed one day and it was being torn down. There is luxury apartments there now sad to say. This is an ongoing problem here in Bushwick and we are fighting hard to keep some semblance of the character of this neighborhood out of the hands of the voracious ubiquitous developers who have appeared here in Bushwick like cockroaches that you cannot get rid of. I moved here Jan. 1955.

  6. gina says:

    carmine, do you have a sister cathy your grandparents lived next door to you? I remember you well you lived on dekalb ave?

    • gina says:

      carmine you lived in mr. butters but did you live on dekalb ave?

      • CARMELO LO FARO says:

        YES , I LIVED ON DE KALB AVE. WITH MY SISTERS AND MY GRANDPARENTS LIVED NEXT DOOR, I KNEW MY DEAR FRIEND JOE ZITO, NOW DECEASED, AND THE WONDERFUL MARY WINCKEL, WHO RAN FOR THE STATE ASSEMBLY.

  7. Rafael Rodriguez says:

    As I also grew up in the care of Dr Davis I would like his name to be with this building, its Brooklyn history, I remember the Pipe he smoked and the Parrot he had in the lower level of the building where he took Xrays.

    • Kathy says:

      Mr. Rodriquez, as I recall, Dr. Davis’s office had the words “Davis Medical Buidling” etched into the stonework above the main door. I hope it is still there and they have no plans to scratch if off because neighborhood history should include things that were important to people who lived there in every era, no just when the building was first built. Dr. Davis did a lot of good for the people he served. Hope his name won’t be forgotten. Best regards, Kathy

  8. Peter Taylor says:

    One of my ancestors, Thomas Taylor, ran a pipemaking business up until 1871 in Bushwick. The trade directories give it as Broadway near Cook. Any old photos of where this might have been?

  9. Michael Schiavone says:

    Looking for a old photo of a place called the Gig on Bushwick Ave i remember a marionette playing the piano. ?? Please advise

    • Kathy says:

      Mr. Schiavone, I remember that piano player too, and have also been trying to find a photo of it.
      My Dad was a constant photographer even using a movie camera to take films at times. He passed in 2010 in Florida. I am hoping to visit his wife and go through some of the old photos, of which there are thousands. If I find a photo of the “Piano Man” as I called him, I’ll post back here again.
      We lived on Kossuth Place and my Dad would take me for walks after dinner, mostly on Bushwick Avenue. I remember the first time I saw that piano man after dark! All lit up with neon lights that made it look like he was swaying from side to side while playing that piano. What a sight!
      Good luck trying to get a photo. If you do find one, could you post here about it? Love to see it.

  10. Hillary says:

    My great grandparents lived at 871 Bushwick Ave. He died 1916-1933. Email me at hillarybressler@gmail.com if you know anything about them. Meyer and Hannah Annie Bressler.

  11. daniel scarpa says:

    do you have a picture of #52 beaver st bklyn,before demolishion for ps 120 school

  12. Helen says:

    I lived in the Williamsburg Projects from 1940-1950/51. there was a photographer who would come around and take pictures of all the kids in the neighborhood sitting a long set of steps. I have part of one, but would love see more. It was a great place to be raised. I still have some really great memories from P.S. 18, when teachers were teachers. We had a Miss Larken who took us to shows in the city on weekends, or movies. She was spinster in those days they called them, and put all her energies into us kids………

  13. joe t. says:

    i was born in williamsburg general hospital in 1956. went to p.s. ??? on madison st. and bushwick ave. then went to our lady of good council school . i remember the “GIG CAFE ” on bushwick ave. remember the rko bushwick theatre and the lowes gates along broadway. remember the parades along bushwick ave on BROOKLYN DAY. we shopped at scaturros market, russos produce,bargaintown, deans , johns bargain store, woolworths,all along broadway… baptised at st. john the bapist r.c. church. i was shown as a child mayor hylans house,dr fredrick cooks mansion,and remember the many many churches lining bushwick ave. Fact: EVERYTHING CHANGES IN TIME… really enjoyed discovering this site

    • vincent vanasco says:

      I remeber the two movie houses and then there was the Empire and the real low down Monroe,where a dime could get you 21 cartoons a three stooges a serial thriller and a couple of movies. Great fun and many hours for a dime.The Monroe was right across the street from the RKO.

    • Grace D'Alleva says:

      Leonard Scaturro was a boarder in my grandparents home in 1925, Leonard Scaturro was 21, They came thru Ellis Island together

  14. Jo Ann says:

    I went to elementary school PS 24 on belvedere and arion place. then went to Willoughby JHS and then Bushwick HS. I remember dr. Sylvester Cort on Bushwick Avenue.

    • vincent vanasco says:

      I remeber Dr. Cort. He lived with his mother in the brownstone across from the big mansion of Dr. Davis.He and I dated Ms. Puerto Rico of 1960. Ms. Vega was a beauty and lived at one of my fathers buildings at 735 Bushwick avenue.Later her family and she moved to the Lindsey Houses further towards Williamsburg.

  15. gidget says:

    I would love to see any pictures of the gig !!! the one with the piano man on the roof!!!!! thanks!!!

  16. jim says:

    excellent

  17. Mike Rini jr. says:

    Did anyone live near Stockholm street? I grew up at 196 Stockholm between Knickerbocker and Wilson Ave. Went to St. Joseph’s school on suydam st lots of great memories in bushwick. Wish I could go back in time!!

    • Grace D'Alleva says:

      My friends lived on Stockholm near Knickerbocker and Wilson, Their names were Salerno and Lombardino

  18. R says:

    I will always remember dr. Clement Davis . Although I lived in Park Slope I had family who used to travel all the way from Dover New Jersey to visit him I was under his care as a young boy I will never forget the sound of his kind Voice or the fragrance of the blue smoke billowing from his pipe

  19. Tony Terranova says:

    PS 56, Halsey Jr,High school, Bushwick High School. I was at born 1269 Bushwick Ave, corner of Halsey family home.

  20. Raymond G. says:

    I would like to say hello to all that lived on Arion Pl. at around 1959 to 1972. I lived at 16 Arion Pl. and, I hanged out there for many years. I miss the many friends I had there for all those years. I took a quick car ride there the other day just to take a look, so sad to see how it has changed. My old school, PS 24 is gone and, Bushwick Ave. has changed a bit. I welcome anyone who wants to send me a line, thanks!

    • roberto laborde says:

      I went to P.S. 24 on Arion Pl, and Bushwick Ave. ..After I graduated from six grade, I went to seventh grade at 145 on Noll St. I lived on Bushwick Ave.near Arion Pl., In order for me to go to 145, I had to go pass the brewery that was there at the time , I understand it is not there anymore.
      I am writing a book “about a youth that grew up in Brooklyn, involved in gangs and all kinds of things adolescents get involved at that age. Anybody remembers the El Quintos, ,Latin Gents, Royal counts they covered Myrtle Ave., White , Broadway, Scholes St. ,and up and down Bushwick Ave., headquartered at the Bottom, More St. and Bushwick Ave?

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