Like most neighborhoods in New York City, Bushwick enjoys a past marked by tumultuous economic and aesthetic adaptions since its establishment as a township in 1638. It is difficult to imagine, but the former town of Boswyck, spanning across what is now Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick, was once once a partially wooded grazing area for the city’s livestock and was home to mainly Dutch immigrants. It wasn’t until 1855 that the neighborhood was integrated into the city of Brooklyn, and new factories flooded the area, establishing industrial complexes and contributing to a more localized economy.
One of the main historical industries of the area was beer production, and the neighborhood became known as the beer capital of the Northeast. Bushwick saw the height of its wealth during the world wars as a result of the brewing industry, which lead to the construction of the characteristic above-ground rail system as well as a number of historic mansions along Bushwick Avenue, many of which can still be seen today.
Throughout the 1960s, the neighborhood faced a downturn as energy costs rose and many factories left the area. During the 1970s, around half the neighborhood was on welfare, and the neighborhood suffered a blackout during 1977 which prompted a series of lootings and robberies.
Walking around Bushwick, one can witness the marks of its distant and recent past in addition to those of its future, including renovated apartments for young, upwardly mobile types looking to outrun the Manhattan rent for an artistic and post-industrial alternative. The transformation of the neighborhood was spurred in particular by the Bushwick Initiative, a policy under the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development to decrease crime and poverty in the neighborhood beginning with the rise of the 2000s.
The series of ups and downs that the neighborhood has faced have left an inevitable mark on the makeup of the neighborhood today, which sprawls adjacent to Williamsburg to the southeast, between the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood and Bedford-Stuyvesant to the West.
The Lipsius-Cook Mansion
Bushwick’s wealthy past at the end of the 19th century gave rise to a number of large, beautiful mansions constructed mainly along Bushwick Avenue. The Lipsius-Cook mansion was one of these, built for Catherina Lipsius, the owner of one of the many lucrative breweries in Bushwick at the time. In 1902 it was sold to Dr. Fredrick Cook, who claimed to be the first American to summit Mt. McKinley in Alaska and reach the North Pole.
The brick building is hard to miss, due to its close proximity to the JMZ above ground subway line that runs right next to it, which offers a glimpse into the tower on the second floor, and its rather spooky manner. The building has been abandoned for some time, after serving as a Catholic convent for a time during the 20th century. In 2013, the building was officially declared a landmark by the NYC Landmark Preservation Commission. Although there isn’t much to see there other than the edifice, there are a number of mansions along the adjacent Bushwick Avenue from the same era that can be seen as well.
The Lipsius-Cook Mansion is located at 670 Bushwick Avenue.
South Bushwick Reformed Protestant Dutch Church Complex
Farther along down Bushwick Avenue is the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church Complex, with distinctive white spires. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places in 1982, the Church has a history in the area that dates back to before the building itself, which was completed in 1853. It was constructed to be the center for the Bushwick Reformed Church, which dates back to 1654. The building itself is not grandiose, but hard to miss.
The Dutch Church is located at 855 Bushwick Avenue.