Babb, Cook & Willard

BABB, COOK & WILLARD of New York City designed the New York Life Insurance Building, Place d'Armes, MONTREAL, QUE., 1887-89, the first skyscraper in Montreal and the tallest commercial building in the city at the time of its completion (Gazette [Montreal], 12 May 1887, 2, descrip.; 2 Jan. 1889, 5, descrip.; 14 May 1889, 5, descrip.; C.A.B., i, Feb. 1888, 4, descrip. and illus. plate; Const., xx, June 1927, 192, illus.; Montreal, Les Hotels Les Immeubles de Bureaux, 1983, 109-112, illus.; H. Kalman, History of Canadian Architecture, 1994, 571-2, illus. & descrip.). This distinctive asymmetrical Romanesque Revival composition was notable for its use of brick and sandstone cladding instead of conventional Montreal limestone, for the richly carved stone embellishments by architectural sculptor Henry Beaumont, and for its clock tower, a element usually found only on public and ecclesiastical buildings in Canada.

George Fletcher Babb (1836-1916) joined Walter Cook (1846-1916) in partnership in 1877 and they later invited Daniel W. Willard to join the firm in 1884. Their best know works in New York include the De Vinne Press Building, Lafayette Street (1885-86), the mansion for Andrew Carnegie, Fifth Avenue at 91st Street, 1899-1901 (now the Cooper-Hewitt Museum), and the Mott Haven Public Library, East 140th Street (1905). They also designed the New York Life Insurance buildings in St. Paul, Minn. (1888-89) and in Minneapolis, Minn. (1890-91). The principal design work for the firm can be credited to Walter Cook, a talented designer, juror and President of the American Inst. of Architects. Their firm later became known for the elaborate plans of more than a dozen lavish private residences on Long Island, N.Y. A lengthy illustrated essay on their projects there was published in 1997 (Robert MacKay, Anthony Baker & Carol Traynor, Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects 1860-1940, 1997, 58-66, illus.; biography of Cook in the Dictionary of American Biography, ii, 379-80; H. Withey, Biographical Dictionary of American Architects, 1956, 135-6; obituary for Cook in the New York Times, 26 March 1916, 21; New York Tribune, 26 March 1916, 15; biography of the firm in the MacMillan Encyclopedia of Architects, 1982, Vol. 1, 121-22).