Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

John Thomas Brook, Real Estate Developer and Failed Bank President

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Today's blog posting will be a continuation of biographical information about notable Pelham residents. One sad figure in the history of Pelham was John Thomas Brook who was imprisoned for misappropriation of bank funds after the failure of the Pelham National Bank that he led. Below is biographical data for John T. Brook from Alvah P. French's five-volume "History of Westchester County New York" published in 1925.

Photo of John T. Brook from Alvah P. French's Biography

"JOHN THOMAS BROOK -- While the remarkable accomplishment of Mr. Book in his department in the business world, that of contractor and builder, in both New York City and Pelham, is within the bounds of the possibilities of any boy who even today starts out upon his career in the delivery of newspapers and coal, yet his is an object-lesson with absolute worth and undaunted struggle and energy for principle and incentive. The modern building enterprise that he has established at the Pelhams is the crowning achievement of all his most practical plans, and it has its leading place in the history of present-day construction in this section of the State. Mr. Brook is the son of Thomas and Josephine (Kline) Brook, Thomas Brook having been in the employ of the New York Central Railroad for many years, as master mechanic of their West Side repair shop.

John Thomas Brook was born February 16, 1875, in New York City, where he attended the public schools, at the same time selling newspapers around the New York Central Terminal; and when the public schools were open evenings, he attended the night school, where he finished his education. He was only ten years old when he began to sell papers; and after leaving school while still very young, he started out upon his own account in the sale of wood and coal, establishing his place of business at Eleventh Avenue and Thirty-ninth Street, on the West Side of New York City. Mr. Brook contiued in this way for about five years, when he courageously branched out in the wholesale coal business, although he continued in that line but a short time when he was presented with still better opportunities in the trucking business. Within a short time he had a fleet of several trucks, with twenty-eight horses, that he was keeping continuously employed during the year; and although he met with serious reversals in the loss of twenty-one horses on account of disease and other causes, he continued his trucking activities for about six years.

In 1902 Mr. Brook had fully developed his plans for a new line, that of building and contracting, in New York City, and this marked the beginning of his present successful career in a vocation for which he found himself peculiarly adapted. He continued with increasing prosperity in New York City for about four years, and in 1905 he perceived opportunities in the Pelhams that had not theretofore been brought to the attention of local people, and from that time onwards he made that section the base of his operations. There he at once began to build private residences, selling as fast as he had built, until he had constructed and sold one hundred and eighty single family, high-class, modern homes, an unusual building record within a short space of time. In the course of his operations as a builder in this part of the State, Mr. Brook has likwise erected some of the most beautiful and attractive apartment buildings of the best class to be found anywhere adjacent to New York City; these accommodate three hundred families, Mr. Brook still owning and operating these properties, which indeed puts him in a class by himself as the most extensive realty holder in the Pelhams, if not in Westchester County. He maintains a handsome suite of offices over Pelham National Bank, where he keeps his own attorney constantly employed with a force of clerical assistants.

Mr. Brook is president of the Pelham National Bank. He stands high in Masonic circles, as a member of Manitou Lodge, No. 167, Free and Accepted Masons; Manhattan Chapter, Royal Arch Masons; Palestine Commandery, Knights Templar; Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite; Mecca Temple, Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. He is a member of the New York Athletic Club, the Wingedfoot Golf Club; and the Men's Club, of Pelham.

John Thomas Brook married February 12, 1902, in New York City, Fannie Dean, daughter of Robert and Esther (Burness) Dean; they are the parents of three children: Marjorie, born Decmeber 15, 1902; John Robert, born March 26, 1905; Thomas Lloyd, born January 27, 1908."

Source: French, Alvah P., ed., History of Westchester County New York, Vol. V, pp. 170-71(NY, NY & Chicago, IL: Lewis Historical Publishing Co. 1925).

John Thomas Brook died on October 28, 1942. A small obituary for him appeared in The New York Times the next day. Below is the obituary in its entirety.



Former Pelham (N. Y.) Banker, Who Was Once a Newsboy, Dies


John T. Brook of 690 Timpson Street, Pelham, N. Y., who rose from newsboy to real estate operator and bank president, died here yesterday in the New York Hospital, 525 East Sixty-eighth Street, after a month's illness. He was born in Vincennes, Ind., sixty-seven years ago.

Mr. Brook was president of the Pelham National Bank from 1926 until November 1932. The bank failed to reopen after the bank holiday of March, 1933, and went into the hands of a receiver four months later. In December, 1934, Mr. Brook was convicted in Federal court of misapplying and misappropriating funds of the bank and received a five-year prison sentence.

He leaves a widow, Fanny Dean Brook; two sons, John R., of this city, and Thomas L. Brook of Toronto, Canada, and a daughter, Mrs. Nicholas Vardalis of Tuckahoe, N. Y."

Source: John T. Brook, N.Y. Times, Oct. 29, 1942, p. 23.

To read more about John T. Brook and the failure of the Pelham National Bank, see Bell, Blake A., The Failure of The Pelham National Bank, The Pelham Weekly, Vol. XIII, No. 39, Oct. 1, 2004, p. 12, col. 1.

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