Architect James B. Cook was born in England and studied at King's College and Putney College before becoming a supervising architect on the Crystal Palace for London's Great Exhibition of 1851.
Cook immigrated to New York in 1855. Two years later, he was sent to Memphis to work on the enlargement of the Gayoso Hotel and spent the rest of his life there, bringing his knowledge and skills to the city. Cook served in the Confederate army and designed submarines and a patented system for making jails escape-proof.
Cook's design for St. Mary's Catholic Church (1864-74) was the first important work of a local architect. He was responsible for the 1881 renovation of Calvary Episcopal Church and the rebuilding of the Gayoso Hotel after an 1899 fire. He designed the Court Square fountain in 1876, the Memphis Pyramid at the Tennessee Centennial Exhibition in 1897, and many fine homes in the Memphis area.
Eugene J. Johnson and Robert D. Russell Jr., Memphis: An Architectural Guide (1990); Perre Magness, Good Abode, Nineteenth Century Architecture in Memphis and Shelby County (1983)