Gilbert Brian ‘Captain’ Cooley was born in Savanna, Illinois, in 1865.
In 1894, Cooley moved to Monroe with his wife Selena Kugler Cooley and started Monroe Steam Laundry. The success of the business made him one of Monroe’s most prosperous citizens, and he and Selena held elegant parties in their home on South Grand. He was also one of the cities greatest philanthropists.
Cooley was instrumental in rallying the support of wealthy Monroe families to build a hospital to treat the tuberculosis epidemic. In 1923, Cooley was elected president of the Ouachita Tuberculosis and Public Health Association. When the hospital finally opened in 1939, it bore his name, the G.B. Cooley Sanatorium. Over time, tuberculosis faded and the hospital’s focus shifted to become what is known today as the G.B. Cooley Hospital or the G.B. Cooley Services for Persons with Developmental Needs.
In 1929, Cooley received a silver cup from the local Elks lodge in recognition for his community service, and in 1937, he was awarded the American Legion Award for Distinguished Community Service.
Contrary to popular belief, Captain Cooley was not a riverboat captain, nor was his home designed to look like a riverboat. His brother L.V. Cooley was the captain, and he was noted as one of the last great steamboat captains along the Mississippi and Ouachita Rivers. G.B. Cooley always loved the river, and he spent time working on his brother’s steamboat before settling in Monroe. G.B. Cooley did own a yacht, the Weto, and he got great pleasure from touring friends up and down the Ouachita River.
Cooley lived in his dream home until his death in 1952.
Foreman, Larry. Special Collections, Ouachita Parish Public Library.
Kruty, Paul. “The Gilbert Cooley House, 1925: Walter Burley Griffin’s Last American Building,” FABRICATIONS: The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand 6 (June 1995): 8-23.
The News-Star, Monroe, Louisiana, multiple articles.