2007-04-11 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets ...
"X marks the spot." Wish it were that easy to pinpoint the Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) clubhouse that was in Babylon from 1884 to circa 1925 (when it burned down). Knowing where would also reveal the site of the flagpole, for at its base lies the tomb of Sensation, WKC's symbolic Pointer. This week we'll explore 3 possibilities offered by readers. ( Previous "Pets, Pets, Pets" columns, archived 2/8/07 and 3/15/07 at www.babylonbeacon.com". , give background on Babylon's prestigious pedigree- this sportsman's club, once on 64 acres west of Southards Pond.)
As for authentic documents, so far we have 8 old maps noting the WKC property. Some show the farmhouse and clubhouse. To add to the confusion, m o v i n g homes was common p r a c t i c e long ago, so the original, unknown site of the 1 7 0 0 s farmhouse (the temp o r a r y clubhouse, now 358 Livingston) is also the location of the myster i o u s n e w e r clubhouse. An 1886 American Field and an 1887 Outing article written by guests at the elite clubhouse also contain subtle clues and mention a view of the pond. These sources help analyze the following potential locations suggested by Beacon Babylonians:
Linda Puglielli grew up on William St. east of Southards. She vividly remembers playing with her brother in a sandpit in the woods between the horse trail and the foot path near Gwynn St. about 55 years ago. She said that they always wondered why it was there. After reading about this possible Westminster connection, she revisited the sandpit to visualize the clubhouse there. Still the only clearing, but now it had become more of a dumping ground. Could her sand pit be the fire ruins?
Pros: This bucolic setting is several hundred feet from Southards Pond. It is raised and big enough for the 40 x 60 ft. clubhouse. Linda says that it used to be all sand and more level. The sides were clearly marked by a natural ravine and a cross path. The spot matches both the 1902 and 1915 Hyde atlases that definitely show the clubhouse and outbuildings- possibly the kennels. The old magazines say the kennels with the acre fenced exercise yards- were distant behind the dining room- which makes sense because dampness from pond proximity would be a problem for the 100 dogs that lived here.
Cons: This seems too close to the water to be the original spot for the 1700 farmhouse. A sketch in Mr. Stifel's Westminster history book shows the farmhouse surrounded by buildings and fields. Later as a clubhouse locale, the "sandpit" doesn't seem to have enough flat land for a carriage road or the shooting house/pigeon shooting grounds (at least a 30 yard circle) to the side of the clubhouse entrance. Old photos hint at an expanse of land.
Digging up a Development?
Retired highway engineer and astronomer Robert W. Chapin lived on Thompson Ave. through high school while his father was a chief engineer for Robert Moses. Maps are an avocation for him. Mr. Chapin has a 1901 US Geographical Survey of the area which calls Southards "Kennel Club Pond" and also a similar 1954 topographical map, pre-development.
He drew the missing streets- Gwynn, Pilcher, Morrison, and Park Way- on the 1954 map. Then he blew up the scale of the 1901 map 260% so it matched the 1954. When he lines up the streets and holds them up to the light, the dot that represents the clubhouse superimposes half way down Pilcher on the south side of the street.
Pros: NY Dept. of Public Works maps like these should be accurate. Another 1888 Wendelken map (shown) supports the clubhouse (the bigger square) here too. A setting further from the water would have plenty of room for farm fields, and later the clubhouse's shooting house and grounds. Mid way down Pilcher would have a view of the pond 120 years ago especially with fewer trees obstructing.
Cons: All historical evidence is under the development. Any remnants of the WKC clubhouse- the wine cellar, kennel concrete floors, the desired flagpole footing- were either bulldozed around 1955 when the houses went up or the relics are under someone's garage or built in pool. I'd love to know if area residents found anything "interesting" when excavating their yards.
Sensation on Satellite Photos?
Former Babylon Town historian Bill Frohlich approached the search from above. After reading my 3/15 column, he looked at Google Earth and could see clearly "the imprint in the woods of what appears to be the location of a significant structure to the NW of the pond, S of the highway, and just E of the NE corner of the cemetery. There seems to be the imprint of an outbuilding also."
Pros: It's there, and fits the size, shape and orientation of the WKC clubhouse/shooting house, plus a possible kennel further west. There would have been enough land. Try it. At Google Earth, click "Fly to" and type in "Morrison St. Babylon 11702". Also a different 1887 map might confirm this satellite spot. It's hard to tell if 2 dots are markers or decorative.
Cons: Bordering Sunrise seems further north than WKC's 1880 lease agreement. Any view of the pond would be a real stretch. I spend a lot of time in these woods now. The imprint may be left over from the construction of Rt. 27 or from cemetery vehicles. I need to look at 1938 aerial maps at Phelps Annex, find the real year of the fire, and do lots more digging to fine tune the search for Sensation.
…Old Sanborn Insurance maps have the best detail but, to my dismay, this section doesn't seem to be recorded. Many thanks to my helpful historians. Perhaps 1 theory here is right, or we may be barking up 3 wrong trees. Our Westminster quest continues….
Meanwhile "Heidi", the featured dog at Babylon Town Shelter (643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon has a sad tale to tell. Her Copiague owner recently died in a car accident. "Heidi", a lovely 7 yr. spayed purebred German Shepherd, waits in Cage 55. Her story circulated via the police who found her home alone but no one has come forward yet to adopt her.
Female: a yellow Lab mix in Cage 61; "Cece"- a Golden/Shep in Cage 81; "Amber" a declawed orange longhaired cat; "Purdy"- a muted calico in C-2.
Male: "Noah"- a Chow mix in Cage 9; a Shihtzu in Cage 45; "Mr. Pinelawn"- a smoothie in Cage 43.