2007-10-17 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
The Hund Holy Grail-Part 7 of the Babylon Westminster Clubhouse Search: I've walked past Sensation's grave. I can feel it in my bones. The famous dog show Pointer is pointing towards Pilcher. After sniffing around for almost a year now, my hunt for the hund Holy Grail, the site of the clubhouse that Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) occupied in Babylon from 1880 to 1904, narrows with the discovery of a close-up 1915 map. (For previous WKC search columns, view 2/8/07 in the "Beacon" "Pets" archives; then type in "Sensation" and the other 5 links will appear.)
Westminster owned 64 acres west of Southards Pond, but evidence from 7 old maps seems to focus the location of the sportsman's clubhouse (burned down- year uncertain) somewhere within a circle with a radius of about 500 feet. The point of the imaginary compass would be about 2 houses in from the woods on Pilcher Street. Sensation's grave would be under the phantom flagpole in front of the clubhouse with the kennels at the western part of the arc.
The "new" 1915 Hyde atlas- Babylon Village Historical Museum has two 1915 Hyde atlas maps hanging on the wall. Both show the WKC property after it was sold in 1904 to James L. Ewell. The Library had a copy of the one that covered all of Babylon Village but the close-up was new to me. (Photo above.)
This 1915 close-up is similar to the 1902 Hyde discovered at Town Hall last fall-the first real clue with the three parcels labeled "Westminster Kennel Club" and symbols most likely representing the old farmhouse, kennel/ barns and the two story clubhouse closest to Southards Pond. Mr. Stifel, Westminster's historian, is concerned that the two story building is turned wrong on both. The veranda is supposed to face the pond. He thinks that the original farmhouse may have oriented the other way and the mapmaker didn't make the change.
The 1915 Hyde clearly shows the same property (minus a barn) as "Jas. L. Ewell's"; it also depicts the Southard ice house below the SW corner of the pond. The map has a scale of 1 in. = 400 ft. First time I saw this map, I eyeballed the clubhouse distances. I was off. I went back yesterday to climb up on the table with a ruler. (Sorry, Jackie.)
Calculations using only the Hyde trifecta put the clubhouse about 500 ft. north of the SW corner of the pond, less than 200 ft. west of the edge of the pond, 800 ft. east of Livingston (where the WKC farmhouse is now), and 300 ft. south of the slanting Village borderline. To simplify, this would be a walk into the woods even with Pilcher to the area between the horse trail and the foot path. We've come full circle. It's precisely the spot hypothesized in the 2/8 column. In contrast, the sandpit or "Mystery Mound" I often refer to is the correct distance from the pond but only about 250 ft. (not 500 ft.) north of the pond's corner. I haven't given up on that location yet, though no map places the clubhouse so far south. Two other maps (Wendelken 1888 & NYS Public Works 1903) put it a tad further west of the woods.
To complete the WKC setting- the one story shooting house would be on the south side of the 40 X 60 clubhouse and the 90 ft. pigeon trap shooting grounds to the north. Mr. Stifel, ever analytical, even mused about testing the soil for lead pollution. Two dozen years of intensive lead buckshot, although a century ago, may have left a toxic residue.
Homecoming Help- Don Whalen from Maryland who lived in the Village from 1938-51 and
camped with the Boy Scouts in the '40s in a sandpit near Southards (see "Pets" 8/16/07) made 2 trips home to see what he could recall to aid in the search. We met last week to review findings and explore; Mother Nature didn't want us there because as we entered the woods the monsoon and tornado warnings ensued. Don is taking a novel approach, trying to determine the route the WKC superintendent would have used when he picked up guests by carriage at the RR station. He thinks his sandpit was further back than my Mound, visualizes the campsite/ clubhouse a few houses up between Pilcher and Morrison. My concern is that Morrison is too close to the Village Line, leaving no room for the trap shooting. He also thinks the pond shoreline may have receded over 100 years. Don pointed out an old guard rail on Park Way blocking a corresponding dirt path….Many questions remain unanswered.
WKC Talk at the Museum- Do I sound obsessed trying to unlock the Dog Vinci Code? If the search for Sensation intrigues you, come to the Babylon Village Historical Museum meeting Sun. 11/4 at 2 p.m.. I will be doing a brief Show n' Tell about the Babylon Westminster leads so far.
•Babylon Town Shelter Adoptables- Lamar St. W. Babylon (643-9270). I am grateful that Chris Elton, Babylon's newest shelter director, has been extremely obliging to rescue. "Archie, Betty, & Veronica" - 6 mon. old kittens in the Cat Colony are a perfect example. Through a coopertive effort between the Town and Last Hope, they are part of a group I've isolated and medicated for the last 5 weeks. The rest are at a Last Hope vet. All are fine now. "Archie (now neut.) & company" have their rabies shots, and as an added bonus have been FeLV/ FIV tested. Lots of handling has turned them into mellow lap kitties.
Meanwhile, sweet, thin "Santana"- a 4 yr. Retriever/Shepherd in Cage 59 was surrendered by an elderly owner. Despite the fact that he lived on a chain with no doghouse, this darling dog buries his head in you lap for affection. He needs positive life experiences.