2008-03-05 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets . .
Too bad there's no such thing as "Westminster Map Quest": Type in any starting address and then the destination "Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Babylon 11702". A list of directions would lead directly to the vanished clubhouse site.
As regular readers know, I'm trying to locate the WKC clubhouse that existed here from 1880 until 1923 and to pinpoint the Pointer. A flagpole in front of the clubhouse once marked the 1887 grave of Sensation, symbol of the world's most famous dog show. Old maps vary somewhat, yet several recent finds, including early aerial photography, are supporting my "area of interest"- now a mystery mound, formerly a strange sand pit close to Southards Pond.
On 2/11 Denise Flaim of Newsday was so kind to do a Part II cover story about my WKC quest. We were hoping to sniff out some new leads. Months ago I heard that there might be aerial photos from the 1920s. If so, I wanted to compare these to my map collection and to 1938 aerial views from the Smithsonian. In response to Denise's "Doggone Mystery", a North Shore historian emailed us about high resolution 1928 aerial photos tucked away in the basement at Suffolk County Planning.
I spent a morning last week with cartographers in the H. Lee Dennison Building. Both Carl Lind and Tom Frisenda were extremely helpful, saying I was the first dog person to view the unlabeled black and white 8 by 10s. Several visitors have been researching old golf courses or Vanderbilt Parkway; no one else has been there for canine forensics.
These pictures were shot from a plane around 1928. If I'm correct that the clubhouse burned down in 1923, (see online archives Beacon Pets 1/ 31/08), this would be only 5 years after the brush fire. A structure's impression should still be visible. Bodies of water are difficult to discern. With loupes and magnifying glasses it took time to find the right 1928 section that showed Southards Pond rather than Belmont, Phelps or Argyle Lake. In contrast, the huge 1938 aerials at Babylon Town Environmental have stamped dates plus interns penciled in landmarks.
Westminster owned 64 acres west of Southards Pond. Historic evidence and hunches by longtime residents have led to 3 possible sites- 2 in the woods and 1 under the development. (Beacon 4/11/07). We did see yellowish clearings near the SW shore of the pond, almost like the 1938s. At first Mr. Lind thought they would be under present day houses (heavens, no) but then he blew up the map and superimposed the 2004 mosaic aerial tax map. (Shown here.)
Lo and behold, the spots are in the woods. In fact, the central clearing is right where the sandpit/mound lies - off Park Way, between Gwynn and Pilcher, hovering by the horse trail, about 200 feet from the pond's western edge and about 300 feet north of the SW corner of the pond. The irregular shape and orientation are similar to the 1902 Hyde atlas (shown except the Hyde's clubhouse is 500 feet north. Also the Hyde mapmaker forgot to paint and label Southards Pond.).
A smaller clearing further south could be the barn/ kennel or even the shooting house. A clearing further north, a bit puzzling, could be the newer kennel built in 1887. Faint paths connect to Livingston where the superintendent's house stood pre-fire. It's across the street now. Equally important, no areas within today's development look disturbed or show the imprint of a building.
Need further convincing? D. Downs owned the property before WKC leased it in 1880. A 1700s farmhouse later moved twice (now the home on Livingston) originally stood where the clubhouse was built. Two maps-1858 and 1873- have house markers in the southwest corner near the pond, further south but supporting my sandpit supposition.
Staking out the clubhouse: Linda Puglielli is the native Babylonian who first suggested the sandpit as the clubhouse site. She and her brother rolled in 3- 4 foot deep clean sand in this unique clearing over 50 years ago, long before debris and dumped cement built the ground up higher. On the morning of the Newsday photo shoot, we measured the plot, and staked out the 40 by 60 clubhouse. There is plenty of room. The shooting house would have been on what's now lower ground; the flagpole towards the foot path. While Linda app roximated where the sand was, we made allowances for the porch overhang to determine where an actual foundation might be. After all, Westminster had a fully stocked wine cellar.
Wish list for definitive proof of the Pointer: Records of surveyors' old files; a ground penetrating sonar expert; permission from authorities to set up a grid to dig; volunteer arc haeology graduate students, and first dibs on any bottle of vintage vino that Westminster members left behind.
Coming Soon: A burning question about the Babylon Leader account of the 1923 brush fire that may or may not have destroyed the WKC clubhouse.
Happy Belated Spay Day USA! To mark the annual event Last Hope Animal Rescue, Inc. sponsored a Free Feral Spay Day last Sunday where with the help of 10 vets and many other volunteers 135 cats were spayed or neutered at Basic Pet Care in Lindenhurst. Thank you, Diane Pionegro, vet tech extraordinaire, for a job well done.
For Adoption: Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon has 2 exotic looking pups for adoption this week. "Pharaoh" the friendly Hound mix in Cage 14 has fancy brindle markings and a ring tail. He's playful and seems OK with other dogs while "Aida" in Cage 48 is only about 10 months old. This sable gal, shy but very loving, looks and feels like a blend of Shepherd, Ibizan Hound and seal.
Female: "Sandy"- sweet Rottweiler Cage 31. Her owner died; "Lola" smart Shepherd Cage 30.
Male: "Buddy"-lonely Pit mix Cage 4; black Lab found at Belmont Lake, Cage 13. Looks as if his tail was once broken.