2008-05-21 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
by Joanne Anderson
Search for Sensation-Part 16:
Many roads have been explored while hunting for Babylon's elusive Westminster Kennel Club clubhouse (1880-1904). Some reach a dead-end; some take longer like the ground penetrating radar readings; others branch in new directions. The following highlights new trails of investigation when trying to locate the 1887 grave of Sensation, Westminster's mascot Pointer.
•Indeed, a Deed: Went to Suffolk Co. Clerk in Riverhead earlier this month with pal Julie Tamsen, Basset Rescue's most dedicated. Westminster (WKC) has copies of an 1870 Sammis survey which even shows a pear tree and stake in the pond, the 1880 land lease for their 64 acres west of Southards Pond, and the 1904 property sale to James L. Ewell. None of these documents mention any buildings. We wanted to check the recorded deeds to see if they said anything more.
The old records room is amazing. We were met at the door by title searcher, Tom Garipy who kindly gave us a guided tour. First you check the grantee/grantor volume which gives you the correct liber containing the handwritten deed. The volume that lists WKC's purchase in 1882 has entries dating back to the 1600s. We photo copied the WKC $5,500 purchase and $10,000 sale which match known copies. No structures. Deeds didn't start noting these until the 1920s.
We also found Torrens ledgers with alternatives to deeds called ODCs (owner's duplicate certificates). A southern section of WKC land was once known as "Ewell Park". Two old surveys fell out of the book, showing a brick house too far south. The clubhouse wasn't brick. The vault had a rare 1931 Hyde map torn in our area of interest (of course) and a 1941 Hagestrom that further clouds my claim that the clubhouse burned April 1923 (see "Pets" online 3/20/08 ). Best find at nearby Riverhead Museum - a 1906 phone directory (already had 1909) giving Ewell's address as "Kennel Club Rd." Too bad that street is not on any map.
•Canvassing the Neighborhood: In April we were at my sandpit site with Bill Frohlich, former Babylon historian. Bill felt certain shrubs were planted, not native. We were trying to match up trees in the Ewell family photos. A man walking a dog stopped to ask if we were from Westminster. He said he was a life long resident and that "everyone here always knew" about WKC's clubhouse. Thinking it was a bit odd because I spend tons of time in Southards woods and have yet to run into "everyone," I mailed a flyer seeking information to 106 homes built on former WKC land.
Two intriguing responses- Jeff Healea told me about the underground fort he and his "Southards brothers" dug in the woods between Gwynn and Alexander 30 years ago. When they got down about 6 -Feet they hit strange, sweepable cement, expanding beyond their 6 by 6 fort. The fire department filled in the hideaway after someone set it on fire. The depression is still there but so far we have not probed deep enough to touch concrete. Another resident near this fort emailed me about "huge slabs of concrete" uncovered when workers were putting in his semi-inground pool.
I'm guilty of jumping to desired conclusions. If the sandpit/ mound is the clubhouse, then this concrete could be the kennels (which had cement floors to keep the 200 dogs from getting sick). Old journals suggest the kennels were behind the clubhouse with a view from the huge dining room. This fits perfectly.
About 25 years ago Jeff also stumbled on a curved brick structure, partially above ground. It seems to be where maps show the ice house. We're still looking for brick remnants. He told me about a man who would treasure hunt near the pond. As a boy, Jeff saw him pull out a rusty pocket watch and shards of china. We went to that area and within minutes Jeff uncovered
bygone Babylon trinkets-
pieces of Weeks Dairy glass, fancy
dish fragments, and an intact, antique bottle.
•WWI Aerial Photos: Babylon Town historians, Tom Smith and Mary Cascone, are recording oral histories of se- nior Babylonians. I have them well-trained. They always ask about Westminster. Recently Mary was interviewing a lady in the Village. She remarked that her father-in-law had been a WWI flyer. She showed Mary his scrapbook but most entries weren't Babylon. However, Two undated aerial photos shot from a bi-plane -"Babylon & Great South Bay" and "277th A. S. [air squadron?] Formation Flying over Babylon Long
piqued Mary's interest. We're assuming they were
taken around 1918, but could be a little later. Part of August Belmont Jr.'s N. Babylon estate became Camp Dam for the Army Air Corps during WWI, but I'm not sure where the 277th was based. (Coincidentally Belmont had 7 dogs entered in the first Westminster show.) I'm also hoping these aerials were before the clubhouse burned down.
Mr. Stifel, WKC historian, Don Whalen in Maryland (Babylon HS Class of '52) and I have been studying them. The pilot/ photographer seems to be over Southards aiming south. Zooming in, you can see Argyle Lake, even its 2 miniature islands, perhaps the lake trolley, Carll's Creek, Great South Bay and barrier islands, Livingston, Litchfield and Park Ave. Ms. Wishful Thinking spies 2 interesting smudges on the west side of Southards (WKC clubhouse/shooting house combo ??), possibly a tree-lined huge lawn (something I could never justify before), a Y-shaped path (maybe Kennel Club Rd.) leading to the area of WKC farmhouse on Livingston, same curvy line which also appears on 1928 and 1938 aerials.
Nope, I can't see the flagpole, Sensation's grave marker, but I am entertaining a new theory that the clubhouse may have been oriented differently. Where's Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel when you need him to swoop down?
Uncanny Shelter Dog Needs the Right Home: True- I'm obsessed with Pointers. "Sensation" was the lemon & white Pointer imported from England by WKC members in 1876 to represent their new club. This fine dog, still the WKC symbol 132 years later, is buried in Babylon in front of the vanished clubhouse. In 25 years at the shelter, I've helped place German Shorthaired and Wirehaired, even English Pointers, but I don't recall ever running into a lemon & white one , until now….
"Don" (Sensation's original name) is a stray lemon & white Pointer found filthy in Upper Brookville, Case #343 at Oyster Bay Town Shelter (516-677-5784) Miller Place Syosset. He appears young, athletic, and in need of a breed or Sporting Group experienced home. He's tolerant of other dogs but seems intent on finding the cats. In fact, I saw him "point" toward the cat room, yet not for my camera…The Spirit of Sensation is urging me to help find "Don" the proper home.
Rest of the list is at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon. Dogs: "Scooby"- chubby Pit mix Cage 25; purebred yellow Lab Cage 6; "Mama Mia" Pit/ Sharpei Cage 37; senior Husky Cage 16.
Cats: "Johnson Jr."-fabulous tuxedo kitten; "Louise" pastel calico declaw C-4; "Renke"- "Johnson Jr.'s" surrogate Dad in the Cat Colony.