2011-02-09 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Next week-February 14/15- marks the 135th Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) Dog Show in NYC, and Babylon marks the site of the historic WKC clubhouse and kennels plus the grave of Sensation the Pointer who has always been the symbol of the famous dog show. For the last five years I have been trying to pinpoint that exact spot. About 30 “Pets” columns later, this timeline highlights important dates during Westminster’s stay in Babylon:
1874- Sensation (aka “Don”), lemon & white English Pointer, soon to be Westminster emblem, born in England.
1876- Sensation imported to America by Westminster member-G.D. Grant (who later would participate in pigeon shoots at WKC clubhouse in Babylon).
1877- First WKC dog show; WKC incorporated. Sensation’s image is on first and most every Westminster Kennel Club dog show catalog cover.
1879- WKC began searching for shooting grounds in Babylon as part of revival of sport of pigeon shooting. Primarily a Pointer club, plan is also to breed dogs here. Both the WKC pigeon grounds and the dogs become internationally acclaimed.
1880- WKC (led by charter member C.D. Wagstaff who also owned Tallulah kennels in W. Islip) leased 64 acres in Babylon west of Southards Pond for 2 years at $300 a year with option to buy at the end of lease for $5,500. Property already has old buildings including an 18th C. farmhouse which becomes the WKC clubhouse while old barns were converted into temporary kennels.
1881- Sankey, Spaniel, saves Wasp, Skye Terrier, from drowning in Southards Pond. Sankey gets lifesaving medal. Both dogs had been entered in first WKC dog show.
1884- Moved old farmhouse, to be used by Superintendent (most likely to NW corner of property, NE side of Livingston Ave.); erected new Victorian clubhouse (cost $8,000) designed by Wagstaff on former site of farmhouse near Southards Pond. Some unknown year later, farmhouse moved again to the other side of street- where it still stands at 358 Livingston.
1885-James Mortimer became resident Superintendent of Babylon WKC and kennels (until 1892 when WKC moved all the dogs except for stud dogs). He lived in the old farmhouse. He also was the WKC Show Superintendent at Madison Square Garden through 1915 (year of his death).
1887- (June) Sensation died in Babylon- buried at foot of flagpole in front of WKC Babylon clubhouse. Flagstaff had a weather vane with a Pointer figure on top.
1887-(Fall) - new Babylon kennels built- at various times house up to 200 dogs.
1895 (Feb.17) - Mortimer’s 17-year-old son dies after short illness. Buried in Babylon, but where?
1895- LIRR features Westminster Kennel Club clubhouse in Babylon in railroad guide book.
For Babylon WKC pigeon shoots, LIRR had a special train that left LI City by 10 a.m. and had guests back in NYC by 5:30 p.m.
1902- WKC clubhouse Superintendent George Mott and Thomas Wood of N. Babylon lease 404 more acres of land on their own in N. Babylon to use for field trials with their Pointers.
1904- Pigeon shooting and duck hunting become illegal in NYS.
1904- (April 12) - WKC clubhouse sold to James L. Ewell as homestead, orchard and place to raise Shetland ponies. WKC dog show people move to Tenafly, NJ; pigeon shooters go to Aiken, S. Carolina.
1915- Ewell leases clubhouse to Max MacLevy, a controversial physical culturist and body builder, as a health resort (and pig farm). 1916-MacLevy publishes his book- Tobacco Habit Easily Conquered- while living at former WKC clubhouse. Smoking warning pre-dates Surgeon General by 50 years.
1918 (Oct.14) - Former WKC clubhouse (then MacLevy health farm) and shooting house (then MacLevy residence) burn to ground during fire that starts in clubhouse chimney.
1919- C. D. Wagstaff dies. Buried in Babylon Rural Cemetery.*
1923- Huge brush fire may have destroyed the former kennels and prompted the second move of the old farmhouse, the original WKC clubhouse, across the street to 358
* Principal players also buried at Babylon Rural Cemetery-WKC superintendent George S. Mott, the Downs who sold the 64 acres to WKC in 1882, James B. Southard, owner of the pond and mill and Jeremiah Robbins, realtor for WKC 1904 sale of property to Ewell.
For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Our poster pups almost have that “Westminster look.” “Amanda Rose” #93847 is a sweet four-year-old Beagle turned in because of a family situation while “Shaggy” #93845 is a young Bearded Collie mix. He was found in Amityville and is being treated for a severe hot spot along his spine. “Shaggy” would love to be your Valentine.
Male: “Daddio” #93579- wonderful Shep/Chow stray picked up by Almost Home during their Wyandanch pet outreach; “Bello” #93830- handsome Akita/Shep pup.
Female: two mature Beagles; “Ali” #93828 -brindle Dobie mix pup; Ms. Lydia & Ms. Brownie-patient Pits.
** Two Lovely, Declawed Cats for Adoption- “Merlin & Trixie,” four-year-old tuxedo cats must find new homes because their doting owner recently passed away. Both are friendly indoor cats, up to date on shots and FeLV/FIV negative. Call 516-330-0034.