Comments Off on 1896: Tige, the Newfoundland of the Mount Loretto Orphanage for Boys in Staten Island, Part I
Boy with Newfoundland dog, vintage

This is not Tim Leahy and Tige, but this vintage photo is perfect for this story.

Tim Leahy was only seven years old when his father died and his mother ran away and left him on his own. With no other living relatives in his homeland of Ireland, he was put on a ship and sent to live with a great aunt in New York City.

Great Aunt Julia Kelley was not a wealthy woman by any means; in fact, she barely made enough money selling apples and candies at a little stand in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral on Fifth Avenue (the neighborhood kids called her Apple Julia). But she welcomed Tim into her modest tenement apartment at 400 East 48th Street and cared for him as best she could.

Shortly after Tim was united with his great aunt, a homeless, half-starved Newfoundland followed Tim home and won over the hearts of the little boy and his aged aunt. Though very poor, Aunt Julia could not turn the dog away, and so the three lived in poverty together.

About a year or so after Tim Leahy arrived in America, his 80-year-old great aunt took ill and was forced to give up her apple stand and pawn nearly all of the few pieces of furniture she owned. She was taken to St. Francis’ Hospital, leaving Tim and Tige to fend for themselves.

For a little while, Mrs. Malone, a neighbor, provided some food for Tim and Tige. When she realized Julia Kelley was not coming home from the hospital, she called the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (aka, the Gerry Society, in honor of Elbridge Thomas Gerry, who helped found the SPCC in 1875).

48th Street and First Avenue, 1915

Tim Leahy and Tige lived at 400 East 48th Street, a large tenement on the northeast corner of 48th and First Avenue. The tenement, also called “Whitechapel Flats” and the “House of Blazes,” was notorious for fights, gangs, murders, and suicides in the late 1800s. In 1948, this building and many of the tenements pictured here (in 1915) on 48th Street between First Avenue and Second Avenue were razed to make way for the United Nations Plaza and associated buildings. NYPL Digital Collections

 

In 1946, an $8.5 million gift offer of almost six Manhattan blocks along the East River -- including the block where Tim and Tige lived -- was presented to the United Nations by John D. Rocklefeller, Jr. as a site for a permanent world capital.

In 1946, an $8.5 million gift offer of almost six Manhattan blocks along the East River — including the block where Tim Leahy and Tige had once lived — was presented to the United Nations by John D. Rocklefeller, Jr. as a site for a permanent world capital. New York Times, December 12, 1946

The Gerry Society Men Come for Tim

When the men from the Gerry Society arrived at the tenement, they found Tim and Tige in dire condition, lying on an old mattress in the dingy apartment.

“Tige is all the friend I’ve got,” Tim Leahy told the Gerry agents, “and I ain’t going to leave him.”  Poor little Tim cried and cried as the men dragged him away from his only friend.

Sadly, Tim’s appeals were of no avail. He was taken to the Yorkville Police Court and committed to Father Drumgoole’s Mission on the northeast corner of Great Jones Street and Lafayette Place. As The New York Herald reported on October 17, 1896, “The kind care of the nurses and the soft beds did not compensate him for the rough coat of the dog on which he used to lay his head at night.”

In 1881, Father Drumgoole purchased land at the corner of Great Jones Street and Lafayette Place, where he built the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin orphanage for homeless boys.

In 1879, Father Drumgoole purchased land at the northeast corner of Great Jones Street and Lafayette Place, where he built the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin orphanage for homeless boys. The ten-story building at 2 Lafayette Place, which was the highest in the district, was designed to provide light and air to each resident to prevent the spread of influenza and tuberculosis.

Father John Christopher Drumgoole

Much has been written about Father Drumgoole, the unofficial patron saint of the homeless newsboys of New York City. However, he did play a large role in the city’s history — he even has a school, road, and park (Drumgoole Plaza) named in his honor — so a quick summary is warranted for this story.

Like Tim Leahy, Father Drumgoole was of Irish descent. Born in 1816 in County Longford, Ireland, he emigrated to New York in 1824, two years after the death of his father, a cobbler. Although he wanted to go to school and become a priest, he held off and supported his widowed mother by following in his father’s footsteps and working as a shoemaker (couldn’t resist that one).

In 1844, John Drumgoole became sexton and janitor of St. Mary’s Church on Grand Street. For the next 20 years, he provided shelter for many of the homeless and orphaned children in the basement of the church.

Drumgoole entered the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels near Niagara Falls in 1865 and was ordained a priest in 1869 at the age of 53. He was then placed in charge of the St. Vincent Newsboys’ Lodging House at 53 Warren Street, which greatly expanded under his watch.

Father Drumgoole

Father John Christopher Drumgoole

Recognizing an urgent need for a larger home for homeless newsboys, Father Drumgoole founded a new organization called the St. Joseph’s Union and began publishing a newsletter called “The Homeless Child and Messenger of St. Joseph’s Union.” Thousands of people from all over the world paid 25 cents to subscribe to the publication and become members of the union.

It was with these quarters that Father Drumgoole was able to purchase the land on Lafayette Place for $70,000 and construct his new 10-story mission house for $160,000 in 1879. And it was at this mission where Tim Leahy spent his first night without his beloved Newfoundland, Tige.

In Part II of this Old New York dog tale, we’ll travel to the southwest shore of Staten Island, where Father Drumgoole established the Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto, a large, 600-acre farm for thousands of orphaned children and one very lucky homeless Newfoundland.

 

 

 

 

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