Comments Off on 1896: Tige, the Newfoundland of Mount Loretto Orphanage for Boys in Staten Island, Part II


48th Street and First Avenue, 1915Tim and Tige lived and played on East 48th Street near First Avenue, pictured here in 1915. This neighborhood was razed to make way for the United Nations Plaza in 1948. NYPL Digital Collections

When we left Part I of this Old New York dog tale, little Tim Leahy had just been separated from his only friend, a Newfoundland named Tige. In Part II, we’ll travel to the southwest shore of Staten Island, to Father Drumgoole’s Mission of the Immaculate Virgin at Mount Loretto, a large, 600-acre farm for thousands of orphaned children and one very lucky homeless Newfoundland.

Tim and Tige Are Separated

In October 1896, after his great aunt and only caregiver was taken to the hospital with a fatal illness, nine-year-old Tim Leahy was left to fend for himself in their tiny tenement apartment at 400 East 48th Street. For several days a neighbor took care of Tim and his dog, but eventually the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children–aka the Gerry Society–came to place Tim in a more suitable home.

The Gerry men took Tim to Father Drumgoole’s Manhattan mission, but they left his Newfoundland in the apartment.

According to an article in The New York Herald, Tige was miserable without his boy, and he let all the neighbors know of his misery through his constant whining. One tenant, John Dugan, threatened to toss Tige into the streets. Luckily for Tige, another neighbor who lived in the flat below–and who was much bigger than John–came to the dog’s rescue. John A. Horstman was not about to let Tige be thrown into the streets like garbage.

For now, Tige was safe at least, if not completely despondent.

Father Drumgoole’s Mission at Mount Loretto

In 1879, Father John Christopher Drumgoole used the proceeds from his 16-page newsletter called The Homeless Child and Messenger of St. Joseph’s Union to purchase four city lots at the northeast corner of Great Jones Street and Lafayette Place. Where once had stood the Protestant Episcopal Church of St. Barthlolomew, Father Drumgoole constructed his 10-story Mission of the Immaculate Virgin.

cn 1881, Father John Christopher 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.

The ten-story building at 2 Lafayette Place was the highest in the district, and was designed to provide light and air to each resident so as to avoid the spread of influenza and tuberculosis.

The Mission was dedicated to the care and protection of “homeless and destitute boys” under the age of sixteen–in particular, bootblacks and newsboys. Here, the boys received secular and religious education and, according to King’s Handbook of New York City, “were taught habits of industry and self reliance.”

Less than two years after the Mission opened, Father Drumgoole realized he needed a larger orphanage  to provide a much-needed escape from poverty, violence, and alcoholism. So he and Rev. James Dougherty set out on a mission to find a suitable site. They considered several sites–including the Halliday mansion, a 700-acre estate in Westchester County, New York–but most proved too expensive or too far from the city.

The Bennett Farm

One day in April 1882, the two priests traveled by boat to Tottenville, Staten Island, to visit the large Bennett farm in Pleasant Plains on the southwest shore. They rented another boat in Tottenville from a knowledgeable boatman, who pointed out all the farms for sale along the way to Pleasant Plains.

“The old lady wants to sell because she’s all alone with her granddaughter,” the boatman said of the Bennett farm. Upon their arrival, Father Drumgoole was instantly impressed by the wide fields, the fresh air that blew in from the ocean, the sunny beach, and the views of ocean liners in the distant passing through the Narrows. A farm like this would not only bring the children good health, but would also be the ideal place for them to learn how to be self-sufficient farmers.

Father Drumgoole purchased the Bennett, Jessup, Vail, and Seguine farms, depicted here in this 1874 map of Richmond County (Staten Island).

In 1882, Father Drumgoole purchased the Bennett, Jessup, and Vail farms, depicted here in this 1874 map of Richmond County (Staten Island). He also purchased the 160-acre Seguine farm, which is just out of view.

In June 1882 Father Drumgoole purchased Mrs. Bennett’s 138-acre of farm, with all its stock, crops, and farming machinery, for $22,000. The purchase included 2,000 feet of shore and drowned lands along the bluff of Prince’s Bay and several structures, including a two-story frame house with wide porch. To insure grounds large enough for future needs, he also bought the adjoining Jessup farm of 70 acres for $15,000, the small adjoining Nance farm for $5,000, and, in 1883, the Vail and Seguine farms.

Father Drumgoole named the new campus Mount Loretto after an order of nuns known as the Ladies of Loretto. He made plans to construct several new buildings, including a main building with a chapel, another with classrooms and dormitories, and a third for a laundry and living quarters for women employed for domestic work. He also brought on a local farmer, Mr. Murphy, to help establish a good working dairy and chicken yard.

Mount Loretto opened in 1883; by the end of that year, 600 children resided at the orphan farm.

Mount Loretto opened in 1883; by the end of that year, 600 children resided at the orphan farm. The campus was divided by gender, with the boys on the north side of Hylan Boulevard (then called Pennsylvania Avenue), and the girls on the south side (and thus closer to the shore). The buildings pictured here are in the boys’ section of the campus.

On Thanksgiving Day, 1883, before the buildings at Mount Loretto were even finished, Father Drumgoole brought the first boatload of children from the Manhattan shelter to the new orphan farm. In addition to farming, for which the children received pay equivalent that of farmhands, the orphans received commercial, vocational (eg, carpentry, mechanics, and agriculture), and academic training.

The kids made their own clothes and grew their own vegetables, and they raised cattle, pigs, chickens, and horses. As a result, Mount Loretto became one of the most productive farms on Staten Island, with 300 head of cattle, 600 pigs, and 50 horses. Many of the children saved up their pay to purchase their own farms after graduation.

Meanwhile, back in Manhattan, the original shelter developed into a center for commercial education where students prepared to go on to college or were trained as bankers, truck drivers, tailors, and butchers.

Mount Loretto Staten Island

This photo of the children at Mount Loretta was probably taken in the 1930s. The mission continued to acquire land on both sides of Hylan Boulevard until it obtained its last 8-acre parcel in 1926 from the U.S. Department of Commerce. This parcel housed the historic Prince’s Bay lighthouse and carriage house. By 1947, Mount Loretto comprised over 700 acres and consisted of 42 buildings to accommodate 700 boys, 360 girls, 85 Franciscan nuns, and 5 priests. The property was farmed until 1967, when the last dairy cow was sold off.

St. Elisabeth’s girls dormitory at Mount Loretto

Girls moved into a five-story Georgian-style building that became St. Elizabeth’s, an orphanage and school, in 1897. The large building was destroyed by arson (two teenage boys were charged) in 2000, as title to the land was being transferred to New York State. Currently, the property is known as the Mt. Loretto Unique Area and is managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

Tim and Tige Are United

When news of Tim and Tige hit the press, a wealthy woman named Mrs. Floyd Jones went to the Manhattan mission to plead her case for reuniting boy and dog. By this time, Father Dougherty was in charge of the orphan farm on Staten Island (Father Drumgoole had died from complications of pneumonia in 1888).

As reported in the New York Herald on October 17, 1896, Father Dougherty was very receptive to the reunion cause.

“Why, the lad must have his dog, by all means,” he told Mrs. Jones. “In a few days Tim will be sent to our Home at Mount Loretto, Staten Island. The grounds are right on the shore and cover nearly a mile of territory. There Tim and Tige can romp and play to their hearts’ content. Receive the dog there? Why, of course, we’ll receive him and care for him the best we can.”

Shortly thereafter, Tim’s old neighbor John A. Horstman helped deliver Tige the Newfoundland to his new forever home in Staten Island.



Here's a Google Earth satellite view of the Mt. Loretto Unique Area today.

Here’s a Google Earth satellite view of the Mt. Loretto Unique Area today.

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