New York City taxidermist Fred Sauter was renowned for his realistic stuffed animal skins, like this lion that appeared at the annual Sportsmen's Exhibit.

New York City taxidermist Fred Sauter was renowned for his realistic stuffed animal skins, like this lion that appeared at the annual Sportsmen’s Exhibit at Madison Square Garden.

Part 1: Fred Sauter’s Stuffed Menagerie

One early spring day in March 1901, several pedestrians in lower Manhattan were startled by a 12-foot Bengal tiger which had emerged from the door of 3 North William Street. No one ever expected to see a tiger on the streets of New York, so you can imagine the surprise when a giant buffalo and mountain lion entered the sidewalk, followed by a gorilla, an elk, and some jaguars and lions.

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Taffy Town Topics Office CatsIn May 1895, the first official cat show in New York City took place at Madison Square Garden. More than 200 felines ranging from humble street cats (such as Brian Hughes’ Nicodemus) to the high-society cats of Mrs. J.J. Astor and Mrs. Stanford White were all on display at the first National Cat Show.

Although they did not take home any ribbons, a trio of black cats belonging to Colonel William D’Alton Mann, publisher of the Town Topics society magazine, were the center of attraction that year.

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The Hatching Cat Was Hacked

Posted: 26th March 2017 by The Hatching Cat in Uncategorized

Dear Readers,

Last weekend a got a vicious virus on my computer which encrypted all my files. I had to erase my entire hard drive to get rid of this virus, and in doing so, I lost all the research that I had done for my next story about the cats of the Towne Topics newspaper office. I hope to be back up and running in about a week or two, so please stay tuned. The Towne Topics cats is a great story and I look forward to posting it in the near future.

The Hatching Cat

118 Clinton Street, police station constructed in 1909

Constructed in 1909, the large, block-long police station at 118 Clinton Street was quite the fortress, but it was simply not big enough to peacefully accommodate Buster and Topsy, the rival police cat mascots.

In December 1911, the policemen of the old Eldridge Street police station in New York City’s Lower East Side moved into the new station house constructed for the men of the old Delancey Street station. Although the new station at the corner of Clinton and Delancey streets was more than big enough to accommodate everyone, the rival police cats, Buster and Topsy, refused to share the same territory.

In Part I of this old New York City Police mascot story, we learn that the move to 118 Clinton Street was a disaster for the little male cat, Buster, who was clearly bullied by the much larger female cat, Topsy. One has to wonder if the outcome would have been different had the two feline mascots been of the canine persuasion instead.

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Buster Topsy

This vintage photo is not of Buster and Topsy, but it’s how I imagine they may have looked had the two feline mascots actually liked each other (and had Topsy lost some weight). 

Part I: Buster and Topsy, the Rival Police
Cat Mascots

On the evening of December 6, 1911, the men of the old Eldridge Street police precinct in New York City’s Lower East Side moved into the brand-new station house occupied by the men of the old Delancey Street precinct.

The large modern building at the corner of Clinton and Delancey streets, with dormitory quarters for 250 men, was more than adequate to accommodate everyone. Everyone, that is, except for Buster and Topsy, the two rival police cat mascots.

In other words, when the two stations merged peacefully, the feline mascots refused to do the same.

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Chico and Punch, the two pampered pooches of photographer Alice Austen, on the porch of Clear Comfort, the 17th-century farmhouse on Staten Island where Alice spent most of her life. Chico and Punch lived with Alice for about 15 years, during which time she took many photos of them. Alice took this photograph in 1893. 

In Part I of this Old New York dog tale, we met Alice Austen, an American photographer who grew up in the Austen family’s 17th-century farmhouse in Rosebank, Staten Island. Part I left off on June 24, 1950, the day Alice, once of prominent woman of New York’s high society, took an oath declaring herself a pauper.

In Part II, we’ll visit the Staten Island poor farm where Alice lived for a short time and briefly explore the history of Clear Comfort, the home where Alice spent most of her life with her family, her lifetime partner, Gertrude Tate, and her dogs, Punch and Chico.

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Chico Punch Alice Austin

Chico and Punch in the wash tub, August 6, 1887. Photo by Alice Austen

George Washington. Ben Franklin. General William Howe. Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt. These are just a few of the prominent men in history who visited the 17th-century farmhouse on the banks of The Narrows in Rosebank, Staten Island, where photographer Alice Austen made history in the late 19th century. Today, this old farmhouse where Alice lived with her family and her dogs Punch and Chico is a National Historic Landmark known as the Alice Austen House, aka, Clear Comfort.

Part I: Alice Austen

Alice Austen was one of America’s first female photographers. She was also a landscape designer and gardener, a master lawn tennis player, a banjo player, a sailor, a mountain climber, an avid bicyclist, the first woman on Staten Island to own a car, and an important figure in America’s gay and lesbian history.

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John Henry Dolph The Duchess

John Henry Dolph, “The Duchess”

“The leading cat-painter of America is Mr. J. H. Dolph, whom everyone knows, for his works appear constantly at exhibitions. He has worked and studied much abroad, at Paris, Antwerp, and Rome. Mr. Dolph excels in the delineation of feline and canine character.”–The Monthly Illustrator, Vol. 2, 1894

In Part I of this Old New cat tale, we met John Henry Dolph, a popular painter of cats and dogs who kept hundreds of cat “models” at his New York City studio on West 57th Street and at his summer studio in Bellport, Long Island.  In Part II, we’ll visit the summer studio, where Dolph’s cats Princess and Josephine made their home.

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J.H. Dolph Mother with her KittensMother and Her Kittens, John Henry Dolph

“What J.G. Brown has done for the American street urchin, Mr. Dolph has done for the American cat”–The Recorder

Unlike most 19th-century New York City residents who wanted nothing to do with stray cats and kittens, J.H. Dolph welcomed the neighborhood children with open arms (and a few coins) when they brought him baskets of kittens. If the kittens were very young and had no mother, John Henry Dolph was even willing to play mother cat.

Lifting each kitten by the scruff of the neck, he’d gingerly place them on the workbench in the small workshop behind his summer cottage-studio. Then he’d dip a large paintbrush into a cup of milk and touch the tip of the brush to the kitten’s mouth.

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Aimee Crocker bulldogs Gilsey House

Aimee Crocker with two of her many prized pampered French bulldogs.

This is a story about a princess and her three French bulldogs, the first cricket club in New York City, an old farm, and a grand hotel called Gilsey House.

In Part I of this Old New York dog tale, we met the princess, Aimée Isabella Crocker Ashe Gillig Gouraud Miskinoff Galitzine. In Part II, we’ll explore the old Casper Samler Farm and re-visit the three bulldogs in their home at the Gilsey House.

Part II: Living the Life of Luxury at the Gilsey House

In 1889, when Ms. Aimee Crocker was on the second of five marriages, she and her husband Henry Mansfield Gillig spent winter months in their suite of rooms at the Gilsey House, a luxury hotel at 1200 Broadway. It was here that their three bulldogs — Dicbutau, Shugi, and Boola Boy — lived in Gilded Age style.

Not only did they have their own room, but these pooches had their own attendants. Their personal footman walked them down Fifth Avenue and gave them a massage three times a day. And they had a maid who bathed them daily in their own private bath (the perfume for these baths cost $1 a day).

Each dog wore a massive collar made of Japanese coins worth a fortune. And their blankets and boots, changed every few months, cost hundreds of dollars.

Izora Chandler Hatching Cat

Mrs. Izora Schwartz Chandler, a famous painter of dogs, was hired to paint the three bulldogs’ miniatures at $100 each. 

But wait, there’s more. These spoiled little doggies dined on the same food as their mistress. They slept in imported baskets on elder-down pillows. And they had skilled medical care from one of the most fashionable physicians in New York.

The bulldogs also had the honor of living in the Gilsey House, which was one of the most luxurious hotels in New York City at that time.

The Old Casper Samler Farm

The Gilsey House was erected from 1869 to 1871 on the former homestead of Casper Samler (aka Semler).

Samler was a Dutch farmer who had a large dairy farm along the Bloomingdale Road (Broadway). His 41 acres comprised the 1655 patent of Anthony Mathys (a free African American), part of the land of Claes Martensen van Rosenvelt, and part of the Common Lands of the City of New York (later the Parade Ground and Madison Square Park). The triangular-shaped farm was bounded by the Bloomingdale Road and the old Eastern Post Road (the road to Kingsbridge), from about present-day 23rd Street to 42nd Street.

From the book “Early New York Houses” published in 1900:

On March 27, 1780, [Samler] purchased from Dr. Samuel Nicoll and others, “a farm or plantation, and messuage or dwelling house, lying and being at the third mile stone, bounded west by the Bloomingdale road, south and east partly by the road to Kingsbridge and partly by the Commons of the city.

Casper Samler built his first farmhouse near present-day East 28th Street and Park Avenue. He constructed a new dwelling, stables, and outbuildings in the early 1800s on the northeast corner of West 29th Street and Broadway.

Randel 1811 Map Parade Ground Casper Samler Farm

Once called the Commons Lands of New York City, Casper Samler’s farm comprised the Parade Ground and arsenal, which was used for military maneuvers and drills prior to the War of 1812. The Parade Ground was renamed Madison Square in 1814, and in 1847 Madison Square Park was created. Click here to explore this 1811 Randel Composite Map. 

Casper Samler died in 1810, leaving the farm and other property to his grandchildren and a step-daughter, Margaret. The farm was divided into lots, and Lot # 2, which included the homestead on the Bloomingdale Road, was conveyed to Elizabeth Galilee. Elizabeth married James W. Anderson in 1815; her son, also James Anderson, lived in the farmhouse until 1869, when Peter Gilsey leased the land for his new hotel.

1807 Samler Farm Map

In this 1807 map, three dwellings are shown on the Samler farm (spelled Semler on this map), including the original homestead near present-day 28th and Park Avenue (Fourth Avenue), the second homestead at the Bloomingdale Road (Broadway) and 29th Street, and what was probably stables or other outbuildings on Broadway near 30th Street.  You can explore this map at the Library of Congress by clicking here

 

Casper Samler Homestead now the site of Gilsey House 1200 Broadway

The old Casper Samler homestead at 1200 Broadway was still standing in 1865. The house was torn down in 1869 to make way for the Gilsey House. NYPL Digital Collections 

 

Casper Samler Homestead now site of Gilsey House

In this colored illustration of Casper Samler’s homestead, the Marble Collegiate Church, constructed in 1854, is in the background on West 29th Street. According to the church’s website, when the church was constructed, congregants were surprised to learn that their new church was near a dairy farm on a dirt road (Fifth Avenue). An iron fence, like the one around the Samler house, surrounded the church to keep out the farm livestock.  

The St. George Cricket Club Grounds

Many websites note that when Peter Gilsey leased the land from the estate of Casper Samler for his Gilsey House hotel, a portion of this land included the former grounds of the St. George Cricket Club. But that’s all they say. I did some digging and got the full scoop on what was New York City’s first cricket club.

The St. George Cricket Club of New York City, aka, the Dragonslayers, formed in 1838. Most of its playing members were British-born; the club excluded Americans from participating in their “English game.”

Gilsey House built on grounds of St. George Cricket Club

Here’s an illustration of a cricket game on the grounds of the St. George Cricket Club behind present-day 1236 Broadway sometime around 1838. The buildings in the background may either be the Casper Samler homestead and stables, or perhaps Ralph Burrough’s ale house, depending on where the artist was standing. 

Some sources say the men played on grounds near some vegetable farms on 42nd Street.But I found an obscure article published in the “Spirit of the Times” on March 18, 1882, which states that the club played on vacant ground behind an ale house at what is today 1236 Broadway, between 30th and 31st Street. This would have been just up the street from the Casper Samler homestead at 1200 Broadway.

From the “Spirit of the Times”:

For the purposes of a cricket ground the Dragonslayers scoured occupation of a plot  of land, severed from a kitchen garden, to the rear of a diminutive wayside tavern on  Broadway, then the Bloomingdale Road, a short distance above the House of Refuge (Fifth Ave and 23rd), which penal reformatory at that period must have covered a section of suburban property nowadays confronted by Madison Square, as the cricket ground itself extended over a region traversed in subsequent years by Fifth Avenue, not a long way off from its junction with Broadway.

The wayside inn or ale cottage, for it was a mere two-story shingle tenement, guarding entrance to the cricket-field was, however, a well-known place of resort, despite its dwarfish and insignificant appearance, with pedestrians, as its proprietor, Ralph Burroughs, an uncouth Englishman, was notorious among his epicurean countrymen as the cultivator of the most luscious and delicious kitchen stuff to be purchased upon Manhattan Island.

The St. George’s ground was of narrow dimensions and topographically unsuited for a prodigious display of batting,  as a hard hit to the long field too often carried the ball either amid the main body of admiring spectators, thereby causing dire confusion, or else sent it flying over the fenced-in boundaries, necessitating a gymnastic performance upon the part of fielders, more vigorous than graceful.   

RedHouseGroundsHatchingCat.jpg

The Red House Grounds were located at the corner of Third Avenue and 105th Street. The grounds, which also included a trotting course, extended to the Harlem River.

Ralph Burroughs was reportedly a rough, course Englishman. His wife was described as a “rotund, rosy checked, blooming matron.” They had a daughter who often flirted with the cricket players.

Ralph’s vegetable dishes made with celery, asparagus, and other vegetables grown in his garden were very popular. It was through this garden that one had to traverse down a narrow path to reach the cricket grounds.

Eventually, when development along Fifth Avenue began to encroach on their playing field, the St. George Cricket Club moved to the Red House cricket grounds in Harlem. In 1854, the members accepted the invitation of the New York Cricket Club to share their space at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey.

The End of the Gilsey House
The Gilsey House closed in 1911 after a lengthy legal conflict between the operator of the hotel and the Gilsey estate over the lease terms. In 1946, the ground-level storefronts were modernized. The building was converted into co-operative apartments in 1980.
Following is a photo of the Gilsey House taken in 1920 before it was renovated. I also took some recent photos of the Gilsey House and the Marble Collegiate Church. (Part of the old iron fence that once kept Casper Samler’s cows off the church property is also still standing).
Gilsey House 1920
Gilsey House Broadway Hatching Cat
Gilsey House 1200 Broadway Hatching Cat
Marble Collegiate Church Hatching Cat

The Empire State Building now looms behind the 1854 Marble Collegiate Church.

Broadway Casper Samler Farm

 In the 1860s, this building was the Excelsior Stables, shown in the photo of the Samler homestead, above.