2009-04-29 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

by Joanne Anderson

"Twist" in the Sensa­tion Search: While hunt­ing for the location of the long gone Westmin­ster

Kennel Club (WKC) clubhouse in Babylon, we've been visualizing the veranda facing east, over­looking

Southards Pond. A recent clue has sparked mental "Hokey Pokey". We're shifting the whole clubhouse 90 degrees to the right, and now facing it south.

Turning the club­house both clarifies and clouds information al­ready uncovered. The clubhouse was part of a club­house/ shooting house complex so this revised think­ing is more than a change of scenery. From 1880 to 1904, besides breeding and boarding champion dogs here, Westminster hosted pigeon shoots, often with the scores recorded in the NY Times. If the clubhouse did face Alexander (or Southards Lane, as it was called long ago) the gunners fired east out over the pond, a direction we long disput­ed, but now accept. (Are you new to the Sensation saga? About 20 "Pets" columns are archived online, while Beacon Feb. 5, 2009 gives a quicker synopsis.) The Buried Clue: "Pets" March 19, 2009 cited evidence that in 1887 Sensa­tion, WKC's logo Pointer, died at age 13 in Babylon. His final resting place was at the foot of a flagpole on the front lawn of the clubhouse near the shooting house. The flagpole had a Pointer weather vane. Westminster owns a close-up photo of the flagpole with a handwritten inscription on the back saying the flagstaff marks the burial of Sensa­tion

Babylon WKC flagpole marked Sensation's grave Babylon WKC flagpole marked Sensation's grave and "many other Pointers that cost a mint of money and were the greatest of their day". (A stone on the right is the grave of a female Pointer named "Whiskey".)

We spend a lot of time looking at old maps and pic­tures, trying to piece the puzzle together. Sometimes we stumble on a detail we've missed. That's what hap­pened

with the same close-up flagpole photo which appears on page 21 of Mr. Stifel's book-TheDog Show: 125 Years of Westminster. When I asked about the picture, Mr. Stifel found something that technologi­cal

enhancement confirmed. In jest he compared his discovery to a far-fetched movie where a man denies ever meeting the woman he murdered although a snapshot he took of her when enlarged showed his reflection in the cornea of her eye.

At left, "Rusty," a lovable Cocker Spaniel At left, "Rusty," a lovable Cocker Spaniel Esteemed WKC historian Mr. Stifel zoomed-in on copies of the page 21 photo focusing on the stationary NSEW under the Pointer weather vane. He couldn't believe what he saw. Since the resolution was still a bit blurry, he fetched the original from the WKC files and took the slightly torn artifact to a color lab. Theresults were crystal clear. Keep in mind that Mr. Stifel is extremely analytical. He has examined our clues from every angle- even trying to interpret the wind direction references in various pigeon shoot accounts. He drew a floor plan of the clubhouse based on remarks in four 19th C. journals and sketched a map of where each artist and/or photographer must have stood to capture particu­lar glimpses of the buildings and property. Based on the position of the shooting house we see in this picture, Mr. Stifel realized that the N of the weather vane is pointing to the (unseen) front door of the clubhouse which means that the clubhouse faced almost due south. Theshooting house, perpendicular and forward, would be overlooking the pond. Gun­ners

Poster Pets of the Week At right, "Curly," Chihuahua/Pug Poster Pets of the Week At right, "Curly," Chihuahua/Pug aimed east over the water but the dogs did not retrieve birds.

"As the Clubhouse Turns": How does this new di­rection theory jive with other findings? The 1928 aer­ial photo plus the 1902 and 1915 Hyde maps seem to agree. The clubhouse was 40' by 60' and the long part of the funny rectangle faces south on all of these. The1918 aerial shots taken by a WWI bi-plane are similar to reading a sonogram or inkblot. I see what I want to see. These amazing pictures were taken right before the former WKC complex burned down on Oct. 14, 1918, and they suggest a cluster of bright buildings oriented the same way. An 1888 map shows a circular driveway that would serve this positioning.

The Ewells bought the property from WKC in 1904. Several Ewell photos show a clematis type vine on the post of the front porch in full bloom. Might the plant thrive from southern exposure?

The old journal articles detailing the WKC build­ings at times contradict each other, especially about placement of the kennels. Outing June 1888 men­tions

the "charming view from the upper veranda, which overlooks the pigeon-shooting ground" but no description definitively says all 3 sides of the wrap­around porch faced the water.

Sticking to My Guns: I still believe the mystery mound east of the bridle path be­tween Gwynn and Pilcher is the club­house site. Several native Babylonians ranging in age from 60 - 75 have stat­ed

that before the development circa 1955, this mound was an odd, deep depression filled with sand. They do not recall any other disturbed places in the woods. Thisspot matches all the old aerials. Why was there an ar­bitrary, concave sandpit? Had some­thing else, possibly something that had a wine cellar and a huge fire been there previously?

Subsequently people dumped junk there, transforming the deep trench into a raised mound. The lower area south of the rise could accommodate the shooting house. We took measurements again. TheWKC complex would fit, but it would be tight, not as spacious or flatas it looks in photos.

A retrospective in the July 18, 1930 Babylon Lead­er mentions that if the pigeons "escaped the aim of the club members, and flew south, they were usually brought down by a crowd that stood on Southards Lane." If we are right about the sandpit and new ori­entation,

the locals were doing more than waiting for pot shots. They were watching the matches from the Westminster bleachers.

For Adoption: Waiting at Oyster Bay Town Shel­ter (677-5784) Miller Pl. Syosset, "Rusty" is a lovable senior Cocker Spaniel who needs TLC and possibly a special diet while "Curly" is a middle aged Chihua­hua/ Pug who wants a home where she is the only dog. Cast of cats: "Powder", "Moose", "Delilah", "Oliver"- all purrsonality plus.

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