Archive for October, 2013


During the 1800s and early 1900s, stories about animal mascots in New York City and other metropolitan areas appeared in the news almost on a weekly basis.

• Fire departments had Dalmatians to help with the horses and wagons (the dogs would bark to let people know to move out of the way and also distracted and comforted the horses as they pulled the wagons closer to the blaze), but the firemen also picked up strays or adopted a member’s dog to serve as a general mascot. Some fire departments also had fire cats and one engine company in New York had a fire monkey.

Fire dog mascot

• Police departments had working dogs to help the officers find and catch criminals, but they, too, picked up strays off the street to serve as mascots. One of these strays, Bum, of the 12th Precinct on Mulberry Street, was not only a mascot, but a real life-saving hero.

Ship mascot cat

A mascot cat on HMAS Encounter during World War I.

• Cats were carried on ships for many reasons, the most important being to catch mice and rats. Mascot cats were in high demand, because sailors believed they had miraculous powers that could protect ships from dangerous weather. God forbid a cat mascot fall overboard: It was thought that this would lead to a terrible storm that would sink the ship — and if the ship was able to survive, it would be cursed with nine years of bad luck.

Curing room, Kraft-Phenix Cheese Company

A Kraft-Phenix curing room: What kitten wouldn’t want to be a mascot at a cheese factory, responsible for guarding all the cheese blocks from rodents?

Kraft’s Three Little Kittens
Fire stations, police stations, and ships may have been great places to live for our furry friends, but could any of these places top a cheese factory for kittens? I imagine the three little kitties in this story were living the high life at the Kraft-Phenix cheese company plant in 1928, what with all that easy access to cheese and, no doubt, rodents.

In 1928, the J.L. Kraft Company merged with Phenix Cheese to create Kraft-Phenix. Together, the companies supplied about 40 percent of all the cheese consumed in the United States. Kraft-Phenix was headquartered in the Chicago area, but they also had a New York plant at 65-67 North Moore Street in Tribeca (where, 80 years later, pop star Katy Perry would make her home). On July 17, 1928, three little kitten mascots of Kraft-Phenix made the headlines when they were rescued by the firemen of Engine Company No. 27, led by Captain Thomas J. O’Toole, and the Fire Department Rescue Squad.

The former firehouse of Engine Co. 27

The Engine Co. 27 firehouse at 173 Franklin Street (middle), erected in 1882, was designed by Napolean Le Brun & Son, a firm responsible for about 30 firehouses in New York City between 1880 and 1895. Some of the surviving features of this landmark building include an embellished iron lintel over the apparatus entrance, several wood sash windows, a foliate frieze above the third-story windows, and a faded sign noting “27 ENGINE 27.” After the building was decommissioned as a firehouse, it served as a welding shop. The building was most currently occupied by a gallery called Engine27.

Sometime during the working hours on July 16, a gasket of an ammonia compressor and condenser (used in industrial refrigeration) blew out in the basement of the Kraft-Phenix plant. With fumes filling the basement and seeping through to the first floor, the firemen quickly opened a vent and forced the fumes into an elevator shaft by electric fans. None of the 100 employees working that day were affected, and the firemen were able to save thousands of dollars worth of cheese products.

It wasn’t until after a new gasket was installed that employees noticed the three small fur balls huddled together unconscious in the corner of the basement. The employees immediately brought the kittens to the firemen still outside, and after several minutes of vigorous artificial respiration, were mewing again. (I’m sure it wasn’t as dramatic a rescue as the July 2013 rescue of Lucky, the kitten who has been immortalized in a viral video of his rescue, which was captured on a firefighter’s helmet cam). Each kitten was given a saucer of milk, and soon the three tiny mascots were back on the job protecting the cheese from would-be rodent thieves.

Engine Co. 27 – North River Engine Co. 30

Prior to organizing as the Metropolitan Steam Engine Company No. 27 on October 16, 1865, the engine company was known as North River Engine Co. 30 under New York’s volunteer fire department. North River was organized July 15, 1858, by B.F. Grant, William F. Searing, William McGrew, and others from Eureka Hose Company No. 54. It was originally headquartered at 153 Franklin Street.

153 Franklin Street where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was under house arrest

A police officer stands guard outside the luxury townhouse at 153 Franklin Street, where Dominique Strauss-Kahn was under house arrest in 2011, after being charged with assaulting a maid at the Sofitel New York Hotel. One of the first firehouses for Engine Co. 27, then known as the North River Engine Co. 30, was located on this site around 1858-1865. The current building was constructed in 1915.

The newly organized Engine 27 was manned by Luke A. Murphy, foreman; Dewitt Beardsley, assistant foreman; James Davis, stoker; Charles Tucker, driver; Edward Kelly, William Stoker, John Stanley, John Murphy, William Mason, Samuel Heister, and Francis Walls, firemen. The company’s firehouse was located at 173 Franklin Street, where it remained (save for a brief relocation to 304 Washington Street in 1881) until the company disbanded on November 22, 1975.

The New York Fire Department Rescue Squad

Fireman with smoke helmet

The men of the New York Fire Department Rescue Squad were called smoke eaters because of the smoke helmets that they used. Smoke helmets were fire resistant (to a degree), and were, in many cases, made by the same companies that made diving helmets. An air supply was fed into the helmet via a tube connected to a bellows that another man would pump with his foot.

The Fire Department Rescue Squad was formed in March 1915 under Fire Commissioner Robert Admanson. On March 8 of that year, two officers and eight men were assigned to the new squad of “smoke eaters” and located at the Engine 33 station house on Great Jones Street.

Smoke helmet bellows

The smoke helmet bellows were made of leather, wood, steel and aluminum. A tag had directions for how many tugs on a safety rope meant to stop, go faster, etc.

The squad was organized for the purpose of meeting peculiar conditions such as shutting off ammonia supplies when pipes burst in cold storage plans; for entering and ventilating drug and chemical plants; for reaching the seat of smoky fires in cellars and sub-cellars; for recovering persons overcome from ammonia fumes or from other gases; and for fighting fires where there was particularly pungent smoke.

The Rescue Squad responded to calls in a specially designed wagon that carried rescue apparatus including life lines and Lyle guns, ladders, smoke helmets, and a mechanical device for cutting steel or iron bars.

Engine 33 FDNY

The firehouse at 44 Great Jones Street was erected in 1898 and designed by renowned Beaux-Arts architect Ernest Flagg. The Fire Department Rescue Squad shared this home with Engine 33 from 1915 to 1920, when the squad moved to 278 Spring Street. Ladder 9 moved into the building on November 22, 1948. Sadly, Engine Company 33 and Ladder 9 lost 10 firemen who responded to the North Tower on 9/11.

Today, the squad is called FDNY Rescue 1, and its headquarters are located at 530 W. 43rd Street. Rescue 1 responds to fires where there are rescue operations that require specialized equipment and training and to incidents that may be outside the capabilities of an engine or ladder company. The main purpose for the company is to rescue firefighters.

Rescue 1 9/11 Memorial

The names of Rescue 1 members Terence S. Hatton, Joseph Angelini Sr. and Michael G. Montesi are inscribed on Panel S-9 of the South Pool of the National 9/11 Memorial.

On 9/11, Rescue 1 lost almost half of its company when the North Tower collapsed: Captain Terence S. Hatton, Lieutenant Dennis Mojica, Joseph Angelini Sr., Gary Geidel, William Henry, Kenneth Joseph Marino, Michael Montesi, Gerard Terence Nevins, Patrick J. O’Keefe, Brian Edward Sweeney, and David M. Weiss.

North Moore Street

Benjamin Moore

Benjamin Moore

North Moore Street, which was among the streets named by the Vestry of Trinity Church in 1790, was laid out in 1795 and deeded to the city by the church in 1802. The street originally ran from West Street to Varick Street, and later eastward to West Broadway (the old Chapel Street) after that street was extended north through the wetlands.

North Moore Street was named for Benjamin Moore (1748-1816), who simultaneously held the positions of rector of Trinity Church, the second bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, and President of Columbia College in the early nineteenth century. Benjamin Moore was the father of Clement Clarke Moore, who resided on the west side of Manhattan above Houston Street in his estate, Chelsea, and who wrote the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (which later became famous as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”).

No. 65-67 North Moore Street  Katy Perry

No. 65-67 North Moore Street, where the three kittens were rescued in 1928.

No. 65-67 North Moore Street, where the kittens were rescued, was designed by Buchman & Deisler and erected in 1897, replacing three masonry dwellings on the site. The six-story, 45-foot wide warehouse was constructed with No. 63 for real estate developers Denison P. Chesebro & Alexander Brown, Jr., who leased the site from the Protestant Episcopal Society for the Promotion of Religion and Learning in the State of New York.

The wine and brandy dealers Edinger Brothers & Jacobi (later known as Lachman & Jacobi) occupied the building until 1912, followed by the Seeman Brothers (Joseph, Stanley and Sigel W.) wholesale grocery business, Nestles’ Food, and Kraft-Phenix Cheese. In recent years, the building was converted into luxury residential condominiums. Pop star Katy Perry and her former husband, Russell Brand, bought a two-bedroom, two-bath duplex condo in the building in 2010 for $2.68 million. Following their breakup, the couple sold the condo to Alexandra Suppes for $2.62 million in 2012.

U.S. Life-Saving Service

A Life-Saving Service crew and their horse pull their equipment to the water’s edge.

“Here are people who have been on the ocean for a week at least, no land seen, and nothing seen on the coast yet but the red light on shore, in trouble now, in danger of their lives, and here comes a man from the unseen world, in a pair of short canvas trousers, riding on a rope, to tell them of the succor near and bid them be of good heart.”

— William Drysdale, November 16, 1890.

On July 28, 1988, President Ronald Reagan spoke to representatives from the Future Farmers of America in Room 450 of the Old Executive Office Building. About five minutes into his speech, Reagan told his audience, “There seems to be an increasing awareness of something we Americans have known for some time: that the 10 most dangerous words in the English language are, ‘Hi, I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.’” (Cue laughter.)

The anti-government, pro-market politicians may be having a field day with this famous quote today, particularly in light of the Affordable Care Act. But for more than 177,000 people who were rescued by the U.S. Life-Saving Services between 1871 and 1915, those 10 words were a gift from the heavens above.

Life-Saving Services

In a storm, any ship stranded on a sandbar usually fell to pieces within a few hours, leaving a swim to shore the only chance for survival. But few people could survive in 40-degree turbulent waters. Even if a few sailors managed to reach the beach in winter, they stood a good chance of perishing from exposure on the largely uninhabited shore.

The U.S. Life-Saving Services (USLSS) – a forerunner to the U.S. Coast Guard — was established by Congress in 1871 in response to the high loss of life in ship wrecks along America’s coastlines, particularly on the Atlantic coast. Not only were thousands of people killed in wrecks, but survivors often succumbed to their injuries because there was no one to help them. Many survivors also fell prey to pirates who would rob and attack them.

Sumner Increase Kimball  General Superintendent USLSS

Sumner Increase Kimball, a young lawyer from Maine, was appointed General Superintendent of the USLSS in 1871. He remained the only General Superintendent: The law which created the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915 also provided for his retirement.

By 1880, the USLSS had 183 live-saving stations: 7 along the coasts of Maine and New Hampshire; 15 in Massachusetts; 37 along the coasts of Rhode Island and Long Island; 40 in New Jersey; 44 south of Cape May, N.J. and in the Gulf; 34 on the Great Lakes; and 6 along the Pacific Coast. In its ninth year of operations, the USLSS responded to 250 ship disasters in which 1,854 people were rescued and only 24 lives were lost.

USLSS Life Car

In 1842, Boston inventor Joseph Francis invented the corrugated metallic life car. The first life car was placed on the coast of New Jersey, near Long Branch, in the autumn of 1849. It was first called into use in January 1850, when the British emigrant vessel Ayrshire was wrecked on Squan Beach near Manasquan in a violent winter storm. Of the 201 persons on board, 200 were saved by the life car. Unfortunately, few stations had access to these boats because Congress had not provided enough funding to provide for the horses that were needed to haul the two-ton vessels.

A Day in the Life of a Surfman
Each life-saving station was manned by a crew of surfmen who lived at the station for eight to ten months a year (usually from November to April, which was called the “active season”). Station surfmen were paid $40 a month; the keeper, also known to the men as the captain, was employed all year and paid $400. These men patrolled the shores either on foot or on horseback to look for ships that were in distress or coming too close to shore. When faced with an ocean rescue situation their motto was, “You have to go out. You don’t have to come back.”

USLSS Surfmen

In this photo, the two surfmen in center bury the sand anchor, the surfman at right carries the breeches buoy and a support for the hawser, and the other three haul in the line that has been shot over the vessel.

In the Spring 1992 issue of Naval History, Lieutenant Commander Robert V. Hulse of the Coast Guard vividly describes the typical duties of a surfman and his 16-year-old horse, Bill, at Blue Point Station on Fire Island. Commander Hulse worked at this station in the 1930s, shortly after the USLSS and the Revenue Cutter Service merged together to form the Coast Guard.

USLSS crew with three-horse hitch

A 7-member USLSS crew with a rare three-horse hitch, 1910.

“Sitting atop the roof of each two-storied lifesaving station was an observation tower. There a lookout was stationed during the daylight hour to note in his log every vessel that passed. He had a pair of binoculars as well as a spyglass to aid in his observations. Once night had fallen, foot patrols would start out from each station to keep a watchful eye on any ship passing by. If we saw red and green running lights too clearly, it usually indicated that the vessel had strayed in too close to shore. If the ship kept on her present course she was bound to plow right into the outer sandbar.

LSS Surfman uses a Coston flare

If a ship came too close to shore, a surfman would strike his red Coston flare against a rock, which could be seen for 20 miles. The flare warned the captain that he was too close and alerted the station crew of a pending disaster.

In such a case you had to quickly haul a Coston flare out of your knapsack. A few seconds sufficed to twist off the outer cover and ignite the light. You held it aloft so that the reddish-orange glow would clearly be seen out at sea. The signal burned for a good five minutes. Its clear message was: “You are coming in too close to shore. Change course immediately. You are in danger.”

Rushing topside to the crew’s dormitory, you go from bunk to bunk to wake up your shipmates. A minute later and you are outside putting the harness over old Bill. Rolling the cart out of the boathouse is easy. Just ahead, however, is deep, loose sand, and all eight surfmen are now positioned on either side of the cart to keep it moving forward. Poor old Bill would never be able to drag it over to the water’s edge without such help. The surfboat weighs a good thousand pounds, and that’s not counting the gear.

A Life-Saving crew

A Life-Saving crew with their surfboat on a carriage and a team of horses participate in a parade, circa 1900.

Finally, you and your mates have drawn abreast of the shipwreck. The rescue attempt is about to begin. Captain Bennett, of course, is in total command; many lives depend on his experience and judgment.

Carefully, you help slide the surfboat off the cart into the freezing cold water swirling around your feet. Captain Bennett is studying the sea. It is he who must decide on the most propitious moment to launch. You and the others are knee-deep in the numbing cold water, steadying the surfboat whose bow is pointed straight out into that ugly, unforgiving ocean. After a split second more of appraisal, your gruff old skipper suddenly roars out, “All right, men, let’s go!”

U.S. Life-Saving Services surfmen

1896: The Wreck of English Steamship Lamington
In the 19th century, the number of ships that wrecked along the beaches and sandbars of Fire Island were almost countless. Raging gales drove ships of every type and nation onto the outer bar, some never to return to the sea again.

On February 4, 1896, the English steamship Lamington, with a cargo of fruit from Valencia, Spain, forged at full speed through the dense fog into the sand bar of Great South Beach, two miles east of the Blue Point Life Saving Station. Jetur Rose Payne, the number-one surfman at Blue Point, saw the lights of the ship at 8 p.m. as he was returning from the sundown patrol. The ship was moving too fast, though, and it crashed before he could warn the ship’s captain. Payne ran to the station and notified Captain Frank Rorke and the crew. A telephone message was also sent for assistance to the Bellport, Long Hill, and Patchogue stations.

Lyle Gun

The Lyle rescue gun is named after its inventor, U.S. Army Colonel David A. Lyle (West Point Class of 1869). A line was fastened to a weighted projectile and shot from the gun toward the ship in distress. The sailors would grab the line as it passed over the ship, and use the line to pull out the heavier hawser cable rope. (Attached to the line were small wooden tags with instructions in English, French, and Spanish: “Pull on this line.”) The Lyle gun could reach over 600 yards, and could sometimes be shot from a boat if the water was calm enough. Lyle guns were used from the late 19th century to 1952, when they were replaced by rockets.

Launching a lifeboat was out of the question, so the crew used a Lyle gun to fire a line about 150 yards to the ship in distress. The first sailor to be rescued by the breeches buoy was 16-year-old Jimmie Holbrook. One by one, 17 more crew members were brought ashore, including James Brady of Buffalo, New York, who paid his way home from London by working on the ship.

David A. Lyle

Colonel David A. Lyle

The crews worked for almost 48 hours trying to rescue the remaining crew on board, including Captain G.W. Duff, the master of the freighter, the chief officer, and three engineers. Two days after the wreck, the newspapers reported that the men were still on board the doomed ship. Tremendous breakers were making rescue impossible, and it was feared all six men would perish as the ship continued to fall apart in the turbulent seas.

As it was, all of the crew survived, albeit, Captain Rorke and his life-saving crew had to make two more rescues in the following weeks to save some wreckers and engineers of a wrecking corps that were trying to salvage the steamer.

Homer The Life Line

The Life Line, by Winslow Homer, 1884, depicts a woman overwhelmed as she’s carried ashore with her rescuer in a breeches buoy. A breeches buoy resembled a life-preserver ring with canvas pants attached. It could be pulled out to the ship by pulleys, enabling a sailor to step into the pants and then be pulled to safety. The men drilled using the breeches buoy once a week – if after a month’s practice the crew could not rescue a person in five minutes they were reprimanded. Many crews could set it up and make the rescue in under three minutes, even during night drills when there were no light sources. Photo, Philadelphia Museum of Art

A Cat and Dog Are Rescued
In addition to the 18 rescued sailors, several animals were also onboard the Lamington. A large cat weighing 18 pounds, which had been the sailors’ pet, was carried ashore by one of the sailors on the breeches buoy (I’d love to see them try this with my cat). The cat was presented to Harrison Craig Dare, a newspaper editor from Patchogue, Long Island. A terrier was also rescued via the breeches buoy and given to Frank Soper of Ocean Beach, Fire Island.

Four Trick Ponies Are Lost
On board were four trained ponies that were being transported from Spain to Jose Aymor of the Cambridge Hotel in New York. (There had been five, but one died shortly before the ship struck the sand bar.) Unfortunately, all four ponies drowned two days after the ship crashed into the sandbar.

Life-Saving Stations of the Long Island Coast

In the late 19th century, there were 30 life-saving stations scattered along the Long Island Coast from Montauk Point to Rockaway Point. The following is a list of those stations and the keepers in about 1880:
Ditch Plain, William B. Miller
Hither Plain, William D. Parsons
Napeague, John S. Edwards
Amagansett, Jesse B. Edwards
Georgica, Nathaniel Dominy
Mecox, John W. Hedges
Southampton, Nelson Burnett

Life-Saving Service Station

An 1871 Red House-Type station at Fire Island.

Shinnecock, Alanson G. Penny
Tiana, John E. Carter
Quogue, Charles H. Herman
Potunk, Isaac Gildersleeve.
Moriches, Gilbert H. Seaman
Forge River, Ira G. Ketcham

U. S. Volunteer Life Saving Corps Sheepshead Bay

The U. S. Volunteer Life Saving Corps was an early supplement to the USLSS. This photo of the crew of the VLSC station at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, was taken around 1900.

Smith’s Point, John Penny
Bellport, Henry Kremer
Blue Point, Frank Rorke
Lone Hill, George E. Stoddard
Point O’ Woods, William H. Miller
Fire Island, J.T. Doxsee

U.S. Life Saving Station, Ditch Plains, Long Island, New York.

U.S. Life Saving Station, Ditch Plains, Long Island, New York. This 1882-type life saving station was just southwest of the Montauk Lighthouse.

Oak Island, Edgar Freese
Gilgo, William E. Austin
Jones Beach, Steven Austin
Zach’s Inlet, Philip K. Chichester
Short Beach, John Edwards
Point Lookout, Andrew Rhode

Rockaway Point Lifeboat

Rockaway Point Lifeboat, August 4, 1890

Long Beach, Richard Van Wicklen
Rockaway, William Rhinehart
Rockaway Point, Daniel B. Abrams (today this is Beach 129th Street)
Eatons Neck, Henry E. Ketcham
Rocky Point, Harvey S. Brown

The Blue Point Life-Saving Station

The Blue Point Life-Saving Station

USLSS Station #22, Third District: Blue Point
The Blue Point Life-Saving Station, constructed in 1856, was located on the beach of Great South Bay near the community of Water Island (about 10 miles east of the Fire Island Lighthouse and about 4 miles south of Patchogue). In its first year of operation, Charles R. Smith was appointed keeper.

In 1896, when the wreck of the Lamington took place, Frank Rorke was the keeper. Rorke was appointed to this position on July 5, 1887, and remained at Blue Point until his retirement with thirty years of service on May 31, 1919. Although the USLSS merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to form the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, Blue Point stayed in operation until 1937.

Blue Point LIfe-Saving Station

The Blue Point Station was abandoned after the war in 1946.

The End of an Era
The era of rescuing shipwrecked sailors by surfboat and breeches buoy ended in 1915, when the USLSS merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to create the U.S. Coast Guard. Some of the old stations, however, continued to be manned by surfmen who helped rescue mariners until the end of World War II. Improvements in navigation, radar, sonar, and the helicopter combined to render these stations obsolete. Unfortunately, most of them were sold at auction or torn down.

The good news though, is that while the Life-Saving Services only existed as a separate entity for 44 years, during that time the brave surfmen and their horses came to the rescue of 178,741 men, women, and children — 177,286 of whom were saved. That’s an outstanding record, considering the limited equipment they had.

If you enjoyed this story, you may like reading about Tim, the shipwrecked cat rescued by the men of the Eatons Neck Life-Saving Station on Fire Island.

Siberian Bloodhound

On May 15, 1874, 23-year-old Charles W. Walker, the proprietor of a mill at 602 Broadway that manufactured bottled champagne cider, was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals. According to officers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Mr. Walker was overworking his dogs at the mill to the point of suffering, fatigue, and injury.

For this curiously odd dog story of old New York, I’m going to take you on a short visual tour of downtown Broadway in the vicinity of West Houston Street, circa 1874, following a brief history of this area.

Olympic Theatre, Broadway

The second Olympic Theatre (the first one at 422 Broadway burned down in 1854) was built in 1856 at 626 Broadway. The theater was originally named Laura Keene’s Varieties, in honor of American actress Laura Keene, who appeared in Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre the night President Lincoln was assassinated. The Olympic remained a popular venue for musical burlesques until it burned down in 1881. It was replaced by a brick and cast-iron store and loft building.

From the late 1840s through the 1870s, what we call NoHo and SoHo today was at the very center of the “Theatrical Rialto.” It was one of the most thrilling and glamorous parts of Manhattan, offering New Yorkers, businessmen, and tourists some of the finest shops, hotels, restaurants, theaters, and, of course, all the vices associated with these establishments. This Broadway era of glitzy white marble was a far cry from the residential Broadway of the 1820s and 30s, when glorious churches and rows of stylish red-brick Federal and Greek-Revival private homes lined the street.

For patrons of the theater – primarily men — there were numerous concert halls that offered vaudeville and the blackface minstrel shows that were all the rage in those days.

The exterior of Niblo's Garden c.1887.

The second Niblo’s Garden Theatre, shown here in 1887 (the first one was destroyed by a fire on September 18, 1846), opened in the summer of 1849 and became part of the Metropolitan Hotel in 1852. The 3,200-seat theater featured some of the most popular actors and plays of the time, as well as Italian opera. This theater was also destroyed by fire in 1872, but it was rebuilt by A.T. Stewart. The final performance at Niblo’s took place March 23, 1895. A few weeks later the theater and hotel were demolished to make way for the Metropolitan Building, a large office building erected by sugar-refining titan Henry Osborne Havemeyer. Today the building at 568-578 Broadway is home to some of New York’s fastest growing startup companies.

Wood's Theatre, Theatre Comique

Formed by Edwin P. Christy in 1842, Christy & Wood’s Minstrels (aka the Ethiopian Minstrel Band and Wood’s Minstrels) were a troupe of actors, actresses, performers, comedians, and acrobats. In July 1862, the troupe acquired an abandoned synagogue at 514 Broadway and converted it to a 1,400-seat theatrical hall. For the next 13 years the theater changed hands several times, caught fire, and operated under the marquees of multiple different names, including the Theatre Comique. The building was demolished in 1881. Photo: Albert Garzon

For the ladies of leisure, Broadway was a shopping Mecca during the daylight hours.

Tiffany and Company

Tiffany and Company’s marble-faced headquarters and showroom at 550 Broadway (1853–1881) featured a nine-foot statue of Atlas holding aloft a round clock (now seen on their shop on Fifth Avenue). This building still stands, but today it looks quite different as the home to Banana Republic.

There was Tiffany and Company just north of Prince Street at 550–52 Broadway, Lord & Taylor’s five-story department store on the northwest corner of Broadway and Canal Street, and Brooks Brothers at 668¬–674 Broadway near Bond Street.

Most of the halls changed management and marquee names every few years or so, and it seems like a majority were damaged or destroyed by fire at least once during their short life spans, but a few of the more memorable ones were still operating in the 1870s. These included Tony Pastor’s Opera House at 585 Broadway, the new Olympic Theatre at 622-24, Theatre Comique at 514, and Niblo’s Garden behind the Metropolitan Hotel at 578-60 Broadway.

The former Brooks Brothers, Broadway

In 1873, Adele Livingston Sampson Stevens, one of the nation’s wealthiest women, was still living in her magnificent mansion at 668–674 Broadway, in the fashionable Bond Street area. But that August, her home was demolished and replaced by a five-story store and factory building designed by George Harney for Brooks Brothers. In 1884 Brooks Brothers moved northward to Broadway and 22nd Street, but this building continues its original purpose – a clothing store on the first floor and manufacturing spaces above.

The Grand Central, Broadway Central Hotel

The Grand Central Hotel, later named The Southern Hotel and finally the Broadway Central hotel, was erected in 1869 on several lots fronting Broadway, with the main entrance at 673 Broadway. The site was originally a hotel and theater called the Lafarge House, but this structure was destroyed in an 1854 fire, rebuilt, and destroyed again in another spectacular fire. One day in August 1973, a section of the Broadway Central’s facade collapsed, killing four residents of what was then a welfare hotel. A fireman later rescued an 8-month-old dog named Dino who was trapped in the rubble for a week. The remains of the hotel were demolished, and New York University subsequently built a 22-story student dorm for law students on the site.

Woven throughout the theaters and shops were some of the city’s most grandiose hotels, including the Grand Central Hotel at 673 Broadway and the famous white marble St. Nicholas Hotel, which stretched 100 feet between Spring and Broome Streets.

The St. Nicholas Hotel, Broadway

The St. Nicholas Hotel, which opened on January 6, 1853, featured all the latest amenities, including central heating, gas in every room, and bathrooms and water closets with hot and cold water in every room. The magnificent building was demolished only 30 years later in 1884. Remarkably, two sections of the original hotel remain today at 521 and 523 Broadway.

The Metropolitan Hotel Broadway

The 500-room Metropolitan Hotel occupied a full city block on Broadway and 210 feet on Prince Street. The Metropolitan was managed by Simon Leland and his brother and operated on the American plan, which included three meals a day. Unlike many New York hotels, the Metropolitan allowed the slaves of its Southern patrons to stay on the premises. Mary Todd Lincoln and her black seamstress, Elizabeth Keckley, stayed at the Metropolitan on several occasions. The building was demolished in 1895. Photo: Museum of the City of New York.

There were also numerous smaller hotels on the European plan that charged $1 or $2 a night and were popular with performers and single men seeking temporary housing. These included the Tremont House located next to the Grand Central at 663-665 Broadway, the St. Charles Hotel (formerly Sewell House) at #648, and the Revere House at 604–608 Broadway, which was very popular with the theater and circus performers.

Revere House Broadway New York

The Revere House at 604-608 Broadway was operated as a hotel and boarding house with restaurant by Timothy J. Coe and his son, Russell. It was the meeting place of the New York Fat Men’s Association, as well as the scene of numerous murders and suicides. The narrow building to the right of the Revere House is Walker’s cider mill at 602 Broadway, where our dog story takes place.

It is just south of Houston Street and one door past the Revere House where the dog tale begins…

Broadway south of Houston 1860

A stereoscopic view of Broadway, looking south from Houston Street, circa 1860. Photo: New York Public Library

The Doggy in the Window

According to news reports, Charles Walker employed several dogs, including a Siberian bloodhound and a Newfoundland, as the motive power in an apple-grinding machine at his factory on Broadway, right next door to the Revere House. The doggie treadmill was placed in the front window each day to attract the attention of passersby.

Dog treadmil, dog engine

Dog treadmills, also called dog engines, produced both rotary and reciprocating powers for use with light machinery like butter churns, grind stones, fanning mills, and cream separators. Shown here is Nicholas Potter’s patented “Enterprise Dog Power” treadmill, designed to power butter churns and other small farm machines, circa 1881.

On the evening of May 15, 1873, Mr. James W. Goodridge of 129 West 17th Street entered the factory and noticed that the Siberian bloodhound working the treadmill was suffering from fatigue and seemed to be starving. The dog also was chafed and bleeding at the neck. Goodridge reported this to the SPCA, who arrested Walker and ordered him to cease and desist until his court hearing.

Due to “severe illness, Walker’s court hearing was delayed for over a year. Apparently he didn’t want to obey orders for such an extended period, so he reportedly began using the dogs on the treadmill again. This time, ASPCA Officer Dr. William C. Ennever ordered Deputy Sheriff Timothy Kelly to arrest employee Jospeh Bailey for forcing the dog to run the grinding machine. Bailey was arrested on November 21, 1873, locked up and released by 33-year-old Police Justice George E. Kasmire the following day.

Less than eight months later, another employee, Washington Williams, whom the Brooklyn Eagle described as “a sable resident of Thompson Street,” was arrested and charged with cruelty to animals on a complaint made by Henry Bergh, founder and president of the ASCPA. This time it was a Newfoundland that was being used as motive power for the apple grinding machine. Mr. Williams was held on $300 bail by Justice Henry Murray at the Jefferson Market Courthouse.

The Hearing at the Jefferson Market Police Court

Charles Walker finally had his day in court on October 8, 1874. At that hearing, Mr. Bergh appeared before Justices Kasmire, Henry Murray, and Bankson T. Morgan. He reported that the dog’s collar had chafed a raw sore and that he panted and frequently tried to stop, but was so tied that he had to keep on running or choke.

Walker told the judges that he had worked the dogs for years at his factory, never worked them more than an hour at a time, and never chained them up to the machine. However, his father, William Augustus Walker, who owned Walker Glass Importing, Silvering, and Manufacturing Company at 616 Broadway, contradicted his son. He told the judges that the dogs were so fond of working the mill that they had to be chained to prevent them from walking on the treadmill outside of working hours.

Employee Washington Williams also testified at the hearing — and here’s where it gets even more bizarre. Williams told Justice Kasmire that since the dogs had been liberated by the ASPCA, he was being used as the motive power for the machine. Williams said he did not find the work hard at all. Apparently he did not feel it was cruelty to humans either.

Jefferson Market fire towwer and court

What is today the Jefferson Market Library on Greenwich Ave. between 6th Avenue and West 10th Street was formerly the Jefferson Market. The block originally housed a dingy police court in the Assembly Rooms over a saloon, a volunteer firehouse, a jail, and an octagonal wooden fire lookout tower constructed in 1833. The wood tower and market structures were razed in 1873 to make way for a new civic complex and courthouse, which opened in 1877. In 1927 the jail, the market, and the firehouse were demolished and replaced by the city’s House of Detention for Women. The courthouse was abandoned in 1945 and saved by the Greenwich Village Association in 1962 to be readapted as a public library. In 1973 the House of Detention was torn down to make way for a park. Photo circa 1855-60, Jefferson Market Library.

After only a few minutes of deliberation, Justice Kasmire announced the decision: The Court found Charles Walker guilty, and sentenced him a fine of $25.

The Jefferson Market Library.

In 1885 a panel of American architects voted the Jefferson Market Courthouse the fifth most beautiful building in America. Today it’s home to the Jefferson Market Library.

Following this case, Bergh became notorious for frequently storming in saloons where dogs called “turnspit dogs” were being used on cider and fruit presses. He would wave his silver-headed walking stick like a club until the bar managers, who didn’t think it was anyone’s business how they worked their cider mills, backed down and liberated the dogs. Unfortunately, Bergh often returned to some saloons, only to find that the dogs had been replaced by black children. Mind you, this was just 10 years after the Civil War, and child labor was not against the law — but still, this story shows how far we’ve come in 140 years.