Archive for January, 2014

Jerry Fox spectacled cat

Jerry Fox was actually a large tiger cat, or what was called a maltese cat in early days — but he did “wear” spectacles and “read” newspapers in his senior years.

Recently, I wrote about Tom, the mascot of New York’s City Hall from 1891 to 1908. Tom may have acted as if he were the king cat of New York, but that’s probably because he didn’t know about his feline counterpart in Brooklyn.

Jerry Fox, an enormous tiger cat “of striking appearance” who performed heroic deeds during his 28-year reign as Brooklyn’s official cat, would have given Old Tom a run for his money.

Jerry Fox was actually the mascot of a well-known café in the vicinity of what was then Brooklyn City Hall. He was given to the proprietor in 1879 when he was thought to be two or three years old. On Sundays he attracted much attention by sitting in the café windows and watching passersby.

But during the rest of the week, when the café was open, he spent his days making scheduled rounds in the neighborhood – it is said that only once in his early years did he fail to show up in the places on his beat about the same time.

Brooklyn City Hall Park

Jerry made his daily rounds along Fulton Street and City Hall Park, shown here in 1890. He probably had to make some adjustments when the Kings County Elevated Railroad was constructed in 1897. Photo: Long Island Historical Society

Jerry Fox, the Crime-Stopping Cat

Jerry took his job patrolling the City Hall neighborhood very seriously, and was often credited for preventing crimes or alerting humans to danger. While making the rounds of the café each day, for example, he would always alert the owner if he found a door or window ajar.

One time a thief reportedly tried to break into the back window of the café, and Jerry’s loud howls attracted a policeman, who chased the would-be thief away. Another time Jerry chased a mad dog out of another place on his regular beat — the undertaker’s shop next to the café.


Jerry’s Life at Brooklyn’s Civic Center

Brooklyn Municipal Hall, Courthouse, Hall of Records

Jerry spent much of his time around Brooklyn’s old Municipal Building (right), which was constructed around the same time Jerry arrived in 1878. He also meandered around the Brooklyn County Courthouse (middle), constructed in the 1860s, and the Hall of Records, built between 1885 and 1887.

For more than a quarter of century, Jerry made his presence known at City Hall and the Municipal Building. He did not have any political principles — he simply gave his support to whichever party was in power.

He was a smart and dignified cat who made friends with the Brooklyn Bridge officials and played dominoes with Boss Hugh McLaughlin in the Exempt Firemen’s Rooms in City Hall on summer nights.

Sometime around 1903, Jerry started to lose his teeth. Then he lost much of his sight. Lucky for Jerry, he was a friend of Dr. Charles F. Hughes, who reportedly made a special pair of glasses for him.

According to The New York Times, the glasses gave Jerry “a certain quaint dignity” and friends would often give him a newspaper so he could sit on the steps of the Municipal Building and pretend he was reading like the “bums” all around him. Without the glasses, poor Jerry stumbled on the trolley tracks, but soon all the motormen got to know him and would stop their trolleys when he was in sight because they knew he couldn’t see the

Court Street Brooklyn

The sign for Dr. Hughes’ optical business at 59 Court St. is in the top center of this 1915 photo. All the buildings were razed when construction of the new Municipal Building began in 1924.  Long Island Historical Society

Jerry Fox Saves Borough Hall

On the afternoon of May 22, 1904, nearly blind Jerry was wondering about the third floor of Borough Hall when he came upon the vacant office of Judge Almet F. Jenks of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court.

Papers on the judge’s desk had caught fire by what was reported to be a “misplaced lit cigar.” Judge Jenks was across the street at the law library in the County Courthouse at the time.

Brooklyn Borough Hall

Brooklyn Borough Hall sits on land donated August 16, 1834, by the Remsen and Pierrepont families. Originally called City Hall, it was designed by architects Calvin Pollard and Gamaliel King and completed in 1848. In January 1898, the City of Brooklyn merged with the City of New York, and Kings County became the Borough of Brooklyn. Hence, City Hall became Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Upon seeing (or perhaps smelling) the fire, Jerry rushed out into the chambers and started to howl. Policeman Harry Staton, who was stationed in Borough Hall, knew something had to be wrong, because Jerry was not known to complain.

He located the fire and alerted Policeman John Kessell, who was stationed in the office of Borough President Martin W. Littleton.

Brooklyn City Hall culola fire

Perhaps Jerry knew that the fire in Judge Jenks’ office meant trouble because he saw what happened in February 1895 when a great fire destroyed the cupola of City Hall. Photo: Long Island Historical Society

One news report says the policemen turned in an alarm and then attacked the flames with a fire extinguisher grenade.

Another report said the judge returned to his office and filled one of the officer’s hats with water to pour on the fire. In any event, if it hadn’t been for Jerry’s meows, the damage to Borough Hall may have been much more extensive and the city would have lost more than a desk and some papers.

Kings County Court House

The Kings County Courthouse was built in 1861 on land once part of DuFlon’s Military Garden, which had a theater and later, a lager beer and concert saloon owned by Louis Grantegein. The courthouse was razed 100 years later; today the Brooklyn Law School occupies the site.  Image: George F. Nesbitt & Co., 1862, from the Collections of the Museum of the City of New York.

Murphy Park and the Demise of Jerry Fox

By the time Jerry had saved City Hall, he was already on a downward spiral. The news reporters blamed Jerry’s decrepit condition on Murphy Park, a popular and dangerous hangout for “benchers” (homeless men) and teenage gangs. As reported in the Brooklyn Standard Union on August 17, 1899:

“Jerry Fox was decent and respectable and carried himself well until Murphy Park adjoining the Municipal Building was opened as a summer resort for the hobos and the Knights of Ease. Since then Jerry has become utterly disreputable, neglects his home, pays no attention to his master, stays out at nights, and acts generally in a way that is a shame and a disgrace to his former record. He now lounges on the benches, makes friends with unsavory looking [men], snoozes all day, neglects his baths, drinks [ale] like a fish, does not eat regularly, and is rapidly becoming a wreck of his old self.”

One night in December 1904 Jerry apparently wasn’t wearing his glasses when he strolled away from Borough Hall and fell down a subway shaft. The shaft, which was probably part of the Interborough Rapid Transit expansion project, had been shut down because of trouble with a water main. For five months, everyone assumed Jerry had run away. Unfortunately, when the shaft was reopened in April 1905, workers found his remains. They brought him out by dirt cart.

Jerry’s death was reported in The New York Times on April 7, 1905:

“Had each of the several hundred city officeholders, judges, lawyers, volunteer firemen, war veterans, and business men in Borough Hall Square lost an old college chum there could not have been sorrow more profound than that which greeted the death of Jerry.”

Several of Jerry’s old friends paid tribute to the cat upon learning of his death:

“He was a student as well as a great cat,” said Dr. Hughes.

“I had known him since I was a boy,” said an elderly Heights doctor, who had once extracted Jerry’s lower tusks because they were cutting his upper lip.

“Jerry was an epoch in himself,” said Assemblyman Patrick Burns.
“In an earlier day he would have been to Brooklyn as the codfish is to Boston.”

This concludes the story of Jerry Fox. However, if you enjoy New York history, you may want to read about the historic events surrounding Murphy Park and the Municipal Building, where Jerry spent much of his final years.

When Jerry was in his youth, the buildings in his beat included Brooklyn City Hall, the Municipal Building, Collegiate and Polytechnic Institution, the Court House, and the Reformed Dutch Church.

Joralemon, Livingston, Court Street and Boreum Place

All the land between Joralemon, Livingston, Court Street and Boreum Place, shown here in this 1880 map, was farmland that Philip Livingston turned over to the city in 1801.

In 1805, the First Dutch Reformed Church purchased the 340 x 145 foot lot between Joralemon, Court, and Livingston Streets, and built its third church in 1807. This church was replaced in 1835 by the much larger building shown below, which faced Livingston Street.

In the 1880s, efforts were made to either move the church to the other end of the lot and use it as a lecture hall, or sell the site to the Federal Government for the new post office. Both ideas fell through and the lot was sold on March 1, 1886, to Charles L. Willoughby, a Chicago capitalist, for $250,000. The church was demolished in May 1886.

First Dutch Reformed Church, Brooklyn, 1885, Livingston Street

First Dutch Reformed Church, Livingston Street. Museum of the City of New York Collections

When Charles L. Willoughby purchased the lot from the church, his intention was to hop on the cyclorama bandwagon and build a cyclorama building in Brooklyn.

Cyclorama Building

This 1886 shows a Cyclorama Building where the Dutch Reformed Church previously stood.

The octagonal cyclorama building was 139 feet in diameter, 400 feet in circumference, and 100 feet high with a glass roof.

Gettysburg Cyclorama

Inside the building was a 360-degree cyclorama painting depicting Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg by French artist Paul Philippoteaux. A viewing platform accommodated about 50 people at a time.

The Gettysburg cyclorama painting was on display from October 15, 1886, to August 8, 1887. The exhibit moved to Fourth Avenue and 19th Street in Manhattan after that, and the Brooklyn building was demolished. The Manhattan cyclorama was replaced by the Parker Building in 1900.

Paul Philippoteux

Paul Philippoteux, seen here, had a cylindrical-shaped studio on 149th Street in New York, where he painted Pickett’s Charge, a cyclorama depicting the Confederate attack on the Union forces during the Battle of Gettysburg.

After the Cyclorama Building came down, the lot sat empty for a while until George Murphy, a Department of Public Works employee, had the park created for only $650. (Some sources say the park was named after the Mayor of the City of Brooklyn, Henry C. Murphy, but newspaper articles claim the “honor” goes to George Murphy.)

Murphy Park, Municipal Park, Brooklyn

By 1901 Murphy Park, officially known as Municipal Park, had become a panhandler’s paradise for loafers, bums, gangs, and thieves. As one news article noted, “The scoundrels turned a pretty place into a little hell on earth.” New York Public Library

Although the park was quite lovely in early years — the Board of Directors of the Brooklyn Free Library Association even considered purchasing land for its library headquarters in 1897 – by 1900 its benches were filled by men who could not afford a bed in one of the Fulton Street and Washington Street boarding houses. In 1906 insult was added to injury when the park was converted into a storage yard for subway contractors working on the Borough Hall subway station.

Murphy Park, Brooklyn

The old Municipal Building previously occupied the fenced-in area on the left; the vacant Murphy Park is on the right. Photo: Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 21, 1916.

In 1915, citizens asked Borough President Pounds and Public Works Commissioner Voorhies to turn the lots once occupied by the old Municipal Building and Murphy Park into a parking lot for all the autos clogging the streets adjoining Borough Hall. (Oh, the horror, people were parking their cars in front of front of apartments, leaving no place for the residents to park!)

Three years after residents begged for a parking lot, the empty lots remained an eyesore. In September 1918, by orders of the United States War Department, the lots were put into use as an exercise and drill ground to prepare student soldiers for World War I.

Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute

In September 1918, Brooklyn’s Polytechnic Institute, seen here, was briefly transformed into barracks as part of a government war initiative called the Students Army Training Corps. In addition to receiving a monthly salary, students in the Corps also had their tuition paid for by the government. Brooklyn Public Library

In 1921 there was a proposal to turn the lots into a practice putting course for the judges whose office windows look out on Borough Hall and the lots. It was thought that some afternoon putting would clear their minds for better rendering of judgments.

Finally, on August 13, 1925, Borough President Edward Riegelmann broke ground for the erection of Brooklyn’s new Municipal Building.

Municipal Building, Brooklyn

The new Municipal Building, designed by McKenzie, Voorhees and Gmelin, was constructed on the former lots that were once Jerry’s old stomping grounds.

Brooklyn Municipal Building

Today the Municipal Building houses many city offices and offices for the Departments of Buildings, Probation, Finance, and Environmental Protection. I wonder if it has a mascot cat…

General Daniel E. Sickles gives lion cub to Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy

General Daniel E. Sickles, a Civil War hero, presents Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy with a lion cub from the Barnum & Bailey Circus in this 1911 photo published in the Hempstead Sentinel.

Once upon a time – June 1908, to be exact – an eccentric pseudo-princess portrait painter came to New York City. This beautiful auburn-haired princess loved all kinds of animals and despised people who were not kind to them. She told the press (via her private press secretary, Frederick M. Delius) that she lived by the motto, “Love me, love my dog.”

Perhaps her motto should have been, “Love me, love my dogs, my cat, my guinea pig, my alligators, my owls, my pelican, my monkey, my snakes, my bear, my falcons, my wolves, my ibis, and my lion cub.”

Her Supreme Highness, Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy (as her servants called her), was born Elisabeth Vilma von Parlaghy in Hajdúdorog, Hungary, on April 15, 1863. Her parents were Baron and Baroness Zollen Dorp of Austria (I’m not sure where Parlaghy comes from).

Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy

Self-portrait of Princess Elisabeth Vilma Lwoff-Parlaghy. During her lifetime, Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy painted about 120 portraits of prominent American and European men, including military figures, celebrities, inventors, philosophers, and politicians. Thomas Edison, Admiral George Dewey, President William Howard Taft, Nikola Tesla, New York Mayor Seth Low, and Andrew Carnegie all sat for the princess.

Vilma began training as a painter in Budapest and Munich in her early teens — she was the only female pupil of Franz von Lenbach — and launched her career as a renowned portrait artist for royalty after painting a portrait of Lajos Kossuth, the former Governor-President of Hungary. One of her most famous and frequent subjects was Kaiser Wilhelm II, German emperor from 1888 to 1918.

It was not her career or family roots, however, that entitled Vilma to call herself a princess. She acquired this royal title through a brief second marriage to Prince George Eugeny Lwoff Wall of Russia, whom she married in Prague in 1899. (Her first husband was Dr. Karl Kruger, a philosopher from Berlin. She said she divorced him in 1895 because he was too “excitable” for her; other sources say she became too successful for him.)

After traveling to New York in March 1900 so Princess Lwoff could paint Admiral George Dewey, the newlywed couple moved to a villa in Bavaria. The princess, however, soon grew tired of the quiet country life. She divorced the prince in 1903, telling the press that he was too “naughty” for her.

Despite the brief marriage, Vilma decided to keep the name “Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy,” which had been authorized by Prince Lwoff. She also kept a château in Nice on the French Riviera — Chateau St. Jean — that he supposedly gave her.

Following her second divorce, the princess presumably married (or had an affair with) Peter Norsk, a Danish minister. The couple had a daughter named Wilhelmina (Vilma) in 1905 or 1906. The girl spent her childhood living with a governess in London while her mother traveled around the world with her cherished dogs and other pets.

Princess Lwoff and her entourage

The princess is shown here with just a small portion of her traveling entourage, including Frederick Delius, her factotum; her first attaché; her father confessor; and her “chasseur guard.” One American hotel guest said the arrival of Princess Lwoff and her entourage was like a scene from George Bernard Shaw’s comedy, Arms and the Man.

The Princess Goes to the Plaza

In June 1908, Princess Lwoff traveled to New York City in order to paint portraits of famous Americans. She was accompanied by “gorgeously uniformed attendants” that included (reports vary on the exact number of servants) two attaches (secretaries), couriers, a footman, three butlers, three maids, a cook, a valet, a bodyguard, and a physician. She also arrived with her own personal menagerie, including a small Pomeranian dog, an Angora cat, a guinea pig, an owl, an ibis, two small alligators, and a small bear named Teddy.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Plaza Hotel, New York

The Plaza Hotel at Fifth Avenue and Central Park South opened its doors on October 1, 1907. Originally, the hotel served as a residence for wealthy New Yorkers; it also had a very liberal pets policy, which allowed Princess Lwoff to stay there with a wide assortment of animals. Today the hotel accepts only small dogs and cats, and of course, service dogs.

Although the princess had attempted to find a hotel that would accommodate her caravan of animals (another story about this to come), none of the hotels responded to her letters of inquiry. She apparently tried to stay at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, but the hotel informed her of their pet policy and turned her away — I guess they didn’t accept alligators or bears (or any of the above).

Luckily for the princess and her pets, the brand new Plaza Hotel had an “open door pet policy” that was quite liberal. Arrangements were soon made for a large 14-room suite with private chapel on the third floor of the hotel overlooking Central Park.

Duchess of Manchester

The Plaza did not allow animals in the elevators, so the princess demanded her own elevator, and gave strict orders prohibiting anyone outside of her circle to ride in it. One day she told the elevator boy to shut the door on the Duchess of Manchester, shown here, who had tried to get on the elevator. Needless to say, the Duke of Manchester was outraged and demanded an apology from the so-called princess.

For the next five years, Princess Lwoff and her staff called The Plaza their home in New York (at a cost of $25,000 a year). Her staff occupied half the suite, while her extensive menagerie stayed in the antechamber.

The princess had a bedroom that was connected by electric bells to the parlor, maids’ room, and butlers’ room; two additional rooms decorated in Gothic style with stained glass windows served as her studio.

Plaza Hotel

This was Princess Lwoff’s view from her third-floor studio. Museum of the City of New York Collections

The rest of the suite was a small art museum filled with her expensive potteries, treasured paintings and tapestries, red velvet and gold Louis XVI furniture, and 11th- and 14th-century objects d’art. (The princess once told a reporter she had to surround herself with millions of dollars worth of art and antiques to stimulate her imagination and give her inspiration to paint.)

The Princess Gets a Lion Cub From Barnum

In early spring 1911, Princess Lwoff fell in love with a newborn lion at the Barnum & Bailey menagerie at Madison Square Garden. She tried for weeks to buy the cub, but the proprietors refused, saying they didn’t want to separate him from his mother. They also said they wanted to keep him because they thought the cub had great potential.

Princess Lwoff Sickles Lion Cub

Not about to give in, the princess solicited assistance from General Daniel E. Sickles, whom she had recently painted. The general made arrangements to buy the cub from the circus owners, who apparently could not turn down the great Civil War hero and septuagenarian. Despite their objection to any payment, he gave them $250 for the cub.

On April 17, 1911, Sickles told the press he was celebrating the 50th anniversary of his going to war by giving the six-week-old cub to the princess. He also said it would be a surprise to her (wink wink).

Princess Lwoff was summoned to Madison Square Garden, and Sickles, still holding the cub, said, “I want you to accept a souvenir of my regard.” She uttered a cry of delight and ordered one of her servants to buy champagne for the occasion. She sprinkled champagne over the cub’s head – I’m sure he loved that – and christened him General Sickles. Then she wrapped him in a woolen blanket, placed him in her car, and drove off in triumph to The Plaza.

The following day, Princess Lwoff sailed for Europe with her entourage and the little cub. While at her studio in Berlin, she painted General Sickles holding the lion in a portrait she called “The Two Lions.” She spent the summer overseas, and when she returned to New York via the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria in October 1911, she announced that the small lion – now named Goldfleck — was as tame as any pet dog, and had been a favorite among hotel guests.

A Short-lived Life at the Plaza

Goldfleck the Lion

The day after the lion’s death, the New York Evening Telegraph and New York Herald reported that the cub was a lioness named Leoine. Perhaps the princess gave the press false information, because his headstone says “Goldfleck.”

Back at The Plaza, Fred Sterry, the hotel’s managing director, was persuaded to allow Goldfleck use of his own room, with supervision round-the-clock from the cub’s trainer. Apparently there were no complaints, although there was one reported incident involving a poorly timed flash-photograph that frightened Goldfleck, who then raced through an open door and into the public corridors of the hotel, causing a bit of panic among guests and staff members. He was lured back into his room with a piece of raw meat.

On May 21, 1912, the young lion died at The Plaza. Hotel officials said the cub had never adapted to civilized food and died from gout. The princess held a formal wake in the suite, with the lion covered in elaborate wreaths and surrounded by flowers, toys and dishes.

He was placed in a box and taken by taxi to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, accompanied by six cars of mourners.

Her Life After Goldfleck

Deer Park, Haines Falls

Following Goldfleck’s death, the princess bought Deer Park, a 100-acre mountaintop estate on the Laurel House Road in Haines Falls, New York (Catskills). The estate, which she later named Santa Maria, featured a 17-room mansion, stable, and numerous outbuildings. Her intention was to create a miniature St. Moritz with sledding, skiing, and skating, but all her plans were canceled when World War I began.

During World War I, requests for portraits dwindled and Princess Lwoff began living less like a princess and more like a wealthy pauper – if there is such a thing. She was forced to reduce her staff and give up some of her rooms at The Plaza; eventually she had to leave The Plaza because she could not pay her $12,000 bill.

In 1915 the princess moved into a two-room suite at the St. Regis for $20 a day (parlor, bedroom and bath, and no exclusive elevator). She had to find new homes for some of her exotic animals, like the alligators and birds, but she told the press she did keep enough cats and dogs to keep her company at the hotel.

St. Regis Hotel, New York

The St. Regis Hotel, constructed by Trowbridge & Livingston for John Jacob Astor IV, opened on September 4, 1904. The princess moved into the Fifth Avenue hotel in 1915.

During these hard times, Ludwig Nissen, a retired Brooklyn diamond merchant, agreed to hold four chattel mortgages for the princess on the Catskill estate and a five-story town house on East 39th Street that she moved into around 1916. Alas, when she failed to pay back the $218,000 in mortgages by August 1923, the merchant took action.

On August 26, Deputy Sheriff Joseph A. Lamman arrived at her door armed with three writs of seizure, two detectives from the East 35th Street station, and a locksmith. Although a sign on the iron door said the occupants were away, the princess was home and seriously ill with diabetes.

109 East 39th Street

Princess Lwoff-Paraghy died in 1923 in this 1887 Queen Anne-style town house at 109 East 39th Street — check out the lion Gargoyles near the gable rooftop.

Her physician told the officers she was in critical mental and physical condition. The princess, surrounded by only her physician, a maid, and Mr. Delius, had barred all visitors from seeing her.

On August 28, 1923, the 60-year-old penniless princess passed away on a golden bed that had once belonged to Marie Antoinette, leaving an estate she would not (and now could not) touch that was valued up to $2 million.

Princess Lwoff-Parlaghy was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, wearing her court robes of blue and gold with a crown of silver and 22 royal decorations. The Poet Laureate Edwin Markham gave her funeral oration. Only her two remaining servants attended the services.

Ida Hopper family dog, Sport

This image of “Sport” Hopper appeared in the New York Herald on December 5, 1895.

Although it is still illegal in New York to bury pets in human cemeteries, historically speaking, that’s a fairly new law. Up until 1949, pet owners could bury their furry companions in the family plot, provided the cemetery or other deed owners had no objections.

There are a few famous dogs buried in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, including Gypsie, the black and white Newfoundland owned by Brooklyn artist Lemuel Wilmarth (buried November 1879), and Fannie, a nondescript canine owned by Elias Howe, inventor of the sewing machine (buried in December 1881).

Cozy Bell, a favorite pet Skye Terrier of Mrs. Mary A. Bell, was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in August 1881. (Mrs. Bell was also going to have her husband’s body exhumed from his grave in Boston and moved to Woodlawn so he could be with Cozy, but a few weeks later the Bronx cemetery ordered her to remove the dog instead.)

Sport Hopper

Some of these animal burials made the headlines, but I think it was Sport, the nine-month-old fox terrier of the Hopper household on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, whose much-publicized burial paved the way for the first pet cemetery in the United States.

William DeWolf Hopper

William DeWolf Hopper, a native New Yorker, was a vocalist and actor who specialized in comic roles. His nickname was “Wolfie,” but his many marriages (6) earned him the title “Husband of His Country.” DeWolf met Ida Mosher in 1884 when she was a teen-aged chorus girl playing the role of Gertrude in the comic opera Desiree.

Sport arrived at 109 West 68th Street in September 1895 when he was just six months old. He was the pampered pet of Mrs. Ida Mosher Hopper, a former teenage chorus girl and very young second ex-wife of the popular comedic actor William DeWolf Hopper. Sport lived his short life with Mrs. Hopper, her ten-year-old son John Allen Hopper, and their maid, Arabella, on the top floor of a five-story townhouse.

Sport was pampered, but he was also foolish. He insisted on playing on the building’s roof every afternoon. Here, he would play and jump over the air shafts without a care in the world. He often gazed at the rooftop of the neighboring building across the narrow ally, as if calculating the risk to make the leap.

Sport’s Fatal Jump

On December 3, Ida left Sport on the roof to play while she ran a few errands. When she returned home twenty minutes later, she saw Arabella kneeling beside the dog’s broken body on the street. According to Arabella, the dog had apparently tried to jump to an adjoining roof and lost his balance. Cats may be able to land on all four feet, but poor Sport did not possess such feline ability.

101 to 113 West 68th Street

Sport was playing on the roof of 109 West 68th Street, which is the five-story townhouse to the immediate right of the large, six-story building in this historic photo by Percy Loomis Sperr. New York Public Library Digital Collections

Ida first called for the police, who sent Patrolman Donohue to put the dog out of his misery. Then she summoned undertaker Theodore E. Senior, who lived uptown on Eastern Boulevard (now Bruckner Boulevard). According to news reports, Ida was wearing many diamonds when he arrived at her apartment and she allegedly pressed five $10 bills into the undertaker’s hands as she begged him to bury the dog, regardless of cost, at DeWolf’s estate in Woodlawn, near the cemetery.

“My poor Sport! Oh, Mr. Senior, do give him a decent funeral,” Ida said. “Don’t let those horrid dog catchers gain possession of his poor corpse. They will cast it into an ash cart or in the river. I couldn’t bear that.”

In addition to burial instructions, Ida instructed the undertaker to have an elegant oaken casket made for Sport. The coffin was lined in white satin and adorned with silver handles and elaborate trimmings. The dog was placed in an icebox as preparations for his burial were made.

109 West 109th Street

The Hopper residence, where Sport lost his life when he fell from the roof, is shown here today, on the left.

The following day, Mr. Senior and some attendants placed the dog’s body in their wagon and took it to Grand Central Station. Ida Hopper was too distraught to attend the burial.

According to news reports, Mr. Senior’s son met the train at Woodlawn and took Sport’s body to the Hopper’s family estate, which was located just a short distance from the cemetery. (One news report said Mr. Senior buried the dog on his own property, but neither scenario can be proved.)

Unfortunately, rumors about the dog’s burial at Woodland Cemetery were already flying, and several exclusive families who owned plots at the cemetery contacted the Board of Managers. That’s when things got messy.

“Make Sure He’s Burying a Human.”

On the day that Sport was buried, Mr. Senior was also scheduled to bury a 16-month-old boy who had died at an asylum in White Plains. He was in the process of securing a deed for the grave when the chaos began.

Sport Hopper burial 1895

Sport Hopper’s burial arrangements made the New York Herald on Dec. 4, 1895.

While Mr. Senior was conducting business for the family of the deceased child, Bertam Levnas, a clerk in charge of the office at Woodlawn Cemetery, was on the phone with the comptroller at the main office in Manhattan.

“Is it true that a dog was buried in Woodlawn?” the comptroller asked Levnas. “Do you know that is illegal?” The comptroller told Bertram to stop Mr. Senior and to confirm that he was in fact burying a human.

Needless to say, there was much embarrassment for the cemetery – and added grief for the family — when officials saw the little boy’s body after demanding the undertaker unscrew the coffin lid to prove it wasn’t a dog. In a front-page article in the New York Herald a day after the cemetery mishap, Ida Hopper said she couldn’t understand why the burial of Sport had caused such a ruckus. She said she didn’t even own a plot at Woodlawn Cemetery, and she had never requested Sport to be buried there.

Ida told the reporter she just didn’t want her dog to end up in the gutter – as was common in those days — only to be stoned by boys, or to be carted off in the garbage wagon and dumped into the river. At the end of the New York Herald article, the reporter suggested that perhaps a pet cemetery was needed for all the city’s pampered pets.

Ida Hopper’s story apparently hit home with many New York pet owners who, like her, did not want to see their beloved dogs and cats treated like garbage when they died. Just two months after Sport’s story made the headlines, an article appeared in the Buffalo Evening News about an anonymous woman on Long Island who said she wanted to open a pet cemetery after reading about Sport. She said the cemetery would be located on a farm (of which owned just a small portion), and would be “on a gentle slope overlooking the water” about 40 minutes from New York City.

Sport’s saga also inspired a distraught woman to ask veterinarian Dr. Samuel King Johnson to make arrangements for a proper burial for her dog. Dr. Johnson, an early promoter of the SPCA, and the first official vet of New York City and New York State, offered to bury the dog in his apple orchard. The orchard was located in the tiny hamlet of Hartsdale in Westchester County.

Dr Samuel Johnson

Dr. Samuel King Johnson in an early photo of the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery. Photo courtesy of the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

Dr. Samuel King Johnson’s Apple Orchard

Shortly after a story about the burial of this woman’s dog appeared in the newspaper, Dr. Johnson’s veterinary office was flooded with requests from pet owners who also wanted to bury their pets in his apple orchard. In response, he carved out three acres in his orchard for a pet cemetery.

It wasn’t long before pet owners were taking the train to Hartsdale and little headstones and floral arrangements began dotting the grounds.

News of a pet cemetery in New York began spreading far and wide – one owner even had his dog’s body shipped by train to the cemetery from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Twenty-eight years later, on May 14, 1914, Dr. Johnson officially incorporated the Hartsdale Canine Cemetery. Other New York pet cemeteries followed, including the Bide-a-Wee cat cemetery (today the Bideawee Pet Memorial Parks), which opened in Wantagh, Long Island, in 1915 (perhaps the anonymous woman in Long Island had something to do with the Bideawee cemetery).

Today, what is called “The Peaceable Kingdom” in Hartsdale is the final resting place for more than 80,000 pets, including dogs, cats, birds, and even a few exotic pets, like the lion cub that lived at the Plaza Hotel.

I think all these pets and their owners have Sport (and Dr. Johnson) to thank for this bucolic cemetery. By winning Ida Hopper’s heart and establishing himself as a creature worthy of a proper burial, the little terrier opened the public’s eyes to their inhumane ways and inspired humans to take action so pets could be buried in dignity.