Archive for July, 2015

Although the story of Yankee Stone is not very interesting on its own, the people and places surrounding the dog and his death are quite fascinating, and provide a unique look at high society Brooklyn during the Gilded Age.

Yankee Stone bulldog

Yankee Stone and his sister Linda Stone, pictured here, were champion bulldogs said to be worth $3,000 each in the early 1900s.

“The good citizens who reside in the aristocratic Clinton Avenue section were startled last night by hearing a pistol shot ring out from the yard of Kingsley Swan. Windows were thrown open, heads appeared and neighbors came running to 180 Clinton Avenue, the home of Mr. Swan, to find out what happened.”

So begins the story printed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on December 3, 1908.

Kingsley Swan, the Entitled Heir of a Brooklyn Legend

Born in Brooklyn on May 12, 1884, Kingsley Swan was the son of Wall Street broker Samuel Swan and Mary S. Kingsley. Although his father was fairly well-to-do, Kingsley inherited his wealth – and his place in high society – from his grandfather, William Charles Kingsley.

William Kingsley was a Brooklyn contractor and builder whose company, Kingsley and Keeney, built Prospect Park. He was also one of the owners of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and, drum roll, please, the principal shareholder of the New York and Brooklyn Bridge Company, the company organized in 1867 to build the Brooklyn Bridge.

William Charles Kingsley

William C. Kingsley was the driving force behind the Brooklyn Bridge, and reportedly not only dreamed up the idea but helped finance the project. He died in February 1885, just two years after he spoke at the opening ceremonies of the bridge on May 24, 1883. His headstone at Green-Wood Cemetery is made of materials that were once part of the bridge construction.

When he was about 10 years old, Kingsley’s mother died, and his father headed west. Kingsley and his younger brother Halstead moved in with their grandmother at 176 Washington Park, near Fort Greene Park (prior to 1897, Fort Greene Park was called Washington Park.)

Following his schooling at the Polytechnic Preparatory School, the Brooklyn Latin School, and Lawrenceville Academy in New Jersey, Kingsley took a job at the Brooklyn Eagle. On October 1, 1908, he married 19-year-old Park Slope socialite Mabel Lorraine Miller, the daughter of paper manufacturer Alvah Miller and Phoebe A. Miller.

Having inherited great wealth from his grandfather, Kingsley spent most of his time exhibiting horses, racing automobiles, and taking part in other sporting fads and social clubs for millionaires. In 1908, when he was just 24 years old, he was also one of the most successful bulldog fanciers in Brooklyn.

Alvah Miller

Mable Swan’s father, Alvah Miller, made his fortune in paper manufacturing, and was vice president of the St. Regis Paper Co. in Watertown, NY. He also served as a director in the Mechanics’ Bank of Brooklyn, a trustee with the Hamilton Trust Fund, and a trustee of the Dime Savings Bank of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

The Killing of Yankee Stone

Two of Kingsley’s most famous champion bulldogs were Linda and Yankee Stone. In 1908, these dogs, as well as two other bulldogs and Mrs. Swan’s pet toy fox terrier, lived with the couple in a four-story brownstone at 180 Clinton Avenue in Fort Greene.

Sometime just after midnight on December 2, 1908, the little terrier made the mistake of leaving his bed upstairs and entering the kitchen, which was Yankee Stone’s indoor territory. The bulldog growled and jumped on the terrier’s back, sinking his teeth into the terrier’s neck. Within moments, the other bulldogs joined in the fight.

Mabel Lorraine Miller Stone

Mable Lorraine Miller — more often called Lorraine — was described in the New York and Brooklyn press as “one of the most attractive of society’s younger belles” when she was formally introduced to society on Thanksgiving Day in 1907.

The first to arrive on the scene was Hugh Bracken, Kingsley’s long-time servant and coachman who had been with the family since Kingsley’s childhood. He tried to separate the dogs, which encouraged Yankee to go after him while the little dog ran for cover. Yankee was biting Hugh when Kingsley came to the rescue and pulled Yankee Stone away.

While the other dogs quickly calmed down, Yankee continued to growl. Kingsley tossed him in the back yard and went for his pistol.

Clinton Avenue – Brooklyn’s Gold Coast

Clinton Avenue was named for New York State Governor DeWitt Clinton. Clinton was the chief supporter of the Erie Canal, which established New York and Brooklyn as America’s leading harbors and commercial centers.

180 Clinton Avenue, Brooklyn.

In 1908, Kingsley, Mabel, a fox terrier, and four prize bulldogs lived in this 1899 brownstone at 180 Clinton Avenue (the unit on the far left). The pair of brick and limestone residences to the left at Nos. 184-188 were designed by Montrose Morris in 1892 for American painter William Holbrook Beard.

Located on one of the highest points in Brooklyn, the broad tree-lined street had attracted affluent people who erected large suburban villas in the 1830s, and, later, in the 1860s and 1870s, oil executives and financiers who built impressive brick and limestone mansions.

Although most of the mansions had already been replaced by row houses in 1908, and many of the old-money folks had moved or passed on, it’s still safe to say that the new-money aristocrats on the hill never expected to hear the sound of gun shots on their quiet street.

136 Clinton Avenue

One of the few magnificent Clinton Avenue villas that still survive from the early 1800s is No. 136, aka the Lefferts-Laidlaw House. This Greek Revival home was built circa 1836-1840 and is now a city landmark. Also check out No. 284, another early wood dwelling on Clinton Street that still survives.

The Ryersons, Vanderbilts, and Spaders

The Clinton Hill history begins around 1637, when Joris Jansen Rapalje, a Walloon tavern keeper who lived on Pearl Street in Manhattan, purchased 167 morgens (335 acres) of lowland and mud flats on an inlet in the Wallabout Bay (then called Waal-bogt Bay). Joris and his wife Catalina Trico moved to the farm in the 1650s, and were later joined by their daughter Sara and her husband, Hans Hansen Bergen. The brothers Pieter and Jan Monfort also established a large farm there.

Wallabout Bay pre Brooklyn Navy Yard

At the time of the American Revolution, Wallabout was a farming community of about a dozen inter-related families living along the shore of Wallabout Bay, just north of present-day Flushing Avenue.

A good portion of this farmland was later acquired by Marten Ryerse (Ryerson), who had married the Rapaljes’ daughter Annetje around 1645. Over the next 100 years, the land was passed down to generations of Ryersons, Vanderbilts, and a few other families.

Following the American Revolutionary War, an army private named William Spader of Somerset County, New Jersey, moved to Brooklyn. He married Annie Vanderbilt, the daughter of Jeremiah Vanderbilt and Antje Ryerson, and established a farm near the Vanderbilt property on the Wallabout Turnpike. When the Spaders later later moved to Bedford, their sons John L. and Jeremiah V. stayed behind.

Wallabout Bay

This engraving from 1847 depicts the view of the Wallabout Bay, the Wallabout Turnpike (Flushing Avenue), and the Brooklyn Navy Yard from the vantage point of what was then called Washington Park. Today this entire area is occupied by the former Brooklyn Navy Yard.

In February 1821, a year after Jeremiah Vanderbilt died, all his land comprising the old Monfort farm patent was put up for auction. Jeremiah Vanderbilt Spader and his wife, Maria Bergen, bought 38 acres that extended from today’s Flushing Avenue to Willoughby Avenue between Vanderbilt and Clermont. The widow Antje Vanderbilt purchased 72 adjacent acres extending from Wallabout Bay to the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike Road (Fulton Street) between present-day Vanderbilt and Waverly avenues. She later sold this land to her grandson John Spader.

In 1833, at the peak of a Brooklyn development boom, John Spader sold his farm for $62,593.27 to George Washington Pine, a partner in Pine & Van Antwerp, a New York City auction house. The development was laid out quite generously, with individual lots measuring 100 x 246 feet. Clinton Avenue, which ran down the center of the development from the Wallabout Bay to the Brooklyn and Jamaica Turnpike Road, was developed as an 80-foot-wide boulevard with a double row of trees.

1884 Map Clinton Avenue Brooklyn

The generous-sized lots on extra-wide Clinton Avenue accommodated large, free-standing wood and brick-lined villas set back behind wide lawns and gardens, as seen on this 1884 map (yellow is wood frame, red is brick). The lots extended to the rear streets (Vanderbilt and Waverly Avenues), on which carriage houses and stables were built. New York Public Library Digital Collections

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Spader held out, leaving most of his property undeveloped so he could continue farming. He died in 1838, but his wife stayed on until she sold the property at auction on March 27, 1849. Jeremiah’s land was divided into 100 standard city lots, most measuring 25 by 100 feet.

The War of the Swans

Other than the incident with Yankee Stone, the first few months of Kingsley and Lorraine’s marriage seemed typical for newlyweds in Brooklyn high society. The couple often appeared in the newspaper society pages, and their masquerade ball at the Pouch Gallery in December 1908 was a big hit with the socialites on Clinton Hill.

Pouch Gallery, 345 Clinton Avenue

The house and stables at 345 Clinton Avenue was built in 1887 for wallpaper manufacturer Robert Graves. Sadly, Robert lost his beloved wife months before the house was completed, and he died only weeks later. The property went up for auction, and in 1890, it was purchased by oil executive Alfred Pouch. Following the death of Albert and Harriet Pouch in 1899 and 1905, respectively, “The Pouch” became the most popular venue in Brooklyn for weddings, meetings, and balls. It was torn down during World War II, when most of the block was razed to build housing for Navy Yard personnel. Today, the Clinton Hill Co-ops stand in its place.

Sometime in 1912, Lorraine gave birth to a boy, whom the couple named Kingsley Swan Jr. Dad paid little attention to his son, however, as he was too busy gallivanting with his friends at horse and dog shows, spending time at his Croton Lake Kennels in Katonah, New York, and racing his fancy automobiles. At her husband’s suggestion, Lorraine moved back home with her parents and he returned to his grandmother’s estate. Kingsley came to visit his wife and son one time in 1913, but he never returned.

Kingsley Swan

Kingsley Swan told his wife he spent too much money on his horses, dogs, and cars to support her and his son. Here he is pictured in 1906 on his horse Six.

In March 1914, Lorraine was granted a divorce in Reno, Nevada, on grounds of desertion, non-support and cruelty. She told the judge that her husband had failed to support her and told her that reconciliation was impossible. He simply could not support her and the baby and keep up his social clubs, automobiles, and horses. Society first learned of the divorce when a dispatch appeared in the newspaper stating that Lorraine had fallen from a horse in a Nevada “colony of misfit mates.”

Immediately after the divorce, Lorraine married 57-year-old Robert Graves, the son of the wallpaper manufacturer (you remember, the guy who built the Pouch mansion on Clinton Avenue where the Swans held their masquerade). She and Robert lived in Huntington, Long Island, and also had an apartment at 67 Park Avenue. They had had a son, Richard Barbey, and a daughter, Lorraine.

The Graves were divorced in Paris in 1922. Two years later, Robert Graves shot himself twice in the head in their Park Avenue apartment.

In December 1928, Lorraine moved back home from Paris to give it another try – this time with Benjamin Wood, the son of Fernando Wood, three-time Mayor of New York City. They lived together at 4 East 72nd Street in Manhattan until Benjamin’s death at home in March 1934.

Mabel Lorraine Swan Graves Wood

The society pages had a field day when Mabel Lorraine’s third marriage to Benjamin Wood was confirmed in 1929. The story of “Lovely Lorraine” made it even as far as Butte, Montana, as reported here in the Butte Standard on January 13.

Less than a year later, on January 3, 1934, Lorraine made the headlines one more time when she eloped and married Kiliaen Van Rensselaer — a direct descendent of the Kiliaen Van Rensselaer who came to America in the 1600s and was the first patroon of Van Rensselaerwyck. The couple lived on and off again (they often separated) in Old Westbury, Long Island, and at their summer home at Lloyd Harbor in Huntington, Long Island. Kiliaen died at their home, Post Cottage, on Post Road in Old Westbury in August 1949.

On March 7, 1950, the lovely Lorraine married Lieutenant Colonel Henry Aldrich Granary in her home at 563 Park Avenue. (In case you lost track, this is husband #5.) They also lived in Old Westbury, which is where she died on July 26, 1953, at the age of 64. She was survived by her daughter, Mrs. Oliver R. Grace of Manhattan, and her sons, Kingsley Swan Jr. of Lyme, Connecticut, and Richard Graves of Old Westbury.

Lorraine Van Rensselaer

The press loved covering the many marriages of Mabel Lorraine Miller Swan Graves Wood Van Rensselaer. In this article, she’s pictured with her son, Kingsley Jr. Kiliaen is pictured dressed for a ball (he’s on the left).

What About Kingsley?

Kingsley’s life after Lorraine was a lot less complicated. He married a woman named Julia Murray in 1916 and two years later he enlisted in the army. He served for a brief time at Camp Wadsworth and Camp Stuart, but he was discharged due to heart trouble. He died suddenly of heart disease on August 22, 1918, at the St. George Hotel in Brooklyn. He was just 34 years old.

Kingsley Swan left $10,000 to his brother, $21,000 to Hugh Bracken, $65,000 to Julia, and $27,000 to Kingsley Jr. He was buried in the Kingsley plot at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.

Hotel St. George, Brooklyn Heights

Kingsley Swan died at the Hotel St. George in 1918. Only a modest 30 rooms when it was first built in 1885, the hotel continually expanded and eventually amounted to eight interconnected buildings when it was completed in 1929. The hotel occupied the full city block bounded by Clark, Henry, Pineapple and Hicks streets.

And so ends the tale of Yankee Stone, Kingsley Swan, and Mable Lorraine Miller Swan Graves Wood Van Rensselaer Granary.

“It is believed there is no track in the country so popular as that of the Coney Island Jockey Club, which lies almost in hearing distance of the ever-sounding seas…The drive to the track through Prospect Park and Ocean Parkway in itself is sufficient to put any one in good humor with himself and the world passing as it goes through tree-embowered glades and along lake-fringed paths and then past country villages and low-eaved farm-houses surrounded by evidences of plentiful comfort.” — Chicago Daily News, 1894

Hindoo Race Horse, Dwyer Stables

Hindoo, a bay colt foaled in 1878, was the most noted racehorse of the American turf in the late 1800s. Owned by Phil and Mike Dwyer of Brooklyn, and stabled at Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, he was inducted in the National Museum of Racing’s inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1955.

Once the site of a large Canarsee Indian village, Sheepshead Bay was still very much undeveloped 150 years after Europeans first settled in Gravesend in 1645. Even though the area attracted visitors during the summer months following the Civil War, Sheepshead Bay was mostly occupied by farmers, fishermen, and a few roadhouse keepers as recently as 1875. That year, in fact, only about 30 families called this large section of Brooklyn their home.

Although Sheepshead Bay was still a sleepy village in 1875, Coney Island – and in particular, Norton’s Point — was on the verge of becoming a major summer resort for New Yorkers. Recognizing the need for an equestrian race track near the Brooklyn seashore, several prominent members of the American Jockey Club decided to form a jockey club to serve this part of Brooklyn. The Coney Island Jockey Club was organized on July 4, 1878, with Leonard Walter Jerome elected president and John G. Heckscher elected secretary and treasurer. William Kissam Vanderbilt, a good friend of Jerome’s, was also a founding member of the club.

Leonard Jerome

Leonard W. Jerome, the grandfather of Winston Churchill, was a successful stock speculator known as “The King of Wall Street.” An avid sportsman, he helped build the Jerome Park Racetrack in the Bronx (site of the first Belmont Stakes in 1867) and was one of the founders of the Coney Island Jockey Club. Jerome Avenue in the Bronx, Jerome Avenue in Brooklyn, Jerome Park Reservoir, and the Jerome Stakes are all named after him.

The Prospect Park Fair Grounds

In its first season, as the men made plans to construct a track and clubhouse closer to the surf in Sheepshead Bay, the Coney Island Jockey Club held its races at the Prospect Park Fair Grounds in Gravesend.

The fair grounds had been established in 1868 when a group of Brooklyn businessmen acquired the old Nicholas Stillwell and Jacobus Cropsey farms. Located opposite the Hubbard House (still standing today at 2138 McDonald Avenue), the Prospect Park Fair Grounds comprised a half-mile track for saddle and harness racing, a clubhouse, and the Hotel Gravesend (aka Brettells Hotel).

Prospect Park Fair Grounds

The Prospect Park Fair Grounds were not in Prospect Park, but in Gravesend, bounded by Ocean Parkway, McDonald (Gravesend) Avenue, Kings Highway, and Avenue T.

During its heydays, some considered the Prospect Park Fair Grounds to be the finest race track in the country. But as the newer mile-long tracks rose in popularity, the half-mile track — and harness racing in general — began to lose its appeal. In 1886, the Brooklyn Jockey Club replaced the Prospect Park Fair Grounds with the much larger Gravesend Race Track in order to accommodate thoroughbred racing.

The Sheepshead Bay Race Track

On June 19, 1880, the Coney Island Jockey Club initiated its second season at its new course near Sheepshead Bay. Carved out of a thick patch of woods on 2200 acres, the Sheepshead Bay track was unique in that it had both a standard dirt track and an English-style turf (grass) track, making it the first of its kind in the United States.

Prospect Park Fair Grounds

In addition to harness racing, the Prospect Park Fair Grounds also served as a venue for a variety of other attractions such as agricultural fairs, boxing matches, medieval-style tournaments, and even a beautiful baby contest. NYPL Digital Collections

The new track was bounded by Ocean Avenue, Jerome Avenue, Avenue W, and Norstrand Avenue. It featured a large grandstand near today’s Avenue X and East 23rd Street, a betting pavilion on Avenue X, and a judge’s stand right about where the basketball courts are now, at the northwest corner of the Bill Brown Playground.

The Dwyer Brothers’ Stables

One of the most famous and successful stables at the Sheepshead Bay Race Track was owned by Philip J. Dwyer and his brother Michael F. Dwyer. The Dwyer brothers had a butcher shop on the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Court Street, but they made their fortune in the meat packing industry, supplying butcher shops, eating establishments and hotels.

Sheepshead Bay Race Track

As you can see in this 1890 map, the course of the Sheepshead Bay Race Track ran right through Avenue X and Avenue Y. The cluster of buildings to the south and east of the track are all horse stables, including Pierre Lorillard’s stables and the Dwyer Brothers’ Stables on Haring Street, just south of Avenue X.

Although they didn’t have much knowledge of horses, they took an interest in racing and entered the horse business in 1874 — when Phil was 30 and Michael was 27 — by purchasing a horse named Rhadamanthus from August Belmont. The brothers earned their claim to fame in the sport of kings when they won the 1881 Kentucky Derby with future U.S. Hall of Fame colt Hindoo (they also finished second with Runnymede the following year).

Sheepshead Bay Race Track

The Sheepshead Bay Rack track was originally surrounded by dense trees and old farms. In 1879, the Manhattan Beach Improvement Company bought 108 acres of adjacent farmland from the Voorhies and Vanderveer families to be laid out in streets for development.

Hindoo, the Hall of Fame Racehorse

One of the greatest racehorses of the 19th century was Hindoo, a bay colt bred by Daniel Swigert at Stockwell Farm in Kentucky. Foaled in 1878, Hindoo took command of the racing scene immediately upon his arrival as a two-year-old in 1880. By the time he retired in 1882, Hindoo had won 30 of 35 starts — including 18 consecutive victories during his 3-year-old season and 26 stakes races — and established a new American record for career earnings at $71,875.

In 1880, Phil and Mike Dwyer purchased Hindoo from Daniel Swigert for $15,000. They turned him over to renowned trainer and jockey James Gorden Rowe (also a Hall-of-Fame member), who, at the age of 24, became the youngest trainer to win the 1½-mile Kentucky Derby on May 17, 1881.

Dwyer Brothers

The Dwyer Brothers’ trademark red jacket with blue sash was the envy of every horseman in the country.

After just two years of hard racing, Hindoo began to wear down from the grueling campaigns. The Dwyers had no interest in the breeding aspect of racing, so they sold Hindoo to Colonel Ezekiel F. Clay and Colonel Catesby Woodford or Paris, Kentucky. In return, the Dwyers received $7,000 and a 2-year-old filly named Miss Woodford, who became America’s first $100,000 earner and eventually a member of the Hall of Fame.

Hindoo enjoyed a successful stud career at Clay and Woodford’s Runnymede Farm. He sired such winners as future Hall of Fame member Hanover, stakes winners Hindoo Rose and Jim Gore, and . Preakness winner Buddhist, among others. He lived at Runnymede until his death in 1901 at the age of 23. In 1955, he was included in the National Museum of Racing’s inaugural Hall of Fame class.

Sheepshead Bay Race Track

In addition to thoroughbred races, the Sheepshead Bay Race Track also featured steeplechases (races that include obstacle jumping) and was used for fairs and other activities like clam bakes.

The End of an Era

In 1908, the administration of New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes signed the Hart-Agnew bill, which effectively banned all racetrack betting in New York State. A 1910 amendment to the legislation added further restrictions, and by 1911, all racetracks in the state ceased operations (the ban was lifted shortly for the 1913 racing season).

Phil Dwyer

Phil Dwyer

Michael Dwyer

Michael Dwyer

The Sheepshead Bay Race Track was sold to the Sheepshead Bay Speedway Corporation, which converted the horse track to an automobile race track. Several races were held from October 1915 through September 1919, including the Astor Cup Race and the Harkness Trophy Race (named for majority stockholder Harry Harkness). The property was eventually sold in 1923 for residential real estate development.

Calbraith Perry (“Cal”) Rodgers

On September 17, 1911, inexperienced daredevil pilot Calbraith Perry (“Cal”) Rodgers took off from the Sheepshead Bay Race Track in his “Vin Fiz Flyer,” a Wright Brothers Model EX pusher biplane, in a quest to make the first transcontinental flight across the United States. Following railroad tracks and trying to avoid mountains, storms, and other hazards, he landed about 70 times, which included at least 16 crashes. Damage to the Vin Fiz was so extensive that the plane had to be rebuilt at least twice. Only a very few pieces of the original Vin Fiz made the entire trip, including a vertical rudder and a couple of wing struts.