Archive for the ‘Club Mascots’ Category

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Minnie was just an alley cat — a dusty black and dirty white alley cat, to be more specific. But when she passed away in 1934, she made manly men who marveled Martinis mourn. (Yes, this is an M story!)

VintageCat2

It was a cold November night in 1920 when good luck brought the orphan kitten to the Opera Café at 561 Seventh Avenue (near 40th Street). John “Jack” Bleeck, who had just taken over the place after working as a bartender there for nine years, saw the kitten outside and invited her in. He was just about to put up a “Help Wanted” sign for a good mouser, so the timing could not have been better.

Jack Bleeck (pronounced Blake), the son of a St. Louis shoe man, left his home city on a freight car sometime around 1900 to find a better life on the east coast. He landed a job making a dollar a day at a cocktail bar in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. After arriving in New York, his first jobs included selling hats and shoes and tending bar at Manhattan Beach on Coney Island.

In 1920, at the start of Prohibition, Jack borrowed some money to purchase the Opera Café and turn it into a speakeasy. Business was brisk, but Jack was no match for the rats and mice who nibbled at his customers’ shoes. A cat like Minnie was the answer to his prayers.

Prohibition New York 1920

On January 16, 1920, 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–which banned the manufacture, transportation and sale of intoxicating liquors–went into effect. In New York City, police confiscated barrels of wine and beer, smashed them, and dumped their contents into gutters or harbors. While some New Yorkers watched in horror, others began finding ways to circumvent the law by selling alcohol illegally at places called speakeasies.

On the night she arrived, Minnie slept well in a warm corner of the basement, her little belly full with food. She immediately paid Jack back by catching a mouse and placing it at his feet the next morning. Within six months, she had caught most of the critters and the rest moved away.

As Jack told the press just before her death in July 1934, while wiping tears from his eyes:

Next door to me was a rathskeller featuring a business men’s lunch for 15 cents, including a glass of near beer. No real business man could eat the cheap cuts of meat they served. The meat was so tough it attracted rats and the rats used to burrow through the foundations and sneak into my café looking for a decent scrap of sirloin.

These rats were the biggest and boldest you ever saw. They would stand right up against the bar and gnaw at the shoes resting against the brass rail. My customers stood for this tickling just so long, and then began to complain.

I put 30 to 40 traps around the café, but the rats thought it was a game and came around more than ever. I threw gallons of ammonia into the holes they bored in the walls, but they thrived on that. Altogether I spent $600 on those damned rats and they didn’t have the courtesy to leave me alone.

Then, as I say, Minnie walked in out of nowhere one cold, snowy day when I opened the door to oil the lock. Minnie may have come from the [Metropolitan Opera House] but I asked no questions and nobody claimed her. She took immediate possession of the premises and went to work on those rats.

Minnie was made of strong stuff. She’d chase the rats into the holes and then wait three or four hours to get another crack at them. Inside of six months she had cleaned out all the rodents and the survivors never dared come back. It was a tough job. The rats used to gang her, but her paws moved like lightning and she could punch like Dempsey.”

Metropolitan Opera House,

Jack Bleeck thought that perhaps Minnie had come from the nearby Metropolitan Opera House at 1411 Broadway. Erected in 1882-83, the Metropolitan Opera House was razed in 1967 and replaced by a 40-story office tower.

In October 1925, Jack sold the Opera Café and secured a charter from Albany to open a social club in a grimy loft building at 213 West 40th Street, next to the new, New York Herald Tribune building. Called the Artist and Writers Club (apparently only one artist could join), the speakeasy-disguised-as-club looked like and operated like a men’s formal dining club.

Jack was a strict disciplinarian at his club, and he was always present at a central table to keep order. If any of the club’s 6,000 members started singing a loud drinking song or tried to occupy a table without permission, Jack saw to it that he was kicked out. If a wife or girlfriend tried to get in, the entrance was blocked (during Prohibition, patrons had to enter the club through a door inside a warehouse where the Metropolitan Opera stored scenery).

Artist and Writers Club

The club — renamed a restaurant after Prohibition was repealed — featured English pub decor with a 42-foot bar, bare oak tables, and waiters with thick German accents who served German-American fare.

In the early days the Artist and Writers Club attracted opera singers from the Metropolitan Opera House and numerous thespians and stagehands from the National Theatre (later the Billy Rose, and today the Nederlander Theatre) at 208 West 41st Street. Later on, reporters, editors, authors, and press agents from all over the city made the club a favorite literary hangout.

Minnie, Martinis, and Caruso

One of the most famous patrons of the club was the great tenor Enrico Caruso, who would stop by with his friend Antonio Scotti, a baritone, after performing at the Met. Minnie would jump on the bar and arch her back so Caruso could pet her while sipping his Martini.

Although Minnie was the first female ever admitted to the strictly stag club, the feisty feline enjoyed her privileges but did not abuse them. She spent most of her waking hours policing the basement kitchen, which was where she slept in a box filled with sawdust. At 5 p.m. every day she would come upstairs to pass an hour with the men. She loved schmoozing, but she never once meowed or complained in their company.

Artist and Writers Club

On one wall of the club was a set of armor from the Met and a stuffed, striped bass allegedly caught by J.P. Morgan in 1884.

Over the years, Minnie reportedly had 110 kittens. According to Jack Bleeck, whenever she was pregnant, members of the club would form a kitten pool and bet on the litter size. Usually she had six kittens at a time, but sometimes she’d have only four or five. The mother cat made good mousers of them all, but none of her offspring ever acquired her social abilities.

After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Jack had to change the name of his club to the Artist and Writers Restaurant (I guess he still wanted only one artist to dine there). To the great dismay of his patrons, he also had to allow women. It took Jack 10 months to finally open the door to women, but even then he did his best to make most of them feel quite unwelcome.

Tallulah Bankhead

Other than Minnie, the only women who were welcomed at the Artist and Writers Restaurant were hard drinkers like actress Tallulah Bankhead.

The Passing of Minnie

Just six weeks before Minnie died, she gave birth to her final litter of two kittens. Jack Bleeck could sense that she was not faring well after this delivery, so he took her by taxi to the Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals. There, she was examined by Dr. Bruce Blair, who told Jack his cat had a tumor in her stomach. He said she was too weak for an operation and could not be saved.

Jack Bleeck said his last goodbye to Minnie on July 20, 1934. He then purchased a plot for her at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County.

While leaving the hospital for the last time, Jack told reporters, “She has a face like a human being. She looks right up in my face as if to say to me, I know I’m sick and you’re trying to help me.” He raised a finger to his moist eyes and said, “Just some soot in my eye…She’s just a cat.”

Jack Bleeck

Jack Bleeck at his restaurant in 1945, about 10 years after he lost his best feline friend, Minnie.

In March 1953, Jack sold the business to Thomas F. Fitzpatrick and Ernst Hitz. He died at his home in Manhasset, Long Island, 10 years later on April 22, 1973, at the age of 83.

In 1981, the old loft building was destroyed in a fire. Today a new building houses a Hale and Hearty soup and sandwich shop, and the old employees’ entrance for the Herald Tribune building is the entrance to the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Billy goat, mascot of The Lambs

Billy played the role of Djali in “Notre Dame” and served as The Lambs’ mascot in 1902.

A while back, I wrote about Sir Oliver, a parrot that performed on Broadway in the early 1900s and served as mascot for The Lambs, America’s first professional theatrical club. Right after I posted the story, New York actor and Lambs’ Shepherd (president) Marc Baron contacted me to tell me that The Lambs also had a mascot tomcat named Tommy in the 1930s. He sent me a picture of Tommy that is on display at the club’s current headquarters, and I began to do some research.

As I searched for more information on Tommy, I came across two articles in The Sunday Telegraph and The New York Times about Billy, a goat that was also a Lambs’ mascot in the early 1900s (you’d think actors could come up with more original mascot names!). Although the details differ slightly in both articles, the most likely story is that Billy came to The Lambs via honorary member Daniel Frohman sometime around January 1902.

Daniel Frohman

Daniel Frohman, an honorary member of The Lambs, was the producer-manager of the Lyceum Theatre and the Lyceum Theatre Stock Company from 1886 to 1909.

According to the report in the Telegraph, Daniel Frohman had gone to Harlem in search of a goat for Miss Hilda Spong, who was performing with Frohman’s Lyceum Theatre Stock Company. Miss Spong was playing the role of Esmeralda in “Notre Dame” at Daly’s Theatre on Broadway, and she needed a goat to play the role of Djali.

Daniel returned from his jaunt with Billy, a white goat that, until that point, had been surviving on garbage in the wild lands of Harlem Heights.

From February 26 to April 6, 1902, Billy appeared on stage every night as the clever goat with gold-painted hoofs and horns (as depicted by Victor Hugo in his 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

When he wasn’t performing, Billy made his home at the Lambs Club on West 36th Street in the Herald Square Theater District, where he was treated like royalty with weekly baths and grooming.

Daly Theatre, New York

The Daly Theatre at 1221 Broadway opened in 1867 as Barnvard’s Museum, a museum-theater operated by owner John Banvard. In 1879, Augustin Daly took over, creating one of America’s foremost theaters. After his death in 1899, various managers followed, including the Shuberts. It was operating as a burlesque house when it was demolished in 1920.

In a preview of “Notre Dame” in the January 1902 issue of “The Theatre,” most of the performers were panned, but Billy received a thumbs-up:

“With the exception of Esmeralda’s goat, the only natural-appearing, convincing creatures on the stage are Mr. (George) Barbier’s Quasimodo, Mr. (James Lee) Finney’s Gringoire, and, in a limited way, Mr. (Frank) Bangs’ Major Galiache.”

Hilda Spong

Hilda Spong did not receive any rave reviews for her betrayal of Esmeralda in “Notre Dame.” But her “leading man,” Billy the goat, did win over the critics with his strong will to take center stage.

Billy also received some ink in The New York Times’ review of the play on February 27, the day after opening night:

“Esmeralda’s goat made his entrance in the first act, and showed a strong histrionic instinct! At least, when one of the stage people tried to lead him out of the centre of the stage he resisted stoutly.”

Although Billy spent most of his time in The Lambs’ back yard at 70 West 36th Street, he preferred being indoors where there many more items other than a wood fence to chew on and destroy. Billy was particularly fond of towels, hats, slippers, and umbrellas. He was always blamed when items disappeared – he even took the blame one time when a diamond ring went missing from the club.

Lambs Club, 70 West 36th Street

The Lambs moved to West 36th Street in 1897 and stayed there until 1905. It was here that Shepherd Clay M. Greene inducted Billy the goat as their mascot.

1932: Tommy Makes Himself at Home

Tommy C. Lamb…was truly a remarkable cat. Merely an alley cat when he first came to the Lambs, he blossomed forth as one of the most beautiful cats you have ever seen. There wasn’t a pregnant cat within a radius of six blocks that didn’t blame it on Tom. He really was remarkable.–Joe Laurie, Jr., 1953

Tommy Casanova Lamb, a husky grey-and-white cat from the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood, wandered into The Lambs’ Club in 1932 when he was just a kitten. There, at 128 West 44th Street, he took up his station at the bar, where he spent most of his waking hours gazing at the celebrity customers, fattening up on beer and free lunches, or kicking out any other cats that tried to create disorder in the club.

Tommy Casanova Lamb

Tommy Casanova Lamb was a life member of The Lambs. To this day, his picture hangs in their clubhouse on West 51st Street. Photo courtesy of Lambs Shepherd Marc Baron.

Although The New York Times called Tommy the Feline Bar Fly, he did keep good order at the establishment. One time a black tom with green eyes from Sixth Avenue crashed into the bar and tried to steal some bologna from the counter. As the Times reported, Tommy evicted him with a few well-placed lefts.

Tommy was also a very smart feline. Not only did he know when anyone in the dining room ordered fish, he was quite aware that The Lambs’ Club was his forever home.

Lamb's Club, West 44th Street, 1918

Tommy made his home at The Lambs’ clubhouse on West 44th Street. This building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1974 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Today it is home to the Chatwal Hotel, which operates a restaurant called the Lambs’ Club.

For example, in December 1935, vaudeville singer and pianist Herb Williams borrowed Tommy for his trick piano skit at a gambol at the Waldorf. During the finale, as the piano fell apart, Tommy popped out, let out a loud meow, jumped over the footlights and ran down the aisle and out the door. Two hours later, drenched by rain, he appeared at the entrance to the Lambs clubhouse, meowing to be let in.

One of the reasons Tommy may have felt so at home with The Lambs is that he was reportedly a descendent of one of the performing cats in Charles Swain’s Rats and Cats vaudeville act. This act featured rats dressed as jockeys who would ride on the cats’ backs around a little racetrack. The climax of the act was a comedy skit featuring two of the cats boxing each other.

Herb Williams with trick piano

Herb Williams (Herbert Schussler Billerbeck) had a trick piano that fell apart during his act. In 1935, one year before his death, he borrowed Tommy to jump out of the piano. You can see Tommy running away in this video capture. You can also click here to see and hear the entire act.

Based on Tommy’s track record as a fighter — the Times dubbed him “the toughest cat of New York” — I have a feeling that if he truly was a descendant of one of Swain’s feline performers, it would have been one of the boxing cats.

You see, Tommy had a bad habit of flirting with the other tomcat’s wives, which not only earned him the title “The Great Lover of the Forties,” but also got him into trouble with the competition. Many a boxing match took place when Tommy tried to add another female to his feline harem.

Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals

Tommy spent several days healing from his wounds at the Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals at 350 Lafayette Street (at the cost of $3 a day). Formerly known as the Hospital of Women’s League for Animals, the facility opened in 1914.

One time, Tommy got into a fight with Felix Adelphi, the Tuxedo cat mascot of the Alpha Delta Phi Club, which was next door at 136 West 44th Street. Another time, after an all-night battle in the winter of 1936, he limped home in such a shocking state of disrepair that he was put in a taxi cab and rushed to the Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals. Dr. James R. Kinney, chief vet, said it was one of the worst cases of mayhem and mussing up that he had ever seen. Although the vet thought Tommy’s wounds would lead to gangrene, the tough cat pulled through, albeit, he had quite a few more battle scars.

Tough Tomcat to Take Girlfriend to Party

To celebrate Tommy’s recovery from the big fight, the Gallery Boys, the younger set of The Lambs Club, decided to hold a testimonial dinner for Tommy Lamb in March 1936. On March 21, the headline in The New York Post read: “Lambs Club’s Tough Tomcat to Take Girlfriend to Party.” Right above this story, the headline was, “Hitler is Asked for Counter-Plan.”

According to the article, Joe Laurie, Jr., super president of the Gallery Boys, came up with the idea for the dinner. The special dinner featured all of Tommy’s favorite dishes, including scallops, stuffed olives, cantaloupe, and beer.Tails and white tie were compulsory, and it was agreed that Tommy would sit at the head of the table (although no one wanted to volunteer to make him sit there.)

Tommy’s latest girlfriend, a little black-and-white kitty who lived at the nearby Central Union Bus Terminal, was invited to be his escort for the evening. The Alpha Delta Phi fraternity asked if Felix could attend, but that request was shot down by the Gallery Boys.

Central Union Bus Terminal, Hotel Dixie, New York

Before the Port Authority Bus Terminal, there was a much smaller Central Union Bus Terminal at the Hotel Dixie on W. 42nd Street. Tommy’s favorite girlfriend was a black-and-white kitty who lived at the terminal. She was also invited to Tommy’s dinner, although I’m not sure if she attended.

Joe Laurie, who wrote about the event in his book Vaudeville from the Honky Tonks to the Palace, reported that everyone wore evening clothes, many great speeches were made, and Tommy took it all in stride as he stretched out on a special throne with loads of catnip around him.

Joe Laurie jr.

Joe Laurie, Jr., “The Pint-Sized Comedian” (bottom), came up with the idea to have a testimonial dinner for Tommy Lamb.

When people read about the dinner, they sent him gifts, including catnip, hand-knit sweaters and booties, dishes, and more. Pro boxer Edward Patrick “Mickey” Walker gave him a set of boxing gloves and New York artist James Montgomery Flagg sketched a portrait of him amongst all his fellow Lambs.

A month after the dinner, Mrs. Diana Belais, president of the New York Anti-vivisection Society, presented a silver
medal to Tommy. The medal was accompanied by this inscription:

“Thomas Casanova Lamb crept into the Lambs’ club four years ago when he was an orphan and took up residence in the bar, fattening on the beer and free lunches until now he is a great, husky gray and white cat who is to receive our medal for his super-intelligence and devotion.”

Although Tommy was long since gone “to where all good cats go” when Joe Laurie published his vaudeville book in 1953, Joe said he did leave a grandson who was even more talented than his grandpa cat.

This cat was trained by Willie, The Lambs’ long-time waiter, to sit up with a cigarette in his mouth while wearing glasses and holding a newspaper in his paws. The word was, when Tommy III (I don’t know his real name) was on the pool table, nobody was allowed to chase him off – the players simply had to shoot around him.

Tommy Lamb

Tommy Lamb’s grandson was very well trained. Here, he strikes one of his favorite poses for the press.

Sounds to me as if Tommy’s grandson was a life member, too.

Sir Oliver was a handsome twentieth-century matinée idol who had a habit of going off script and speaking out of line. Perhaps this was because Sir Oliver was not a man of royalty, but a female cockatoo that had the gift of gab. Or maybe it was because Sir Oliver spent many of her down-time hours with the loquacious, merry pranksters of America’s first professional theatrical club, The Lambs.

Sir Oliver, Foxy Quiller, New York

Although Sir Oliver sometimes performed on an open perch, she was relegated to her cage for a few weeks after she snatched the hat of Jerome Sykes (right) and flew off with it. Even Adolph Zink (holding cage) couldn’t catch her as she made her way to the top of the highest scenery on the stage.

Sir Oliver was the pet of Jerome H. Sykes, a comic actor and opera singer. Sykes, who rose to fame with the Bostonians, was best known for his portrayal of Constable Foxy Quiller, a bumbling, overweight detective who first appeared in “The Highwayman” in 1897 (Sykes created the character for the comic opera). In 1900, Reginald De Koven (music) and Harry B. Smith (lyrics) wrote a new operetta based on the character called “Foxy Quiller.”

Broadway Theatre

The Broadway Theatre, designed by J.B. McElfatrick & Co., was constructed in 1887. “Foxy Quiller,” the comic opera in three acts, opened in New York City at the Broadway Theatre on November 5, 1900.

Sir Oliver was reportedly from Australia, and had beautiful blue and red feathers and green wings. Sykes bought the parrot from a street vendor, and carried her around with him while he was performing with the Klaw & Erlander Opera Company in “Foxy Quiller.” Not only was Sir Oliver a pet, however; she was also one of Sykes’ co-stars, appearing as Polly in the comic opera.

According to news reports, Sir Oliver was trained by a French animal and bird trainer in New York to follow cues and speak several lines in “Foxy Quiller.” In the operetta, Sykes has a conversation with Polly, who is supposedly the only witness to a crime. During the conversation, Polly gives him a clue to the whereabouts of a “Japanese dwarf” named Kimono who has just robbed a sailor.

Jerome Sykes, Foxy Quiller

Jerome Sykes as Foxy Quiller, the quintessence of all human intelligence, featured in de Koven and Smith’s opera “Foxy Quiller” at the Broadway Theatre in 1900. Museum of the City of New York Collection

Polly Want a Cracker?

One of the songs from the opera was called Polly Want a Cracker?, which you can hear (instrumental only) by clicking here.

Polly Want A Cracker? Pretty Polly, witty Polly, instinct with the critter was sublime. He was full of rhyme and reason, always had a word in season, coming in just at the proper time. Polly, Pretty Polly! Fond of youth and fond of folly, full of conversation all the day. He was up to snuff, that parrot, and his brain was eighteen carat, for he knew the thing to say? Knew the proper thing to say.

Two months after “Foxy Quiller” opened in New York, the Klaw & Erlander Opera Company took the show to Chicago. Sir Oliver was placed in a baggage compartment on the train and left there overnight. When Sykes went to get the bird the next day, his water bowl was frozen but the tropical bird was somehow still alive. As Sykes told the press, “Lor’ bless you, that bird had kept so much tropical warmth in his body and replenished it from the snow that we thawed him out without the slightest difficulty.”

When Sir Oliver wasn’t performing or traveling with the opera company, she spent time in a bird store on Broadway. There, she would sit in a window and attract much attention by repeating lines from her conversation with Foxy. One day an Irish laborer reportedly took offense when she spoke, “The red’s above the green. Streak of yellow, eh?”

Jerome Sykes

Jerome Sykes was born in Washington, DC, in 1867. He grew up in a house where the Library of Congress now stands.

When Jerome Sykes wasn’t performing, he spent time with his second wife, the actress Jessie Wood, at their city home at 200 West 80th Street (his first wife, Agnes Sherwood, was a light opera singer who died in 1896). During the off-season, they enjoyed spending time with their horses, dogs, and cats on their 65-acre country estate that overlooked the Stony Brook Harbor on Three Sisters Road in St. James, Long Island. There, despite his size (he weighed over 300 pounds) Sykes enjoyed playing baseball, swimming, rowing, fishing, and attending balls and social affairs with the many other New York actors that gathered at the actors’ colony in St. James.

The Silence of The Lambs

Jerome Sykes was also a member of the New York City’s Lambs’ Club, which bills itself as America’s first professional theatrical club. This club was formed during the Christmas week of 1874 at Delmonico’s restaurant on 14th Street by matinée star Henry Montague. The club was named after a London club–of which Montague was a member–that honored the essayist Charles Lamb. Its president was called the Shepherd and its members were the Flock.

Henry_James_Montague

Montague was the stage name used by Henry James Mann, a founding member of The Lambs of London and the first Shepherd of The Lambs in New York.

After Montague passed in 1878, the newly incorporated Lambs’ Club met every other week for dinner at the Union Square Hotel to glorify the late idol. They moved into a four-story brownstone at 34 West 26th Street in 1880, which served as their headquarters until about 1892. The brownstone had a large back yard with a marquee that was illuminated with Chinese lanterns, where some of the younger members would have boisterous parties in the summer months.

Apparently, the neighbors were not very fond of these late-night summer gatherings. Although the parties quieted down after Washington Irving Bishop, a mind reader, died at the club in 1888, the noise levels picked up within a year of his death. In 1890, several neighbors, including Dr. William R. Chichester at #36 West 26th Street and Miss M.L. Thomas at #32, complained that The Lambs were carrying “their bleatings so far into the early morning hours that they became intolerable.”

Miss Thomas and her 90-year-old mother told police of the Nineteenth Police Precinct that the bleating was more like bellowing. Another neighbor, Mr. J.L. Reed, who lived on the third floor of #34, threatened to turn a water hose on The Lambs when they were outside in the yard making noise. The neighbors were finally successful in silencing The Lambs when the club moved out and the New York Press Club moved in.

Sir Oliver Joins The Lambs

For the next few years, The Lambs moved around a bit, trying their luck at 8 West 29th Street until a neighbor complained about the bleating (apparently they made quite a ruckus playing pool), and later, at 26 West 31st Street. They finally settled in for a few years at 70 West 36th Street, which is where Sir Oliver joined the ranks.

Lambs Club, 70 West 36th Street

The Lambs moved to 70 West 36th Street in the Herald Square Theater District in 1897, and stayed there until 1905. It was here that Jerome Sykes and other members inducted Sir Oliver as its mascot.

The decision to make Sir Oliver a mascot was inspired by playwright Augustus Thomas sometime around 1900, during the tenure of Shepherd William DeWolf Hopper. According to the story, Thomas and Sykes were smoking and chatting one afternoon at the club when Sykes began talking about Sir Oliver.

“Do you know that that bird is a regular mischief-maker, and yet he brings me good luck,” Sykes said. “I don’t know what to make of him.”

“Why not a mascot of The Lambs?” Thomas asked. Sykes agreed it was a good idea, as long as the members approved. Sir Oliver was welcomed to The Lambs, and he spent the next few years “sitting in the window and making life interesting” for those who passed by whenever he wasn’t performing on stage.

Augustus Thomas

Augustus Thomas was a St. Louis playwright who joined The Lambs in 1889 and served as Shepherd from 1907-1910.


The Tragic Death of Jerome Sykes

In June 1902, The Lambs purchased a 37 x 100 foot lot at 128-130 West 44th Street from Minnie Lespinasse. They approached architects McKim, Mead and White, all of whom were members of the club, to design the new clubhouse. The six-story marble Georgian building was completed in 1905; unfortunately, that was two years too late for Jerome Sykes.

Lambs' Club, West 44th Street, 1905

The new clubhouse on 44th Street featured a lobby, billiard room, and grill room on the first floor; a banquet hall on the second floor; a private theater on the third floor; and offices and sleeping rooms for the members on the top floor.

On Christmas Eve, 1903, Jerome Sykes became overheated while performing “The Billionaire” in Chicago. He sat near a window to cool down, and the rest, as they say, is history. Jerome was simply not as strong as Sir Oliver, and the frigid air brought on a cold that lead to pneumonia. On December 29, at 4:30 p.m., he succumbed to his illness at the Hotel Stratford. Sadly, most of Jerome’s family members were trapped in St. James by a winter storm on the day of his funeral in New York City, and were unable to attend.

Lamb's Club, West 44th Street, 1918

In 1915, The Lambs’ clubhouse was doubled in size by architect George A. Freeman, who added a mirror-image addition. The building was designated a New York City Landmark in 1974 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. Today it is home to The Chatwal, which operates a restaurant called the Lambs Club.

A few years after Jerome’s death, his family sold part of the estate in St. James to the sugar beet magnate James Guerreo Oxnard and his wife, Caroline Moss Thornton Oxnard. The Oxnard estate remained in the family until 1955, when it was demolished for construction of the Harbour Close housing development. As for Sir Oliver, I trust he had a good life in the company of The Lambs. (Then again, maybe he escaped to Madison Square Park…)

Oxnard Overlook Mansion

Overlook, the Oxnard summer mansion in St. James, in 1910.