Archive for the ‘police mascots’ Category


Children play in a stalled, empty trolley car that wasn’t blown up during the Brooklyn Rapid Transit strike in July 1899. 

On July 16, 1899, a small group of motormen and conductors for the Brooklyn Rapid Transit (BRT) street car lines went on strike. These men left their empty cars stalled in the road, and then, in some instances, used dynamite to blow them up.

Not wanting a repeat of the deadly riots that took place during the January 1895 BRT strike, the New York City Police Department immediately sent 25 patrol wagons from Manhattan and the Bronx to Brooklyn to rein in the trouble-making strikers. As it turns out, the police weren’t needed for long. A large number of workers refused to go out this time around, and the strike came to a quiet end within a week.

For the policemen of Manhattan’s Leonard Street Station — aka the new Eighth Precinct — doing strike duty in Brooklyn meant spending a lot of time riding on the operational trolley cars looking for trouble. It was during this week that they “adopted” a big, brown, half-starved shaggy dog (sort of a cross between a Newfoundland and a setter) who would change their lives for the better. They named him Strike.


When this story takes place, the Eighth Precinct station house was at 19-21 Leonard Street in Manhattan’s Tribeca. Here’s the building as it appeared in 1999.

Right from the start, Strike was on the job with his fellow police officers. As the men road back and forth on the trolley lines, Strike would leap from the car and start biting or barking at any strikers causing excitement.  To reward this stray dog for his duties, the policemen of the Eighth Precinct brought him back to Leonard Street, ordered a collar with his new name, and had him properly licensed.

Strike’s Daily Routine

Every morning, Strike would attend roll call by sitting at the sergeant’s desk and waiting for all the men’s names to be called. During the day, he spent a lot of time outside the station, where the neighborhood children would gather to play with him.

Strike liked the children, but his favorite people were the uniformed police officers (the plain clothes officers had to be at the station quite a while before he’d warm up to them). He also liked all the restaurant keepers within the boundaries of the precinct — especially those he had “trained” to feed him.

Three times a day, Strike would visit his favorite restaurants (he’d mixed it up so he wouldn’t wear out his welcome), and wait for someone to bring him a package of meat scraps tied with string. Placing the string in his mouth, Strike would carry the food back to the police station, where an officer had to properly lay it out in his favorite eating spot in the back room. Sometimes the officers would give him a nickel, which he would carry to the bakery to purchase his favorite ginger cake.

One day about five years after Strike moved into the Leonard Street station house, an officer found a Newfoundland on the downtown platform of the Chambers Street elevated station. The dog had a collar that said “J.J. Atkinson, Raymond, Lafayette” and he was running about as if he had lost his master and was hunting for him. The police thought the dog must have come from Lafayette, N.J.; I hope they eventually realized that there was a J.J. Atkinson saloon on the corner of Raymond Street (now Ashland Place) and Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn!

The policeman brought the dog back to the station house, where he stayed for quite a while (courtesy of Captain Dennis Sweeney). During this dog’s extended visit, Strike learned to bark longer and louder in order to encourage the waiters to give him more food so that he could share his meal with his new canine friend.


Strike visited his favorite restaurants every day, like those on Broadway at Leonard Street, pictured here in this montage of photos taken in 1895. NYPL digital collections

Strike Makes a Few Collars

Over the years, Strike assisted in many arrests. One time when a prisoner tried to escape the station house, Strike grabbed him by the coattails and dragged him back. Another time he helped Policeman Cleveland capture two vagrants who had been begging throughout the district for some time.

As the story goes, Strike was asleep on the rug under the sergeant’s desk when he heard the rapping of a policeman’s club outside. He and Policeman Brennan ran outside the station and got a glimpse of Policeman Cleveland in pursuit of two men dressed in United States Navy uniforms. Strike took off and caught one man by his trousers while the officers caught the other man. Both men were charged with vagrancy (they weren’t actual sailors).

Strike was also skilled in delivering notes for the men. If he was out with a roundsman and the officer wanted to send a message to the station house, Strike would carry the note in his mouth to the sergeant and return promptly with an answer, if there was one.


Here is Strike carrying his package of meat scraps to Policeman Furlong in July 1906 (New York Daily Tribune)

Strike Rescues a Few Kittens

Although Strike was known as a cat hater, that all changed on the night of June 8, 1906. According to the news reports, at about 8 p.m. while walking home with his dinner on Hudson Street, Strike came upon a cat and dog fighting. Apparently, the mother cat had been nursing her kittens in a doorway when the dog attacked and killed her.

With three motherless kittens staring up at him, Strike dropped his meat package, tackled the bulldog, and put one of the kittens in his mouth. He carried the kitten to the back room of the police station where several policemen were playing dominoes, dropped the kitten at their feet, and ran back out. A minute later, he returned with the second kitten.

On his next trip out, Roundsmen Borener and Saul followed him to 78 Hudson Street, where they found Roundsmen Blohm bending over a dead cat and dog. Strike took charge of the third kitten and carried it back to the police station.

A month later, the kittens were still at the station house. On sunny days, they could be seen on the steps tumbling all over their canine caregiver and demanding his attention.

A Brief History of the Leonard Street Police Station

Throughout the seventeenth and most of the eighteenth centuries, the area of Manhattan that we call Tribeca was open land, much of which was held by Trinity Church (to the west) and by Anthony Rutgers (the swampland to the east). In 1741, Leonard Lispenard, a leaseholder of a large tract of land belonging to Trinity Church, married Rutgers’s daughter Elsie.

After Rutger’s death in 1746, most of his holdings went to Leonard and Elsie, and the large area to the east became known as Lispenard’s Meadows. Leonard Street between present-day Hudson Street and West Broadway was the southern tip of the meadows; the center of the meadows is about where Lispenard Street is today.


Leonard Street was laid out around 1797 as a twenty-seven-and-a-half-foot-wide street and ceded to the city in 1800. It was widened in 1806 and immediately developed with frame and masonry residences, none of which remain standing today.


In the 1700s, Lispenard’s Meadows was home to one of the city’s earliest race tracks. As noted in the American Magazine in 1899, the track was conveniently located near the country seats of Peter Warren, Abraham Mortier, William Bayard, and James Tauncey.

19-21 Leonard Street

Designed by Nathanial D. Bush as a police station and prison for the City of New York, 19-21 Leonard Street was constructed in 1868 on two lots previously occupied by masonry residences. The four-story Italianate building of red brick and white stone trim also featured apartments for lodging indigent persons.

The station house was occupied by the Fifth Precinct — renamed the Eighth Precinct in May 1898 — which had previously been stationed at 49 Leonard Street. The Fifth Precinct was bounded by Warren Street, the west track of the West Street Railroad, Canal Street, and Broadway; it was also known as “the dry goods district.”


In the late 1800s, the Leonard Street Police Station served as a lodging house for indigents. As photographer Jacob Riis notes, “At the police station the roads of the tramp and the tough again converge.” NYPL digital collections

Strike Leaves This World

As Strike got older, the hot summers took a toll on him. By 1908, he was about 17 years old and had lost almost all his teeth. Following several illnesses, it was decided that it was time to put him out of his misery. On September 13, 1908, Lieutenant Von Beborsky was called on to humanely dispatch the beloved mascot.

Five years after Strike’s death, on December 1, 1913, the precinct was abolished and the building was vacated and converted for commercial use.

Over the years, occupants have included Cordley & Hayes Corporation, the Standard Rice Company, the Ronald Paper Company, the Hailer Elevator Company, and the Empire Elevator Corp. Today the old station house at 19-21 Leonard Street — where policemen, vagrants, prisoners, cats, and a dog named Strike once converged — is a condominium with five apartments.

19 Leonard Street New York

19-21 Leonard Street was converted into condo lofts in the mid-1990s.

For more on the history of 19-21 Leonard Street, check out Daytonian In Manhattan, who, ironically, posted a story about the station house the same day as I posted mine.


RobertRathbon_ house_HatchingCat

The old Guion/Rathbone house in Washington Heights around 1910, when it was still occupied by the Arrowhead Inn.

In June 1912, New York City Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo created a new 42nd Police Precinct to serve the people of the rapidly developing northern tip of Manhattan along the shores of the Hudson and Harlem rivers.

As I mentioned in Part I of this Old New York police story, the new precinct was bounded by 165th Street, the Harlem River, Dyckman Street, and the Hudson River. It also included the Harlem River Speedway, which was located between 155th and 165th streets.

Although a brand-new, two-story brick loft building at 1389 St. Nicholas Avenue was leased by the city to serve as a temporary police station for the precinct, the hot and stuffy building was not suitable for sleeping in summer months for the men on call.

Thus, in July 1913, the 196 foot patrolmen and 25 mounted patrolmen of the new 42nd Precinct moved into a rambling, 3-story frame home reportedly built in the 1860s by William Howe Guion (of the Guion line of European steamers), and, later, occupied by Robert C. Rathbone (a successful insurance broker who served with the New York Militia during the Civil War).

The home and wooded property, bounded by Haven Avenue, Fort Washington Avenue, West 176th Street, and West 177th Street in Washington Heights, had commanding views of Riverside Drive and the Hudson River.


Sergeant Major R.C. Rathbone served with the Seventh Regiment, New York Militia, during the Civil War. 

For the next 10 years, the men of the 42nd Precinct lived in rural luxury in what became known as the best station house in New York City.

During their time off, the men enjoyed swimming, boating, gazing at the neighbor’s cows, gardening, and playing handball and lawn tennis. Some of the men, like Sergeant John McCullum, were members of the Metropolitan Boat Club, and these men practiced their skills by rowing canoes to the Jersey shore.

(The New York Sun once reported that the men of the 42nd Precinct had “greatly reduced their girth” after living at their new location for about a year.)

They also enjoyed the company of Sir Tom, the station cat (aka rat catcher), and Lady Alice, one of the many hens that lived on the grounds and who adored spending time with her policemen friends.

And, if they were lucky, they may have even had a chance to meet Diamond Jim Brady, W.C. Fields, or any of the many other famous people who were the good friends of their neighbor next door, Ben Riley, the popular proprietor of the Arrowhead Inn.


The 42nd Precinct police station and Ben Riley’s new Arrowhead Inn on the old Hopkins/Haven estate are clearly marked on either side of W. 177th Street in this 1914 map. Northern Avenue is today’s Cabrini Boulevard and the Boulevard Lafayette at left is present-day Riverside Drive. 

For the men of the 42nd Precinct, landing a beautiful old mansion overlooking Riverside Drive on the banks of the Hudson River was a matter of being in the right place at the right time. I guess you could say they had both Ben Riley and Benjamin Altman to think for their good fortune.

The Hendrick Oblienis Farm

In the late 1600s, the hilly region of Washington Heights was known as the common lands of Jochem Pieter’s Hills (the land to the east, between present-day Broadway and the Harlem River, was called Jochem Pieter’s Flats.)

Captain Jochem Pietersen Kuyter, a sea captain under the King of Denmark, came to America in 1639 with his friend Jonas Bronck and other pioneers. He obtained a grant of 400 acres from Director General Kieft and built a thatched-roof house somewhere in the vicinity of 125th Street. He and his wife were killed by Native Americans in March 1654, in retaliation for a massacre at Corlear’s Hook in 1643, in which 40 Natives were killed.

In 1691, one of the men who was allotted a portion of Jochem Pieter’s Hills was Joost van Oblienis, one of the earliest settlers in Niew Haerlem. The Oblienis farm extended from about 170th to 185th Street, from the Old Post Road (Broadway) to the Hudson River. Their homestead was in the area of today’s West 176th Street, between Fort Washington Avenue and Broadway.


The Hendrick van Oblienis property is clearly noted this map. Archaeological remains of the old homestead were discovered when 176th Street was opened on vacant land between Broadway and Fort Washington Avenue in the early 1900s. 

When Joost van Oblienis passed away in 1706, his son Hendrick came into possession of the farm. Thirty years later, his son Johannes, the Constable of New Haerlem in 1736, took over the farm. In 1769, Hendrick sold the upper tract to Blazius Moore, a tobacco farmer; the lower part went to his son, also named Hendrick.

This lower tract, bounded by present-day West 173rd and West 178th streets, passed to Jacob Arden, a butcher, during the Revolution. I’m not sure who owned the land between Arden’s death in 1798 (he died in what was then the Hamlet of Kakeat in Rockland County — today this area is the called Montebello in the Town of Ramapo), but I do know that by the 1860s, a portion of the property was owned by William Howe Guion, who constructed the house that would become home to the 42nd Precinct in 1913.


Jacob Arden, a New York City butcher, took over the van Oblienis farm and homestead around 1775, during the start of the Revolutionary War. The homestead was located near today’s West 176th Street between Fort Washington Avenue and Broadway. NYPL digital collections.

Ben Riley’s New Arrowhead Inn

Fast forward to sometime around 1908, which is when Benjamin Altman of department store fame (B. Altman and Company) leased the old Guion property and house to Benjamin Crawford Riley, the proprietor of the Arrowhead Inn, a popular roadhouse for high-society horsemen.

When his lease expired in September 1913, Ben Riley purchased the large W.H. Summervile (or Somerville) home and two-acre plot one block north on Haven Avenue for about $160,000 (this property was previously owned by John Milton Hopkins and his wife Augusta Haven Hopkins). Ben added a bungalow-style hotel to the site, and he remodeled the existing house to feature a restaurant that could seat about 1,000 people.


The new Arrowhead Inn on the former Hopkins/Haven property fronted Haven Avenue just north of West 177th Street. The police station was across the street on the south side of West 177th Street.

Although B. Altman had originally intended to improve his real estate holdings and sell the land to developers, for some reason he changed his plans. Instead, he leased “the old Arrowhead Inn” to New York City for use as temporary headquarters for the 42nd Police Precinct.

The Policemen Save Each Other and Their Hens

Fast forward again three years to the morning of January 15, 1916.

At about 10 a.m., Ben Riley noticed flames coming from the second story of the police station. He ran to house and called out to Lieutenant Sauder, and then he sounded the fire alarm.

The 20 men who had been gathered in the assembly room went into action. They first woke up the still-sleeping policemen in the smoke-filled dormitory on the second floor, and then they headed up to the top floor to awaken Captain Abram C. Hulse. A few other men released all the hens from their run, which adjoined the building. (Hopefully someone also saved Sir Tom, the station cat.)


This small house, constructed in 1861, was across the street from the police station on the west side of Haven Avenue at West 177th Street. NYPL digital collections.

While the policemen waited for the firemen to arrive, they set up a bucket brigade. In short time, the seat of the fire on the second floor was extinguished and the building was saved. (A faulty chimney flue was determined to be the cause.) The men spent the next hour or so rounding up Lady Alice and her sister hens.

The old house continued to serve as a “temporary” police station for the next seven years. But by 1923, when many of the country mansions along Fort Washington Avenue were being replaced by large apartment houses to meet the city’s housing shortage, it was time for Ben Riley and the men of the 42nd Precinct to leave their rural home in Washington Heights.

The 42nd Precinct Moves

FortWashingtonAve_HatchingCatIn the late 1800s and early 1900s, Fort Washington Avenue was known as the best speedway ground for trotters. In this photo from about 1910, the property of the old Arrowhead Inn would have been down the street on the right. (Note the “For Sale” signs on the property in the foreground on right). NYPL digital collections.

 In October 1923, Ben Riley sold his block of land bordered by 177th, 178th, Haven Avenue, and Northern Avenue (now Cabrini Blvd.), and opened a new Arrowhead Inn in Riverdale, Bronx, at 246th Street and Henry Hudson Parkway. Less than a year later, in January 1924, three six-story brick apartment buildings designed by Gronenberg Leuchtag, architects, appeared on the site of the beautiful old inn.


The new six-story apartment buildings that replaced the Arrowhead Inn on the north side of West 177th Street (including the Ethel Court Apartments at 851 West 177th) were built in 1924 by B.L.W. Construction Company. They featured all the latest amenities, including garbage incinerators and dining alcoves. The building fronts were a tapestry of brick and terracotta. Way in the background is the approach to the George Washington Bridge. NYPL digital collections.

In August 1923, under the watch of Acting Captain Alphonse S. Rheaume, the 42nd Precinct moved into the headquarters of the 40th Precinct (later called the 32nd Precinct) at 152nd Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Plans called for the construction of a new station house at 182nd Street and Wadsworth Avenue, but until that was completed, all of Manhattan north of 152nd Street was covered by the station at 152nd Street.


Here’s a rear view of the old 42nd Precinct police station on a wintry day in March 1923, just five months before the property was sold to developers. NYPL digital collections.

Sometime around 1922 — just before the move to 182nd Street — the 42nd Precinct was renamed the 17th Precinct. Today, it is known as the 34th Precinct, and the station is located at 4295 Broadway at West 183rd Street. The men and women of the precinct no longer have a view of the Hudson River, and I seriously doubt they have any hens (maybe they have a cat), but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them still enjoy swimming and boating when they’re off duty.


In 1924, the policemen of the old 42nd Precinct traded in their country home on the Hudson River for this traditional police station on Wadsworth Avenue and West 182nd Street. Today the building is home to the Bea Fuller Rodgers School. 


In 1924, construction began on 227 Haven Avenue, which occupies the site of the former Arrowhead Inn/42nd Precinct police station. The building still stands today. NYPL digital collections. 


Here’s another view of the new apartments at 227 Haven Avenue (far left). The old frame house in the foreground is the Howland farmhouse, which was demolished in 1933. When this photo was taken in 1927, West 175th Street (foreground) had been laid out, but not yet cut through. Today, this is the northwest corner of J. Hood Wright Park. NYPL digital collections.


These apartment buildings, on the west side of Haven Avenue between West 17th and 178th streets,  were condemned by the city and demolished in the 1950s to make way for a new approach to the George Washington Bridge (the apartment buildings on the east side of the street were also demolished.) NYPL digital collections.

The End of the Arrowhead Inn


Benjamin Riley

Sometime in the 1950s, the apartments that replaced Ben Riley’s Arrowhead Inn on the northeast corner of Haven Avenue and West 177th Street were demolished to make way for a new approach to the George Washington Bridge, which opened on October 25, 1931.

By this time, Ben’s new Arrowhead Inn was doing very well up in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, at the intersection of West 246th Street and the Henry Hudson Parkway.


The Arrowhead Inn in the Bronx. The area looks surprisingly similar today.

In 1940, Ben moved his inn one final time to Yonkers, at 385 Tuckahoe Road. Four years later, on February 18, 1944, The New York Times reported that the 73-year-old inn keeper had died during an early-morning fire in the two-story brick inn.

Apparently, he had made it as far as the second-floor hallway when he was overcome by smoke. His wife, Rose Wallace Riley, her brother and wife, Jack and Mary Wallace, and a headwaiter who worked at the inn were rescued by the firefighters (Rose escaped the second floor via a ladder).

ArrowheadFire1944_HatchingCatBen Riley died in a hallway on the second floor of his Arrowhead Inn in Yonkers in February 1944. Today, garden apartments occupy this site. 

HavenAve_HatchingCatToday, what was once the site of the great lawns Ben Riley’s second Arrowhead Inn is now occupied by ramps for the George Washington Bridge and a small park (not visible). This looping road leading to West 178th Street is all that remains of this section of Haven Avenue, which once ran all the way to 181st Street.


Here’s an aerial view of the former site of the van Oblienis farm, Jacob Arden farm, W.H. Guion homestead, R.C. Rathbone homestead, Arrowhead Inn, and 42nd Police Precinct.

HenCat_HatchingCatIn 1915, give or take a year, a young woman from one of the new fashionable apartment buildings in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan brought a speckled hen to the mansion-turned-clubhouse-turned roadside inn-turned police station on West 177th Street. The hen was set loose among the dozen or so other hens that lived in a broad field behind the station. She spent the rest of her years living in rural luxury with the 207 policemen of the brand-new 42nd Police Precinct of New York City.

Lady Alice, as the men called her, loved spending time with the policemen, and in fact, she preferred being with them than with her fellow hens. She enjoyed sitting on their shoulders and eating out of their hands.

Lady Alice also enjoyed the company of Sir Tom, the police station cat. They would drink out of the same water bowl and play together in the kitchen garden behind the station, where the men had planted vegetables to conserve food during the war years (Lady Alice reportedly never nibbled on the vegetables, preferring to dig for worms.) On cold nights along the Hudson River, cat and hen would lay side by side in front of the station’s wood stove.


The police station of the new 42nd Precinct was formerly the estate of William H. Guion (1860s-1880s) and Robert C. Rathbone. Later, it served as the clubhouse for the Suburban Riding and Driving Club, and, from 1908-1913, as a popular roadside inn called the Arrowhead Inn. 

For Lady Alice, Sir Tom, and the men of the 42nd Precinct, life was good in the old Rathbone mansion at 177th Street and Haven Avenue. According to articles in The New York Times, the large, rambling frame structure on the banks of the Hudson River was surrounded by tall fruit and shade trees. The old-fashion kitchen garden had box hedges around the beds, and the grounds featured fine lawns.


In this 1914 map, you can see the police station, grounds, and stables of the 42nd Precinct on Haven Avenue between West 177th Street and the newly opened West 176th Street. The Depot Road (or Depot Lane) was a tree-line country road that winded down from the foot of West 177th Street to the Fort Washington Depot of the Hudson River Railroad.

The view from the house “was a very fine one, and extended for miles up and down the Hudson River.” The five-acre parcel also featured large sheds and stables that once accommodated up to 100 horses. (The New York Police Department may have used the stables for its new police dogs in the 1910s.)


New York Times, August 12, 1914

The ground floor of the building served as a dormitory with about 30 beds for the police reserves. On the floor above was another dormitory for the men on duty. Every day, the men awoke to the sounds of birds. They spent their leisure time swimming, fishing, boating, gardening, watching cows graze in an adjoining field, and playing with Lady Alice and Sir Tom.

The New 42nd Police Precinct

In June 1912, Police Commissioner Rhinelander Waldo created two new police precincts to serve the northern end of Manhattan. The new 37th Precinct, stationed at 407 Lenox Avenue, was bounded by 110th and 145th streets. The new 42nd Precinct, stationed at 1389 St. Nicholas Avenue, was bounded by 165th Street, the Harlem River, Dyckman Street, and the Hudson River. It also included the Harlem River Speedway, between 155th and 165th streets.

In June 1912, the city leased a new two-story brick store with cellar and loft at 1389 St. Nicholas Avenue for $6,000 a year. The plan was to use this building as a temporary police station for the 42nd Precinct until a permanent building could be constructed.

The problem with this building was that it was stuffy and hot in summer months, so the men on duty could not get a good night’s sleep. Newly elected Commissioner Arthur Woods promised them better quarters, and, after a short search, selected the old Rathbone house, or what was by then called the old Arrowhead Inn. The owner of the property at this time was Benjamin Altman, of department-store fame.


Until July 31, 1913, the station house for the new 42nd Precinct was at 1389 St. Nicholas Avenue near 179th Street. This two-story building was constructed in 1912 and owned by Rose C. Newman. Today it is home to a Lucille Roberts fitness center and shops. 

The Home of William Howe Guion and Robert C. Rathbone 

In 1889, Robert C. Rathbone, a Civil War veteran, volunteer firefighter, and insurance broker (he was called “the dean of the insurance business in New York City”), purchased the house and property on what was then called Depot Lane (or Depot Road). This home was reportedly built in the 1860s by William Howe Guion, of the shipping line Guion and Company.

I’m not sure whether Robert Rathbone ever lived in the house —  in the early 1900s, his son, R. Bleecker Rathbone, resided in another home on the other side of Depot Lane — but I do know that in 1897 the home was leased by the Suburban Riding and Driving Club, a popular organization for horsemen established in May 1894 (the blog, My Inwood, has a great article on the Suburban Riding and Driving Club with lots of photos.)

The club added a new wing to the home that featured open glass sides, which, along with a spacious piazza and open fireplace, was quite inviting to visitors on sunny winter days after a sleigh ride. The club also featured a café and main dining hall finished in rich red, and a ladies’ parlor with velvet carpeting, green walls, and big easy chairs and divans.


In this 1900 Sanborn map, you can see the old Rathbone house on the left (now the Suburban Riding and Driving Club) and Rathbone’s other residence on the right. NYPL digital collections.

In 1904, Robert Rathbone sold all of his property along Depot Lane to Roxton Realty.  The real estate syndicate’s plan was to develop the 105 lots, but for some reason the plans fell through.

Robert, who was about 80 years old at this time, moved into an apartment building at 118 West 130th Street.

RobertRathbon_ house_HatchingCat

The old Robert C. Rathbone house and former horsemen’s clubhouse, sometime around 1910, when it was home to Ben Riley’s Arrowhead Inn.

By 1908, development in Washington Heights was in full swing. All the streets were opened, sewers were installed, and the large rock formations had been removed from the more prominent plots to make way for apartment buildings.

Despite all the surrounding development, the area around the old Depot Road remained bucolic.

That year, Benjamin Riley, an inn keeper from Saratoga, New York, leased the former Rathbone property and opened a roadhouse inn called the Arrowhead Inn in the former horsemen’s clubhouse.

For the next five years, the crowds came to the Arrowhead Inn to feast on Ben’s specialty — frogs’ legs (Ben liked to boast that more frogs legs were consumed at the Arrowhead than at any other place in America). The crowds also came to participate in Ben’s famous four-in-hand road races, which he started in October 1908 to tie in with the horse show at the Madison Square Garden.

The idea was to have all the participants race from the inn to the Garden, where the horses would then be judged in the ring at the National Horse Show. The winners received a $500 cup called the Arrowhead Inn Challenge Trophy.


The Arrowhead Inn Challenge was a popular four-in-hand race that originated from the hitching post at Ben Riley’s inn. In the first year (1908), entrants included Alfred G. Vanderbilt, Paul A. Lorz, C.W. Watson, J. Campbell Thompson, George W. Watson, Morris E. Howlett, and Morgan P. Leiby. Howlett’s “Fort Washington Road Coach” won in 42 minutes, beating Vanderbilt’s “Brighton to London Coach” by 8 minutes. NYPL digital collections.  

When his lease on the Rathbone house was up in September 1913, Ben Riley decided to build a new and even better inn across the street on the former property of John M. Hopkins and Augusta Haven Hopkins, pictured below. He purchased the two-acre plot, which included a large estate then occupied by W.H. Summerville, for about $160,000.

New ArrowheadInn-HatchingCat

Ben’s new Arrowhead Inn on part of the old Hopkins/Haven estate featured sunken gardens and a restaurant that seated about 1,000 people. Notice the new brick apartments in the background on the right.  

In Part II, I’ll tell you about the final years of the old 42nd Precinct police station and Arrowhead Inn (as is typical for Old New York stories, devastating fires and development are involved)…