May is National Pet Month. An early Montauk resident, architect Andrew J. Thomas, was an animal lover known for the “personal zoo” he kept on his Spanish-style estate overlooking Fort Pond Bay. On August 9, 1929, the East Hampton Star published this report about the exotic menagerie residing on the estate grounds after visiting with the congenial Mr. Thomas. Here is part of the story:
Mr. Thomas has a passion for pets, and all of his pets love him. There is a positively human parrot indoors, then, in little tree-houses are odd varieties of squirrel. Springer spaniels are a specialty on the Thomas estate; they are raised and cared for in the most scientific manner. Then the riding horses; they are tended like babies, in stables with white porcelain grain-bins, not a wisp of hay out of place; rubber rugs on the polished wood floor outside the stalls, every bit of harness shining until you could see your face in it. Mr. Thomas has a passion for neatness.
There is even an animal hospital on the [premises]; a gazelle, which had dislocated her shoulder and had to be tended by Dr. Bennett, was ensconced in a private room all bandaged up, but looking quite comfortable… The gazelles are cunning things. One of them is really so friendly that it will eat from your hand, and even walk playfully along beside you on its hind legs.
Many readers must have seen pictures of Mayor Walker feeding that same gazelle, several weeks ago when he visited Montauk. The Mayor forgot his City Hall cares (if any) and became ‘just a big boy’ again, at Montauk.” (NYC Mayor Jimmy Walker, a larger-than-life figure of questionable integrity who was eventually removed from office in 1932, appears here alongside A.J. Thomas in this week’s Throwback Thursday photograph, donated by Nancy Beaulieu).
Montauk brought out the “pet lover” in Walker. Stay tuned for an update on some of the beautiful creatures who appeared in our “Montauk Pets” exhibit in 2019.