Hatching Cat NYC reports that in 1895, 71-year-old Christopher Fagan was alone in the world. All his family and friends had died and he really had no place to call home.
He constructed the shelter using tin sheets and various odds and ends, but everything was carefully soldered together so the shanty kept him fairly warm and dry. Inside, it was neat and clean, and he had plenty of wood fuel for the winter.
Hatching Cat NYC added that the rocky outcropping upon which Fagan made his home was no doubt part of “Point of Rocks,” on the upper path at the southeast corner of St. Nicholas Park. It was there also that General George Washington positioned himself during the battle of Harlem Heights in 1776.
Before the Dutch settlers who founded the colony of New Amsterdam (1600’s) had built the road itself, the route along St. Nicholas was already an old Indian path called Weekquaeskeek, after one of the Algonquin tribes living in the area (the word itself is believed to mean “place of the bark kettle”).
Christopher Fagan also had a large Newfoundland named Spruce to keep him company (see pictured above).
The kindhearted sisters of the Convent of the Sacred Heart allowed the elderly man to squat on their land, and even provided food for Christopher and Spruce. In return, Chris did odd jobs for the nuns when he wasn’t foraging for wood fuel.
For nine years, he and Spruce led a very simple life in their makeshift home, just a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Manhattan.