On the Lower East Side in the 19th century, a kooky cat lady took in more than 50 feline friends

September 26, 2017

Image courtesy of New York by Gaslight via Ephemeral New York

Before cat sanctuaries existed in New York City, one woman, in particular, may have been responsible for saving many kittens from the harshness of 19th-century city life. In the 1870s, a woman named Rosalie Goodman lived in a run-down home on Division Street on the Lower East Side. While she rented out most of the home’s bedrooms to tenants, she left two rooms for her family and her roughly 50 cats (h/t Ephemeral New York). In an article from 1878, the New York Tribune wrote, “Lying in the closets, on the tables, and under the stove, were cats of all descriptions. Some had broken limbs or missing eyes, the result probably of prowling around at night.”

cat hospital, cat lady, nyc history
Image courtesy of the New York Tribune via Ephemeral New York

After Rosalie’s husband died in 1971, she purchased the 17th-century house at 170 Division Street. She rented out rooms to a cigar dealer, an Irish family and a German man. The interior of the home was deteriorating; reports at the time detailed the many stains in the home, dirty ceilings and hallways filled with sawdust.

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A newspaper clipping describing the cat-filled home, via NYPL

A reporter from the New York Sun came to visit the pop-up cat hospital after hearing stories about Rosalie and her feline friends. Upon entering, he said “evidence of cats are perceptible on every hand; cats yellow, cats black, golden and dingy, cats tawny, white and dubious, cats ringtailed, dovetailed, and notailed; cats with eyes, without eyes, earless, and cats of every description skulk in the black nooks or rush out and disappear in sudden panic.”

In this home for over a decade, Rosalie provided food and shelter for the area’s many abused and abandoned cats. So many cats lived in the home, the neighborhood kids gave her the nickname “Catty Goodman.”

[Via Ephemeral New York]


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More: History
Location: Lower East Side

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