Dunlop Mausoleum

Clark W. Dunlop (1845-March 6, 1908)
Eliza Cisco Dunlop (1836-August 8,1932)
Unnamed Parrot (ca 1891-March, 1921)

Dr. Clark W. Dunlop certainly had an interesting life. And unfortunately, a tragic and contentious death. Born in 1845, he graduated from the Eclectic Medical College of the City of New York then set up offices on Bond Street. By 1884 he had founded and installed himself as president of the United States Medicine Company where he published a handbook titled Dr. Dunlop’s Family Practice describing the symptoms and treatment of 100 common diseases. The manual, which was designed for use by families, also contained advertisements for some of Dr. Dunlop’s nostrums, including Dr. Dunlop’s King of Pain, Dr. Dunlop’s Cascara Compound (a laxative) and other patent medicines and remedies.

Apparently Dr. Dunlop did very well with his medical practice and business as well as other investments (over his lifetime he also acquired real estate in Chicago and Kansas City). He and his wife Eliza installed themselves at a palatial home at 112 West 86th Street in Manhattan. By 1894 he had amassed enough money to buy a large plot and commission a fanciful mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. The mausoleum, which is more of a confection than a piece of architecture, was built by prominent mausoleum builders C. E. Tayntor & Company. The company quarried granite in Maine and Vermont and had offices in New York. It is difficult to put the Dunlop mausoleum into any specific architectural category. It has elements of Islamic and Byzantine and Classical Revival architecture. Then there is the curious feathery plinth flanking the steps.

The stylized feathers are most likely an homage to the Dunlops’ pet parrot (name unknown). The skeleton of the parrot reposes on a fabric bed in a glass-topped mini-casket inside a steel box that rests atop a marble shelf inside the mausoleum. Most cemeteries have rather strict regulations that prohibit pet burials, but somehow the parrot slipped under the radar. According to a tag attached to the parrot’s eternal home it expired in March, 1921 after being in the family for 30 years. It is unknown if the parrot died peacefully. Dr. Clark W. Dunlop certainly did not.

In late 1907 a “commission in lunacy” declared the good doctor “an incompetent”, due largely to a condition called “paresis”, a debilitating mental and physical disease usually triggered by syphilis. Usually hearings of this sort are a simple affair, but money tends to muddy the waters. Dunlop’s wife Eliza was pitted against 22 nieces and nephews (the Dunlop union did not produce any children) who all wanted a piece of Dunlop’s considerable fortune of upwards of one-million dollars (approximately 22 million today).  As the battle raged in the courts Dr. Clark Dunlop was babbling quietly at the Hilgert Curative Foot Gear Institute on West 26th street while strapped into a pair of magic boots.

The late nineteenth and early twentieth century was a time of patent medicines, remedies and tortuous-looking medical contraptions. Enter shoemaker and now self-proclaimed “Professor” Matthew Hilgert who invented “magic boots”. Holgert claimed that his footwear restored balance in the body by starting from the bottom up (the feet) using special lasts to curve the arch of the foot. He also claimed he added secret chemicals to the boots that were absorbed into the body. His “magic mechanico-physiological” boots were advertised to cure all physical ailments. Hilgert claimed to have numerous satisfied customers including celebrity endorsers from baseball team owners to businessmen to Bishops. At the height of their popularity the boots reportedly sold for $1000 to $5000. Understandably most purchasers of the boots were the well-to-do. Hilgert claimed that his magic boots could cure “locomotor ataxia, paralysis, hip joint disease, sciatica, rheumatism, gout, neuritis, neuralgia, ticdoloureux, not to mention nervous prostration”.

Apparently Dunlop’s paresis was unaffected by the magic boots or, for that matter, various electrical treatments and salt-water injections he was receiving while at the Hilgert Institute. Instead, his condition deteriorated. In late December 1907 Dr. Clark Dunlop was removed from the Hilgert Institute and taken back to his home on West 86th street. In early January 1908 he was declared hopelessly insane by an “alienist” (an archaic term for a mental health doctor), Dr. William Bradford Noyes. Dr. Clark Dunlop died a few weeks later, no doubt without his magic boots on.

The parrot soldiered on until its death in 1921, while Eliza lived well into her nineties finally passing away in 1932. What became of her considerable fortune is not known. In 1908, Professor Matthew Hilgert (whom some say had designs on Eliza Dunlop) was sued for $50,000 by Henry Lubbe, a dissatisfied customer from Flushing. Lubbe settled for $1550 in 1911. Shortly thereafter Professor Matthew Hilgert and his magic mechanico-physiological boots disappeared from the scene.

The ownership of the Dunlop mausoleum has reverted to Woodlawn cemetery. During special events it is often open to the public and is a popular must-see feature during cemetery tours.
Text and photos © Douglas Keister Visit Doug’s Author Page

[address cemetery=”The Woodlawn Cemetery” street=”East 233rd Street” city=”Bronx” state=”New York” zip=”10470″]

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