The History of ‘Sailor and Canton’
Sailor and Canton are replicas of a Newfoundland descendent: the Chesapeake Bay retriever. They were cast in the 1850s at Hayward, Barlett, and Co., in Baltimore, Maryland. Their names come from real dogs rescued from a sinking British Brig in the early 1800s.
Local historians believe that the dogs were placed on the Westfield Memorial Hospital Property in 1853 by Dr. John Spencer, who built the mansion where the hospital is now located. It is thought the dogs, of a hollow cast iron, were a part of the original embellishments of the Spencer estate.
After their arrival in Westfield, they became significant symbols of the village’s rich heritage. But Sailor and Canton were nearly lost to the melting pot during World War II when the dogs were given to a scrap drive to support the war effort.
The dogs were purchased by a Buffalonian and rescued from the furnace. In 1951, an editor for the Westfield Republican organized a fund drive to bring the dogs back to Westfield. Area residents rallied around the cause and raised the $500 necessary to purchase the dogs and bring them home to Westfield. They were repainted their original color, black. They were mounted on cement bases and are about three feet tall as they stand on the WMH lawn overlooking Main Street.
In the almost 160 years (give or take a few) that the dogs have been Westfield residents, many a youngster has sat astride the canines. The iron statuary was fashioned to give the dogs a friendly facial expression. About every person who grew up in Westfield can relate a tale told them about the iron dogs. "They bark every time the fire whistle blows," was a favorite story told to youngsters.