JUMP TO PAGE   100  >  200  >  300  >  400  >  500  >  600

Harlem River Speedway: 1905

Harlem River Speedway: 1905

New York circa 1905. "The Harlem River from High Bridge. View of Harlem River Speedway and Washington Bridge." 8x10 inch glass negative. View full size.


On Shorpy:
Today’s Top 5

Harlem River Speedway

Appreciate the article and pics of the Speedway - my great-great uncle, Clark McDonald, was the first superintendent of the Speedway and raced on it frequently. I was curious about what happened to it, and now know. It's nice to see the bridge, too. I do not live in NY, so it is great to see information that shows me the location and history.

Clark was the owner of two horse-boarding stables in the 1800's in Manhattan (McDonald's Boarding Stables and Edgecombe boarding stables) - would love to see information/pics about any of the old boarding stables which existed in the center of the City; next to no information available for research and it seems fascinating to think of all these horses in the center of Manhattan!

Fast Trotters and Pacers

The Motor World, July 6, 1911.

Want Speedway Thrown Open.

New Yorkers Take Steps to Restore $6,000,000 Roadway to Public —
Now Monopolized by Few Horsemen.

The Licensed Automobile Dealers of New York have given drivers of fast horses something to think about. The Dealers have started a movement to have the Harlem Speedway thrown open to the general public. This magnificent speedway extends along the Harlem river from One Hundred and Fifty-fifth street to Dykman street. It was built under an act of the Legislature of 1893 for the exclusive use of drivers of light, horse drawn carriages, and at a cost of some $6,000,000. At that time the driving of fast horses was carried on extensively and automobiles were few and far between. Since then the trotting horse has become conspicuous by his absence and the automobile is very much in evidence. The result is, the Speedway is seldom used excepting Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings by a few horse owners.

The Dealers feel that all automobile owners are being taxed for the upkeep of this magnificent roadway, which is under the direction of the Park Department, although they derive no benefit. They do not ask the City to turn the road over for speeding of automobiles. The object is to have it opened to automobilists for pleasure purposes, the same as drivers now controlled by the Park Department. …

Motor Age, January 13, 1916.

Famous Drive of Wealthy Horsemen to Be Opened to Motors.

Harlem Speedway, Costing More Than $5,000,000, No Longer Attracts Millionaires with Fast Trotters and Pacers.

Another province over which the horse once reigned is threatened with attack and capture by the motor car.

Following the reconstruction of the Sheepshead Bay track, where once satin-bloused jockeys plied whip and spur to thoroughbreds in the home stretch drive, into a speedway for motor car competition, comes the announcement that the Harlem speedway, constructed at a cost of more than $5,000,000 and famous as the scene of the brushes of amateur light harness horsemen, is to give way to the gasoline-driven limousine, touring car and roadster.

According to reports made to Borough President Marks by Chief Engineer Stern of the bureau of highways on present conditions over the speedway, traffic has fallen off to such an extent that it is estimated by Chief Engineer Stern that the average yearly maintenance for the last 15 years of approximately $20,000 is too high for what the taxpayers are receiving in return.

Park Commissioner Cabot Ward intends to have a bill introduced in the legislature to enable him to change the character of the speedway and throw it open to all kinds of vehicles the same as a public street. The Park Commissioner and Borough President Marks have agreed to lay the matter before the board of estimate with the recommendations for legislative action. The plan calls for paving one side of the 90-foot drive and open it for motor traffic. The cost of paving it is estimated would amount to $107,000.

At the present time the speedway, under an act of the legislature, is used exclusively by light horse-drawn vehicles and equestrians. Motor cars are not allowed on the drive which extends from 155th street to Dyckman street. The study of traffic, which covered a period of 7 days, from 8 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock at night, during the early part of last month showed that during this time only 641 vehicles and 25 equestrians used the driveway.

During the early days of speedway brushing prominent horsemen were to be seen handling the reins over trotters and pacers famous in the annals of harness horse racing. The introduction of specially prepared events, arranged in classes according to the records and speeds of the horses, drove many of the amateur drivers off the speedway, and thereafter the public interest waned. The sidewalk specially built on the riverside for the use of the public served as a grandstand, but of late years the small fields did not help to popularize the sport.

Many men prominent in New York affairs were to be seen driving on the speedway. The late William H. Clark, who was corporation counsel, built a stable at the south end of the speedway and exercised his famous horse there daily. C. K. G. Billings is one of the few to continue to use the drive.


Pleasantly(?) flavored laxative.

Not quite as photogenic today

But at least the bridge is still there.

View Larger Map

Looks the same today (with less traffic)

I'm amazed at how similar the area looks to this day. I use the Harlem River Drive regularly and usually have time to appreciate the bridge while I sit in traffic.

Syndicate content is a vintage photography site featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago. Contact us | Privacy policy | Site © 2022 Shorpy Inc.