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Author Topic: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908  (Read 7755 times)

Half Fast Bob

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Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« on: November 26, 2011, 10:37:50 PM »
Kenilworth Park was located on the northwest corner of Niagara Falls Blvd. at the Kenmore Avenue intersection. It started life in 1903 as a 1 mile horse racing facility, but was converted to an auto racing track by 1904 when horse racing just didn't draw the crowds as were anticipated.

On Monday - August 15th, 1904: The Buffalo mayor F.L. Alliger was credited with a 2 mile win. Also on that day, Barney Oldfield set a new world speed record at the track, completing 25 laps with a time of 26:43. Oldfield also won easily in a 15 mile handicapped event. 5,000 people attended.

This is the car Barney Oldfield drove in 1904 at Kenilworth - a Peerless Green Dragon.



And on Friday - August 18th, 1905:

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Several Niagara Falls residents were at the Kenilworth Park to witness the automobile races. Among them were B.F. Thurston and P.P. Pfohl. They saw Webb Jay, the Cleveland driver crash through the fence. Although the accident occured a considerable distance from the clubhouse, Thurston and Pfohl saw the car swerve and strike the fence, turning into the bed of a creek. Jay was thrown out and lay unconscious in the water, a badly used up piece of humanity. In an instant, the clubhouse and grandstand was in an uproar. Thousands plunged from their seats and dashed for the track. The club officials worked hard to keep people from the track, where the big cars were still racing at lightning speed. Jay was taken unconscious to the hospital, where investigation showed that his injuries consisted of a compound fracture of the left leg, a broken right arm, seven broken ribs, a probably puncture of the lungs, a very badly lacerated face, cut head and concussion of the brain.




It is widely believed that the New York State wagering commission was responsible for the end of racing at Kenilworth, however I've not been able to confirm that. I have found something completely different that suggests otherwise.  It was actually the press that had a major problem with racing, and not just at Kenilworth. With drivers and spectators getting seriously hurt and killed, press members were calling out against unsafe racing conditions as far back as 1904. Their major complaint was that converted horse tracks didn't provide enough spectator safety, and that the cars themselves were unsafe to the drivers. While the popularity of auto racing was catching on like wild fire, the newspaper reviews of racing in the early days of racing was very critical against it. This cartoon and others like it appeared in many newspapers across the country...



While researching Kenilworth Park, I came across something else that is extremely interesting. Depending on where you look, some websites have mistakenly attributed Barney Oldfield as being the driver involved at the Syracuse Fairgrounds that killed 11 spectators on September 17th, 1911. It was LEE OLDFIELD driving a Knox Racer that drove the car. Lee Oldfield blew a tire in the late stages of the event coming off turn 2 and crashed through the outside fence. This picture below is the only one I've ever seen of the crash...



Barney and Lee Oldfield were not related, but having the same last name isn't the only similarity between the two men. Lee Oldfield's crash killed 11 spectators and was national news at the time. It also remained on the books as the worst auto racing accident in American history through the '60s. But Lee wasn't the ONLY Oldfield involved in a fatal accident to spectators. Barney Oldfield was involved in a wreck in St. Louis, Mo. on August 29th, 1904 when he was blinded by dust. Oldfield suffered several broken ribs and lacerations after being ejected from is car, and 2 spectators were killed when the car crashed through a fence.



One more thing... Lee Oldfield's Knox Racer was green in color. Barney Oldfield drove a Peerless Green Dragon. And now you know where the association of green race cars and bad luck originated.


If they can have artists, pianists, florists, dentists and bicyclists... then I must be a racist.

Half Fast Bob

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2011, 01:02:20 AM »
And a friend of mine sent me this from the Western NY Heritage Website...

Quote
The race track offered betting both trackside and off-track, which proved to be the cause of its demise. In 1908, the
New York State legislature passed the Agnew-Hart bill outlawing racetrack gambling. The race track, then owned by
a single investor, closed. The land was eventually developed as residential housing tracts which it remains today.
If they can have artists, pianists, florists, dentists and bicyclists... then I must be a racist.

modcrew18

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2011, 02:26:00 AM »
   Onlty thing about this I cant figure is the creek part of it. I know it was over 100 years ago but i dont know of a creek of any kind in that neighborhood. I know that area well and am amazed that something like a track was there, its a really old established area of town. I don't think were going to find any witnesses to the races there though LoL . Great stuff Bob


Half Fast Bob

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2011, 02:43:19 AM »
If they can have artists, pianists, florists, dentists and bicyclists... then I must be a racist.

Chargincharlie

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2011, 07:49:17 AM »
Good stuff..

RWS

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2011, 08:54:46 AM »
I agree with Modcrew18 I worked for the Town for a while and picked up garbage there in the 60s. It was refered as the rase track back then, some of the streets are shaped like a track I was told they were. I dont know of any water or creeks any where near there,


modcrew18

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2011, 01:21:16 PM »
First I have to say i'm loving this stuff. From the topo map it seems that the creek is Scajaquada creek, which is much farther in the city that the origional location described. I followed the railroad tracks from the old central terminal and the cemetary to the northwest is Delaware park. This would put the track east of main st and north of east delevan. not too far from the chevy plant. that is inner city, startling that a track would be there. streets all changed when kensington expressway was put in, using the old train tracks as reference points. The origional location sounded right because there is a Kenilworth library on kenmore ave.

modcrew18

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2011, 01:31:02 PM »
   Looking harder at it it would be the Jefferson and east ferry area. Blue highlighted areas on topo map are war memorial stadium and martin luther King park. Could be why Buffalo mayor won, that is definatly in Buffalo.

Half Fast Bob

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2011, 01:59:19 PM »
The topo map was surveyed in 1893 and printed in 1901. Obviously if the track was started in 1902 and opened for business in 1903, it couldn't be included in this map. The reason I included the link was to show nearby tributaries and landscape depressions. It's a good bet that they either extended the creek from the north, or dug their own pond.
If they can have artists, pianists, florists, dentists and bicyclists... then I must be a racist.


modcrew18

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2011, 02:34:33 PM »
  That explains that. I know the kenilworth name is used in origionally named area. Something tells me its was a pond. Can't seem to locate a creek. Maybe i can find info on a dog track i was told once that existed in the Harlem- Genesee-Maryvale dr area too. Might be a myth.

racermike26

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #10 on: November 30, 2011, 10:48:42 PM »
This has to be the most interesting find to date because I grew up about a mile away from that intersecting in Tonawanda.  And I too can't imagine there being a creek anywere near by.  But still it pretty cool.

Half Fast Bob

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2011, 01:38:18 AM »
modcrew18...

Initially, I wasn't going to chase your dog track. I had 2 good reasons -- 1.) I'm not a big fan of dog racing, and 2.) I've already got enough on my plate as it is. I've got a video project deadline that I have to meet, and I find myself too engulfed in finding these old tracks. I can't be spending a lot of time on segue's and still meet this deadline. But this little voice in my head kept telling me to hunt it down, so I did.

Your track was called the Cheektowaga Dog Track, and it was located on the southwest corner at the intersection of Sugar Road and Eggert. Part of the reason that I don't like dog racing is because of how they used to treat the dogs in those days. They'd practically starve them to death, and there was a lot of scrutiny about it back in the '30s. While chasing down this track, I found several repeated articles where an English dog owner/trainer was eaten alive by his hungry dogs. It was pretty brutal stuff back then, for real. 

The Erie County aerials map shows an old horse track on this property in the '20s, and then housing developments in 1951. I'm going to keep looking for a '30s image though, and I'll tell you why. While trying to find the name of this track, I came across 2 columns from 1937 that interested the hell out of me. The first said that the track was going to host a motorcycle race. As it turned out, the scheduled date didn't happen - it was rained out. And the other column dated September 16th, 1937 printed in the Erie County Independent said --

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Cheektowaga Dog Track To be Used for Auto Races

After several weeks of negotiations between promoters and racing officials, Buffalo and suburban sport fans are to see the latest sport innovation, which is now sweeping the country. Starting Friday night, Sept. 17th at 8:30 o-clock, the Midget Auto racers will battle it out for purse prizes at the Cheektowaga Dog Track.

Insisting that the banks on the turns be elevated so that cars, driven at their tremendous speed could negotiate the turns with the fence crash hazard partly eliminated, the promoters had the work done at a huge expense. Drivers are now going through their paces nightly to get the 'feel' of the track. The test runs are free to the public.

Such well known race drivers are 'Speed' Brant, Bob Metzger, Curley Curtiss, Fred Ludernan and Reeves Wood, from Buffalo and surrounding towns, have forsaken the large racing cars and entered the midget class. Other well known drivers, from all over the country have filed entry blanks.

A tentative program of racing dates to follow has been arranged with events at the dog track Tuesday evening September 21st and Friday Sept. 24th, also Sunday afternoon Sept. 25th.


If they can have artists, pianists, florists, dentists and bicyclists... then I must be a racist.


modcrew18

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2011, 01:53:01 AM »
   Wow, it did exist. I do agree about dog racing. I am a former greyhound owner. Wonderful animals, would recomend them highly. That was not exactly the location i was lead to believe but thats my town so that was right. Didn't think you were going to research it though.

modcrew18

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2011, 02:01:17 AM »
   Looking at the aerial thats just a few blocks from our race shop. Not exactly the nicest area though. Projects that are there are tough, do not visit after dark. Thanks again for locating it, thought it was a myth.

Half Fast Bob

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Re: Kenilworth Park - Buffalo 1904 - 1908
« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2011, 02:16:16 AM »
Quick story... I drove truck back and forth between Rochester and Buffalo for 20 years and I met quite a few people who either attended Ransomville, Lancaster or Holland on a regular basis. I was interested in the old tracks since day 1, and at one of my stops near Grider and Kensington, a guy told me about this old track off Harlem. He thought it ran in the '50s and I had forgotten all about it until you mentioned this dog track being in the same general vicinity. Knowing the architecture of the area, I knew his date was off. When you brought up this dog track, it told me to hunt in the '30s.

Now all we have to do is get a definitive yea or nay on whether the events ever happened.
If they can have artists, pianists, florists, dentists and bicyclists... then I must be a racist.


 

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