Great Lincoln Speedway of 1925 located East of York
Construction started on the “Great Lincoln Speedway” during 1925 along the Lincoln Highway east of York. This was one of the many construction projects going on in and around the City of York during 1925. It was one of the bigger projects touted in the May 28, 1925, issue of the Harrisburg Telegraph, in an article proclaiming “Building Boom Keeps Labor in York Employed — Biggest Construction Program in History of City Is Under Way.”
The research for this post started by chance. I was reviewing the July issues of The Gazette and Daily of 1940, for a future post, when I happened upon two related “Fifteen Years Ago” remarks; i.e. events happening in July of 1925. The July 13, 1940, issue reported fifteen years ago:
The Lincoln Realty and Amusement Company, which was planning to build the second largest speedway in the country east of the city, offered the interior oval of their track to the War Department to be used as a landing field.
And then the July 13, 1940, issue reported fifteen years ago:
Word was received here that the officers of the United States Intermediate Air Station at Middletown had accepted the offer of the Lincoln Realty Company to use the infield of the proposed “Great Lincoln Speedway” for a landing field.
I confirmed the acceptance of the use of the infield via newspapers of 1925, via the July 31, 1925, issue of the Harrisburg Telegraph reporting that the United States Air Service accepted the field that was offered in “congratulating the city upon the establishment of the landing field along the Lincoln Highway, east of York on the grounds of the Lincoln Realty and Amusement Company.”
York construction projects underway, touted in the May 28, 1925, issue of the Harrisburg Telegraph, included: $1,000,000 for the Hotel Yorktowne, $750,000 for the new YMCA building, $500,000 for the Speedway, $500,000 for three new church edifices, $575,000 for three new bank buildings, and $500,000 as the appraised value of more than 100 private dwelling houses under construction. Quoting from the paragraph that provided additional details on the speedway:
Plans for the proposed automobile race track and grandstand to be built along the Lincoln Highway, east of the city, by the Lincoln Speedway and Realty Company of America, call for the expenditure of $500,000. The track is to be one and a quarter miles. York capital is principally interested in the project. Nearly 150 carloads of lumber are now enroute to York for the building, work on which is soon to start, as it is planned to have the track and grandstand finished in October.
I believe this speedway in York was part of the 1920s board racetrack craze that swept the United States. During the 1920s, National Championships for Automobiles were sanctioned by the Automobile Association of America. Their big event each year was the 500-miler on the bricks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, however an average of 11 additional races were run each year that counted towards the National Championship. During the 1920s, three-quarters of these remaining races were run on the wooden surfaces of high-banked board speedways.
The huge financial success of the 1.25-mile board Altoona Speedway in Pennsylvania, opening in 1923, is credited with the opening of similar length, high-banked board speedways that followed on the East Coast. The most successful of these were: the 1924 Charlotte Speedway in North Carolina, the 1925 Baltimore-Washington Speedway in Laurel, Maryland, and the 1926 Atlantic City Speedway in New Jersey. These all cost approximately $500,000 and involved many railcars of lumber to construct; just like the speedway described for York.
Here is a wide view of the Baltimore-Washington Speedway in Laurel, Maryland on Opening Day: July 11, 1925. If you are reading this on the Ydr.com site, click on this LINK for a Full View of the illustrations in this post on the original YorkBlog site; since the ydr.com site will occasionally cut off important details in the cropping of illustrations.
The 1.25-mile board speedways all had similar layouts. The front and back stretch were each 600-feet length and lined with the grandstands. The turns, with up to 40-degrees banking, were 2,700-feet length, with about an 860-foot radius.
Board speedways suffered from very high maintenance costs. If they did not attract sanctioned races, some wood tracked speedways closed after only two years of operation. When that was the case, the tracks were often dismantled, sometimes leaving no evidence that a track had existed, especially when the sites returned to agricultural use. Even the most successful track, Altoona, only lasted nine years.
Here is a close view of the Baltimore-Washington Speedway in Laurel, Maryland during October 26, 1925. I’m continuing to research if York’s Great Lincoln Speedway was actually built, or if it suffered the fate of being torn down after a short existence. If it was built, it likely looked similar to these photos of the short-lived Board Speedway in Laurel, Maryland.
Links to related posts include:
- History Night video and 1925 Air Navigation Map
- Stories of Aviation in Springettsbury (locates speedway)
- Exercising Buffaloes via Airplane in Springettsbury
- Karl Ort is York’s Aviation Pioneer
- Karl Ort sells real airplane propellers for $1.98