March 26, 2014

Racing in the Capitol City

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Like most early motorcycle and auto racing tracks, the racetrack at Benning, Maryland started out as a horse track.  Opening on April 1, 1890, the track faced stiff competition from neighboring tracks in Anacostia, Brightwood and Ivy City, but within a few years it became popular with “Washington society” and it’s attendance increased tremendously.  It was also rumored that there were “shady” betting practices occurring at the track which seems unusual for a venue that was frequented by congressmen and other public servants…  Ultimately, horse racing was banned in the District of Columbia in 1908 leaving Benning open for motorsports.

In the 1910’s both motorcycles and automobiles raced at Benning.  This practice seemed to continue through the teens, but certainly had ended by the 1920’s.  Several attempts were made to bring back horse racing, but steep opposition from ministers and temperance women kept the horses out.  The track was sold in 1928 for $500,000 to Eastland, Gardens, Inc and was finally subdivided in 1942 to become Mayfair Mansions.

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Filed under Classic Harley History, Classic Indian Motorcycle History, Competition Motorcycles, History, Panhead Jim's Blog by PanheadJim

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