Beacon Park, one of the pioneer race tracks in New England, was founded in 1864 as a half-mile long course for sulky racing, and was at first called Riverside Park. It was bordered by Cambridge St and the Charles River. The Doubletree Hotel stands in one corner of what was Beacon Park. In 1872, it was sold to its last owners, Eben Jordan and Charles Marsh of the Jordan Marsh Department Store, for the sum of $169,000. At the height of the trotting park’s popularity, in the 1880s, horse cars lined up outside the main gate on racing days to accommodate the many thousands of patrons in need of transportation back to the city. CA Parker (Harvard) won the 1st American bike race here on May 24, 1878. Beacon Park ceased to exist in the early 1890s when it was sold to the Boston & Albany Railroad for conversion to a freight yard. The property then comprised sixty acres. While some of this parcel was taken for the building of Storrow Drive and of the Massachusetts Turnpike, most of the footprint of that historic trotting park lies within the appropriately named Beacon Park Freight Yard.
1875 Map of the Beacon Trotting Park. Today's Doubletree Hotel would be at the top right
Beacon Trotting Park 1890
Charles River Speedway
The Charles River Speedway was built in 1899 along the shores of the Charles River from Market/Arsenal St to Harvard Stadium and existed into the 1960's. The complex included a mile long race course used mainly for sulky racing and a 1.75 mile driveway, the original Soldier's Field Road, which paralleled the race course and extended up through Cambridge St.
It was designed by the Olmsted Landscaping firm and included a bicycle racing course. The Superintendent's Building was located at the intersection of Western Ave and Soldier's Field Rd and is the only portion of the complex that still remains.
One of the functions the Speedway served was to accommodate the recreational vehicles that had previously used the Brighton Road (the portion of Commonwealth Ave lying west of Kenmore Square) as well as Beacon St in Brookline for driving and racing horse drawn conveyances. As these roadways experienced increased development and automotive traffic in the early years of the century, the focus of such activity switched to the Charles River Speedway.
1899 Map - End of the Speedway at Western Ave and Market St
1909 Map - End of the Speedway Near Harvard Stadium
Superintendent's Building at Western Ave and Soldier's Field Rd. This is the last surviving building of the Speedway. It was constructed in 1899 and accommodated the office and residence of the Superintendent of the Speedway, the headquarters of the Park Commission Police Force assigned to patrol the Speedway as well as storage facilities for the maintenance crew. It was designed by the architectural firm of Stickney and Austin and is considered one of the best examples of shingle style architecture in a public building in Boston.
1902 Third Annual Speedway Parade near the Superintendent's Building
Driver is A. J. Furbush
Driver is H.B. Ralston
Near the Superintendent's Building
Closeup of Previous Photo with Western Ave to the Right and Harvard Stadium in the Distance
More history on the Allston Trotting Parks, can be found in the "Allston-Brighton in Transition" book. <Click here> for more information