The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

The Lost Trotting Parks Storyboard Archives

Monday, March 28, 2011

Nelson 4209 & the Bicycle Wheel Sulky -- Currier & Ives 1893

Given that the bicycle wheel sulky was introduced in 1892, one could assume that the second Currier & Ives with the bicycle wheels was a remake of the earlier lithograph with high wheels. Nelson's best time of 2.09 was recorded at Rigby Park in South Portland, Maine using a bicycle wheel sulky. Nelson also recorded a time fo 2.07 3/4 at the Moosepath Trotting Park in St. John, New Brunswick. This time was accomplished using the bicycle wheel sulk. In the bicycle wheel image the initials L.M. appear. This may be the initials of the artist who painted the remake.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Will Maine Harness Racing Become Part of Our Lost Heritage?

Maine was best known for its horse breeding industry back in the mid 1800s to 1893. Maine was known as the State with the best breeders of carriage and harness racing horses. This industry still exists today. It is an economically fragile industry and is economically tied to harness racing. The harness racing industry is also facing its difficulties. The harness racing industry is tied to the revenues created by the Bangor based racino. The harness racing industry, the Maine agricultural fairs, Maine Horsemen, and the breeders of standardbred horses are supported by a portion of this revenue. It is critical that the industry keeps its portion of this revenue. If the economic resources that currently help support this industry are taken away, the Maine harness horseman, the standardbred horse breeders, and the active harness racing tracks may just become another piece of Maine's lost heritage. The following storyboards present data from a 2007 report on the equine industry and harness racing in the State of Maine.

Within the past two years I have learned a great deal about the history about the age of "When the Horse was King," horse breeding, lost trotting parks, and harness racing in the State of Maine. From these two years I have gained an overwhelming appreciation for and understanding of a way of life and a slice of Maine history and the Maine experience that is quickly being forgotten. Maine harness racing is tied to Maine's early agricultural societies and farmers who built fairgrounds and within those fairground they built trotting parks. Today Maine's trotting parks associated with agricultural fairs are endangered. Agricultural fairs may also be endangered.

Sadly, it is about the money. One key resource for Maine standardbred horse breeders, Maine harness horsemen, Maine agricultural fairs, and harness racing is the money allotted these organizations from the Hollywood Slots. Mainers just voted in a casino in Oxford. There are no funds from the Oxford casino that will be directed towards supporting Maine's harness racing industry. Therefore it is essential that Maine legislators change the laws that will bring Biddeford Downs to reality. Biddeford Downs will be provide additional funding that will support harness racing throughout Maine. If you wish to support a Maine tradition, contact your legislators and ask them to do what they can to support building Biddeford Downs, Maine harness racing, Maine standardbred horse breeders, Maine horsemen, and Maine's agricultural fairs.

This helps solve some of the financial issues. In addition to funding, we also need to find new ways to bring more people, young and old alike, to the harness racing tracks. We need new people coming into the harness racing business.

Public school students should learn more about the history of Maine in the age of "When the Horse was King."

New and bold strategies need to be proposed and acted upon that will educate Mainers about the standardbred horse, harness racing, and the key role that the horse played in Maine's economy and the culture of Maine people. Without a process of re-introductions Mainers will not come back to the harness racing tracks and new people will not become harness horsemen or horse breeders.

If we were ever to lose Bangor Raceway and Scarborough Downs (Biddeford Downs) harness racing would probably still exist in some form at our agricultural fairs. However, we need to take action to ensure that we can maintain quality in what is offered at harness racing events across the State of Maine.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Selected Images of New England's Lost Trotting Parks

1870 Painting of Lady Thorn by George H. Bailey -- Resident of Portland, Maine

Comments by Bob Lieberman, Member of the New England Harness Writers Association

"A Touch of Class"

My name is Bob Lieberman and am a member of the New England Harness Writers Association, along with being the Secretary and Treasurer of the Chapter.

It was a pleasure to be told about your website and was amazed at how thorough you were, in putting together a true history of what life was like, over one hundred and fifty years ago. It seems that the dollar was worth a heck of a lot more then, than it is now.

I want to commend you on the work that you did, because it is a pleasure to find someone that has the interest of harness racing still at heart, who would be willing to gather all those facts and pictures and make it available to the diehart harness racing fans that still exist and to those future harness fans that want to look back in time.

We are fortunate in New England, to be able to view some great fair races that take place in Barton, Vermont, but are even luckier to be able to watch the State of Maine, put forth a great schedule of Fall fair races that send you back in time, even if it`s only for one, two or even three hours. The camaraderie that is created, during the days of racing is " priceless."

I got involved with my first horse in 1969 and have been hooked "On Harness " ever since.

I have been involved with the chapter since 1991 and was the President in 1994/1995, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2010, have been and am currently involved with two committees on the National level. I repeat again, it was a pleasure to climb aboard your website.

Members of the New England Harness Writers Association
Standing Left to Right: Bob Lieberman, Paul Fontaine, President of
Harness Tracks of America), Bill Ellis, and Bill Faucher

I appreciate Bob's comments and thank him for taking the time to visit the online Lost Trotting Parks Heritage Center. A great deal of time and energy has been spent creating the storyboards and posts for the Lost Trotting Parks Blog. However, I must thank all who have contributed their time and shared their resources to bring the content of this blog to its readers. Historical societies, town offices, and private individuals throughout Maine and the United States
have contributed text and images. I have also worked with people from New Brunswick, Alberta, and Australia. One of my major resources is my cousin, Clark Thompson. Clark researched the beginnings of the trotting industry in Maine from 1819 to 1893 ending with the horse Nelson. As a result of his work, Clark published the book, Maine's Trotting Horse Heritage Trail. His research represents hundreds of hours of reading and connecting with others. Often it is his research that has been the basis for many of the LTP storyboards. Over the years, I have acquired the skills to transform information. This blog has allowed me to transform information not readily available to most people. Through this work, I have gained an overwhelming appreciation for the age of "When the Horse was King." This is an era that is quickly becoming forgotten. I hope that this work brings Maine people to an awareness and an appreciation of this age. Perhaps this awareness and appreciation will help Maine people recognize that they need to do what is needed to preserve the traditions associated with the standardbred horse and Maine's horse industries for today and future generation of Mainers.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Story of Bill Wellman -- Trotter injured at Forest City Driving Park in Portland, Maine 1867

Use Ctrl - ++ to enlarge images
Use Ctrl - -- to reduce images

The painting of Bill Wellman is the
work of George H. Bailey. Bailey,

a lifelong resident of Portland, Maine,

was a horseman, a painter, and a veterinarian.

Bailey was a close friend of Hod Nelson.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Clayton Smith and the Yarmouth's Lost Trotting Park

Today Roger Smith and I visited Clayton Smith at his home on Sligo Road in Yarmouth, Maine. We had a wonderful visit. I spent my time listening to Roger and Clayton talk about Maine's harness racing history, their mutual friends, and even a bit of current business. Clayton purchased the property that once was the trotting park at Yarmouth. Clayton referred to it as the Royal River Speedway. In the late 1940's Clayton purchased the old trotting park property and with a neighbor cleared the track and established a training track for Yarmouth horsemen. Clayton hired Donnie Richards when Donnie was thirteen. One of the Clayton's best stories was trotting on the ice on the Royal River.

The pictures below show what was once part of the infield of the Yarmouth trotting park. The outer edge of the track was just the other side of the wire fence.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Central Park Today -- Route 105 -- South Belfast Road

Today I visited Mr. and Mrs. Ed Sliva at their home on the Cony
Road. The Slivas have owned the Central Park property for
many years. They knew that the property was once home to a
trotting park. Features of the trotting park can still be seen.

Although covered by snow, this property was once Central Park
built by George M. Robinson starting in 1870 and finishing the
track in 1872. In July of 1873, Robinson organized a fair with
trotting events. The track was a half-mile circular track.

Central Park -- 1872 -- South Belfast Road -- Augusta, Maine

1950's Aerial View of Lost Trotting Track -- Farmingdale, Maine -- A.J. Libby's Pine Tree Stock Farm