Sandburg's Hometown

Aug 5, 2013

Galesburg Driving Park
Galesburg Driving Park, Galesburg, Illinois - built 1894 - Postcard

The Racetrack

By Barbara Schock

Now there are houses on Baird Avenue, Robertson Avenue, Clay Drive and other streets in the southeastern section of Galesburg. In the 1890s, on that site, a horse racing track was constructed on more than a hundred acres east of Farnham Street. It was built by Charles W. Williams who was a native of Iowa. He owned several famous racehorses of the time.

The track opened for business on September 17, 1894. It was a one mile flat track. The straight-ways and curves were each a quarter mile long making an elongated oval shape.

The entrance to the track was on Grand Avenue between Ohio and Michigan Avenues. The streetcar line was located on Grand Avenue which made it very easy for patrons from other parts of the city to visit the track.

There were sheds and stalls for the horses on the Grand Avenue side of the track. A paddock and blacksmith shop which served the horses were also located there. The grandstand stood next to the track on the northeast side.

As a teenager, Carl Sandburg worked for the horsemen doing odd jobs and running errands. He worked for tips rather than being regularly paid. He had a pass to the grounds during the six-week season of racing.

Later he wrote of the excitement caused when Mr. Williams’ trotter Alix broke the world’s record by a fraction of a second. It happened the second day of the season in 1894, just one day after the track had opened.

In his mind’s eye, Carl could see the lathered horse and the sweaty people around her. The crowds cheered themselves hoarse. The record run made Galesburg a well know track in the horse-training world. Mr. William achieved a good reputation for himself and earned large sums of money in stud fees from his fast horses.

The last horse race was held at the track on August 17, 1922. After the conclusion of World War II, the racetrack grounds were developed for much needed housing. It was said that the contractor dug up bales of straw which had been buried under the track to improve water draining.

Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
vJuly 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity