Sports Temples of Boston: Sports Temples of Boston: Images of Historic Ballparks, Arenas, and Statiums 1872-1972

Charles River Speedway

Photographer: Fairchild Aerial Surveys, inc.

Brighton, Massachusetts
1928

The Charles River Speedway opened to the public on September 11, 1899 along the Charles River in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood to serve as a track for horse racing and bicycling. The site, located at the present site of the MDC recreation area on Soldiers’ Field Road stretching from North Harvard Street to Western Avenue, was chosen because it was one of the few lots in the city with a stretch of one mile, uninterrupted by cross streets or interference with traffic.

The main speedway was restricted to light horse-drawn vehicles such as buggies, runabouts, and surreys adapted to the speeding (racing) of light harness horses and not capable of seating more than two people and not drawn by more than two horses. The Speedway was under the jurisdiction of the MDC.

Early on, the Speedway was used by driving clubs for special occasions. In 1905, walks, lawns, and playgrounds for public recreation were added. The Speedway was active as a venue for horseshows, horse racing, and horse-drawn carriages and riding clubs into the 1940s.  The Speedway became the leased home of the Metropolitan Driving Club until the late 1950s when the lease terminated and the MDC turned the land into a general recreation area.  By that time, the automobile had so replaced the horse and carriage as the primary mode of transportation, that few people had buggies or carriages even for recreational use.

Sources:

  • Reports of the Metropolitan Park Commissioners, variously 1898 though 1938
  • Metropolitan Parks Commission/MDC Minutes Card Index, Courtesy of the MDC Archives

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Plate 21 of the 1925 Atlas of the City of Boston, Brighton, showing the western half of the Charles River Speedway

1. Plate 21 of the 1925 Atlas of the City of Boston, Brighton, showing the western half of the Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_011104
Cartographer: Bromley, George Washington
Cartographer: Bromley, Walter Scott
Brighton, Massachusetts (1925)

Speedway runs parallel to Soldiers Field Road south of the Charles River.

Drivers from the Metropolitan Driving Club exercising their horses at Charles River Speedway

2. Drivers from the Metropolitan Driving Club exercising their horses at Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_010061
Brighton, Massachusetts (1951)

Newspaper caption on verso reads, "Getting Ready For Trotting Season - Three drivers of the Metropolitan Driving Club of Boston exercise their horses at the Metropolitan Speedway in Brighton in preparation for opening of 47th season of club tomorrow after

Air view of Cambridge and Boston

3. Air view of Cambridge and Boston

Image number: 05_02_010084
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

Oval of the Charles River Speedway in lower center of image with Harvard Stadium above and to the left. Braves Field is to the right and slightly below center between Commonwealth Avenue which runs from lower right corner diagonally to the right of cente

Mr. McDonald has exercised the horses for years at the Charles River Speedway for the driving club

4. Mr. McDonald has exercised the horses for years at the Charles River Speedway for the driving club

Image number: 05_02_010136
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

McDonald drives a pony cart with two tethered horses following behind, as small crowd looks on.

Mr. McDonald who takes care of the horses at the Charles River Speedway

5. Mr. McDonald who takes care of the horses at the Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_010137
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

McDonald driving a pony cart with two tethered horses following behind.

Chariot race, Charles River Speedway

6. Chariot race, Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_010182
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

Replica of a Roman chariot pulled by a team of four horses, driven by a man dressed as a Roman. Crowd lines the track along fence.

Boy chases chariot at Charles River Speedway

7. Boy chases chariot at Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_010183
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

Replica of a Roman chariot pulled by a team of four horses, driven by man dressed as Roman, followed closely by a running boy.

Chariot at Charles River Speedway

8. Chariot at Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_010184
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

Replica of a Roman chariot pulled by a team of four horses and driven by a man dressed as a Roman. A press photographer takes photographs using a Graflex camera.

Chariot at Charles River Speedway, Harvard Stadium in background

9. Chariot at Charles River Speedway, Harvard Stadium in background

Image number: 05_02_010185
Photographer: Jones, Leslie, 1886-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1930)

Replica of a Roman chariot pulled by a team of four horses and driven by man dressed as a Roman.

Horse and carriage riding competition, Charles River Speedway

10. Horse and carriage riding competition, Charles River Speedway

Image number: 05_02_010651
Photographer: Abdalian, Leon H., 1884-1967
Brighton, Massachusetts (ca. 1914)

Horse and carriage parade on track at the Charles River Speedway in Brighton.

 
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Sports Temples of Boston: Images of Historic Ballparks, Arenas and Stadiums, 1872-1972
has been made possible through a Library Services and Technology Act grant
administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.