Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Local History: Freestate Raceway

Has it ever occurred to you to wonder why Lincoln Center, the shopping center off Gorman Road and Freestate Drive where Weis Supermarket stands today, displays cutouts of a jockey in a harness racing cart (called a "sulky")?

It's a nod to the history of the site, which along with the location of the CarMax dealership and the office park once hosted a successful harness racing track called Laurel Raceway (later changed to Freestate Raceway) from 1948 through the 1980's.

At one time thousands of spectators came to the raceway to watch the races (and bet on them), but the track fell on hard times and ceased operations in 1975, and was finished off by an arson fire in 1976.

Laurel / Freestate Raceway (picture from Hub Rail Magazine,
Nov/Dec 1983, via the Harness Racing web site)

After a brief revival with extensive renovations under the owners of Pimlico and Laurel Park from 1980-1990, the track finally closed for good and the grandstands were razed to make way for the present-day shopping center and office park. Gorman Road was also widened at the time and re-routed to its current location intersecting Route 1 next to the shopping center.

Though a brief part of mid-20th Century Americana had vanished, local residents in Savage were happy because they finally had a convenient grocery store and other neighborhood retail stores!

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