Fast Digs: The Pasadena Track

The half-mile Pasadena Track was built by the Crown City Cycle Club in 1894. The club, which held its first road race, along a one-mile stretch of Orange Grove Avenue, just a few months earlier held its first meet at the track on New Years' Day in 1895. Naturally, for New Years, the day was a cloudless, perfect one "with the warm rays of a winter sun tembered [sic] by breezes that blew as soft and sweet as a maiden's sigh..." Taking advantage of the crowd gathered for the Tournament of Roses, the track fence was lined with floral-bedecked carriages, and a crowd of fully two-thousand spectators filled the grandstand and encircled the track. Since there was no high fence to obstruct the views, hundreds more spectators were able to watch from further away without paying. The track, at the time, was described as "not a fast one," but given that this was the club's first big meet, the racers were especially enthusiastic, and the spectators appreciative.

The first race of the January 1 meet was the maiden race, though only two first-timers competed - W. Hadley and Harry Myers; the two riders kept together during the first lap, but halfway through the second Myers began to pull away, gradually increasing his lead to finish in a time of 2:56 3/5. Next up was the club championship mile; two qualifying heats were run with R. H. Gaylord winning the first ahead of C. A. Johnston, C. Hewitt, and E. D. G. Campbell. The first three all qualified for the final. In the second heat Carl Harvey, Charles Glass reached the final, while beating out A. G. Stevens and E. Gamble. In the final, on the turn to the homestretch Hewitt moved ahead of Gamble, who had taken the lead at the beginning of the second lap, and pulled away to win by three lengths. Gaylord took second, and Johnston third.

The field for the open race for class B riders was, mostly, filled by riders from Los Angeles - W. M. Jenkins, W. A. Burke, Casey Castleman, J. W. Cowan, Lacey, Hatton, and Emil Ulbricht. Tandem-paced, the first lap was a fast one, being run in 1:09. In the final turn San Jose rider Oscar Olsen sprinted into a lead that was never challenged, finishing in a time of 2:17 3/4. Cowan finished second and Jenkins third. Other races on the day included a half-mile open for Pasadena riders of class A, won by Johnston with a brilliant sprint with a quarter lap to go; a half-mile handicap open for class A riders, with nine riders competing, and won by Oliver; a quarter-mile scratch race for Pasadena riders saw Johnston take a second win. In the mile handicap Castleman, leading in the finish stretch, collided with a small boy, allowing Ulbricht to take the win. A ten-mile handicap race for Pasadena riders finished the day, with Stevens winning ahead of Evans, Gamble, and Hadley; Glass and Ralph were also in the race.

A grudge tandem match pitting J. J. Long and Fred Holbrook against W. M. Jenkins and S. G. Spier, scheduled as the main event of the day, was cancelled; Long and Holbrook had thrown down the challenge which was accepted in a non-too-serious formal response: "We, the crack bald-headed team of the coast, do hereby accept the above challenge..." No explanation was given to explain the cancellation. In between races, Maltby, of the Keating Company, performed a trick riding exhibition.

In testament to the popularity of bicycle racing a second Pasadena track was being planned  by the middle of 1895, and by August bids were opened for its construction. The three lowest bids were those of Charles Mushrush ($1065), J. B. Hughes ($1373), and H. E. Copeland ($1654). The track, to be located on Lincoln Avenue was rumored to be modeled after the track at Manhattan Beach (New York), with an average width, from one side to the other, of 285 feet and a length of 1760 feet. The width of the curves were to be 28.5 feet, with bank height of 5.5 feet. The width of the straight away along one side was to be 23.5 feet, and 33.5 feet on the finishing side. The hope was that the track would be of such quality that top eastern teams would use it as their winter training quarters.

Interestingly, I have seen reference to the Pasadena Track being referred to as the Painter Track. Assuming they were one and the same it is possible the track was named for Alonzo Painter who owned a small railway line in the city; the track could have been located on land owned by Painter, or the railway, and named for him in much the same way the Santa Monica Track was also known as the Southern Pacific Track.

It is unclear right now how long the above mentioned tracks existed, but in September 1897 a Pasadena track was described as being built with "a changing spiral so that there is a curve in every linear foot of the track and the banking is carried all the way around. This makes high speed possible and also makes a very safe and easy track to ride. Even novices say: "I can ride faster on the Pasadena track than on any other track I know of." The banking at the tape is one foot in thirty-two, and on the curve it is one foot in six or about that." This description does not seem to match the track which opened on 1 January 1895, and which included clear descriptions of straight aways and suggests separate tracks were operating within the city during the mid-1890s.


this c.1903 map by W. W. Benedict and W. S. Woodworth does show an oval shaped structure with embankments at the top of Orange Grove. Maybe?

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