This week I saw on the morning news a piece on a DIY Skate-park built in Renton. As soon as I saw the pictures I knew exactly where it was. It is right under I-405 where the two Longacres Entrance Units still stand. Here is a link to my original article about a year and half ago. Longacres Relics
This is a pretty good place for the skaters. It is so noisy already under the freeway they are not bothering anyone, it is covered which they told me is rare, they have cleaned up after the homeless guys living there, and are providing a place to practice their skills.
The City of Renton and the Boeing Security crews have not seemed to be bothered by them but now the WDOT (Washington Dept of Transportation) have come a calling. This is on WDOT property without a permit and there is worry of liability issues.
On that morning news piece the word bulldozed was mentioned. That could happen as soon as a week. Yikes!! I got concerned because this is how good things get swept up into someone else’s trouble. That is right our 1960s Longacres Relics could be bulldozed too.
I have written to both the WDOT Maintenance Supervision, the Renton Museum, another historian I know and the TV station that aired the article. Do not want the units to become collateral damage.
Next I went down to the site on Saturday morning and had a great chat with the skaters. Here are some current photos of the entrance units
Plus I found out two things:
First that they are now working permits and insurance. The imminent bulldozing is not looming this week now.
Second and the most exciting for me is what they told me about the units. They have crawled up into the bowl to see if they could skate on them. The inside is too textured for that and they agree that they were probably planters due to the hole.
but wait for it….. there is a date stamped inside!! 1964. Mystery is now solved on when they were created. We were on the right trail. They came into being right after the freeway crossed over the old Longacres entrance. The racetrack was making a new pretty place to define their place.
Thank you to everyone again. This Longacres history has been a real adventure.
At the Longacres Racetrack ruins there is an artifact still standing. It is the wall that separated the roaring crowd from the thundering hooves of the track. It was painted green to match the hedges that were neatly maintained along the track and had a metal rail on top of it. That rail is gone but the cement part is alive and well. This is a Google map snip showing the distance it covers between two arrows. It also will give you a good view of the entire Longacres Racetrack ruins.
Today over 20 years after all the buildings were razed, this wall still stands commemorating the thrill many had at this site. When I first saw it I was amazed by how it had survived the years despite the moss, trees, and brambles that have overgrown it. Little did I know as I followed it from North to South I would encounter almost 1,000 feet of it. It has only one large gap where Boeing pushed a maintenance road and path through it. Join me in going down memory lane as we walk along. Think of the sounds and emotions that have sunk into its concrete over the 60 years of house racing it saw.
Here is the very northern end of the wall. It has some electrical and post hanging on it that must have been night lights. Below the picture is a photo sent to me by Bill Taylor when I started my Longacres documentation. He got it from Doug Clark of Four Footed Fotos, who has been the track photographer at Longacres, Churchill Downs and many other well-known tracks.
Now imagine how the grandstands you see in this photo are gone. Nature has grown up and around all the concrete. This next series of photos is what it looks like today if you were standing on the spectator side.
North Longacres Grandstand – first glimpse of green wall
Trees and moss overtaking green wall at Longacres site
Moss on Green Wall – Longacres Racetrack
North Grandstand side – ruins of Longacres view of green wall
After I walked around the north end I traveled down the actual racetrack. That was when I got goosebumps. Imagine the years of horses and jockeys parading, racing and breathing on this piece of ground. Today in 2016 the green wall marks that something special existed here.
Where that red netting in the distance is marks the middle of the complex. That is where the original grandstand, Club House and Jockey House stood. Boeing has pushed a maintenance road through this area. Along side of that road is a lighted path for employees to get to the Light Rail Station. You saw that in “The Foundations” post as it crossed the north end of the original buildings.
Near there is where I found that gate still attached to the wall. I have looked at a lot of photos online but cannot quite put my finger on what this was. Any help would be appreciated.
Tina who I met on my second visit showed me how to duck under the netting and a little way to the south I found what I think is where the finish line was. If I have this correct it is where the original grandstand met the Club house. From examining the foundations this gap in the wall makes me think it is the place.
Around this area the homeless or partying have left their mark. A huge concrete block that must have been a light standard has a bike helmet and other items strewn about. This also shows you how the Light Rail Station is in the distance.
To get your imagination going more, here is a snapshot of cement flooring on the grandstand side of the wall. This was where many cheered, cried and threw down their losing bet tickets.
Moving along there is a rather large graffiti piece that was left in the last year or two.
This next section I think it is just crumbling and knocked over from the trees but it also has the look of being cut out like this.
Another oddity in the wall is this opening with a curb type structure. This is close to the Club House best I can determine.
As we passed through this area on the track side Tina’s dog lunged toward an opening in the wall. It was a small garter snake who was not happy with him. What I find interesting of this shot of the snake is the round cement structure on the wall with an iron bar coming out. What is that?
This brings us to the southern end. As I stated in the Foundations section the Jockey House has a pair of large poplar trees to mark its southern end. This was helpful when trying to figure out where things were. Here is a photo of them with a construction crane, the Light Rail Station and of course the green wall.
Off the right of this area (north for those keeping track) is this strange opening with protection on the two ends. I don’t think this was done by Boeing during the demolition but I imagine it was to protect the horses and jockeys as they passed through the gap.
As we get closer to the end of the run the small poplar sucker trees dissipate and it is more of an open field. This first picture below you can see those small trees clustered around the wall. In the second photo it may not have trees but it does have a big blackberry bush brier. See how there is concrete here on the non-track side this photo is taken from. Two landmarks in these photos; one is the bird platform built for nesting osprey and the other is a reddish tree. The red tree is about the end of the wall.
And you knew this was coming… the end of the wall. Hope you enjoyed your 1,000 feet of green wall.
Now it is time to jump the wall and move to the all important track itself. This is where the action took place. I would say about half of it still exists in some form or other if you look at the aerial photo at the top of this post. You can find The Track here – Ruins of Longacres – The Track.
Longacres Racetrack is long gone. The property was sold to Boeing and demolished in the early 90s. Clyde Furd sent me a note on why the track was closed in response to my original research that it had falling attendance. Here is what he told me which makes a lot more sense.
As I recall it was some other financial shenanigans by the younger members of the Alhadeff family that backfired and they had used the track as collateral or else had mortgaged it to the hilt to finance these other ventures. This idea is enhanced by the fact that Emerald Downs opened just three years after Longacres closed and in fact leased Longacres for two years after the Alhadeff’s sold the property to Boeing. Emerald Downs has been operating for 22 years now, something that simply would not have happened if there was waning interest in the sport.
It was originally built on the outskirts of Renton, Washington in the 1930s. It had a great run but now there is very little left of it. Most folks assume it is all gone except some old parking areas and building foundations. You can see the old track in google photos still but on the ground it is harder to tell it even existed.
I work in Renton and started using a back road to get home when I-405 is backed up. This route takes me under the freeway and avoids some long traffic lights to get across Grady at either Lind or Oaksdale. On 16th SW one just drives west along the edge of the Boeing campus. You come to a stop sign and veer to the right.
The easiest way to go is just to the left but if one jags onto a spur of Monster Road you will be right between two existing pieces of Longacres. They are the old entrance units.
The freeway was built over the top of these roads and Longacres forgotten entrance units. Perhaps that has protected them from destruction when all else was torn down. Here is a snip of the Google map showing where this is. You can also see what I mean by the aerial view shows the old racetrack still exists.
The next set of photos are from two trips I made to document these neglected jewels. On my second trip while I was taking my photos a bicyclist stopped and asked me if those had always been there. He had passed many times and never noticed. We had a good discussion about the old racetrack and the Green River Trail which I documented in this blog last year.
First this photo is how you would enter the racetrack if you came to visit and play. The one on the left is cleaner I think due to being completely under the freeway. The right one is overgrown with blackberries and other growth. It isn’t under the freeway so it gets water for the vegetation.
Here is a close up of the unit that is in better condition. Was it a planter? or did it have a gas burning torch? For some reason I think it was a flame but I have no proof of that. This photo is a favorite of mine since it shows the dynamics of the freeway overhead. Optically it has a lot going on.
Now lets see what they look like from the north and south views.
Under the freeway is a concrete slab. Wonder what this was? A building? a bit of parking? I did a search for photos of this area of the track but could not find any. I am going to see if a couple of contacts I have can help us and will add that if found. What I did find was an old postcard on Flickr. This was taken by Jerry Clark and is posted on Track Walker. I circled where these units are under I-405.
On my first photo opt I parked basically in the middle of Monster Road with my flashers on. This area is next to some construction being done to shore up the railroad right-a-way. This is a narrow road with no shoulder or area to walk. Had to stay alert for sure.
Have an update to share with everyone. The Renton Museum posted this blog post on its Facebook site. I got the following picture from Bill Taylor. Here is what he said about the picture too. Thanx a million Bill!!
Doug Clark of Four Footed Fotos, has been the track photographer at Longacres, Churchill Downs and many other well known tracks, sent a few pictures that faintly show it in the background and he is searching his archives for more.
Look closely inside the red square and you can see the relics under the freeway. Good stuff for sure!!
UPDATE!!! Entrance Units are now sharing their space with a SkatePark. Spent some time down there this weekend (Dec 2017) talking to the skaters. I am worried that the Relics could get bulldozed if the WDOT decide to remove the skate park. One of the skaters told me that he had climbed into the unit…. wait for it…. he said it is dated 1964!!
Here is my follow up article with new pictures and more info. The adventure continues on the trail of Longacres Ruins and History.