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.
Longacres Racetrack has been gone over 20 years now. Construction around it has picked up with new buildings on the south end. This gave me an opportunity to see a cross-section of the track dirt.
There is a need for drainage around these new buildings so they have bisected the track. I came across a fence baring the way that was open track only a few months ago. They have dug down and lined the area. Looks like they used the track dirt for that.
Here are the views to the west showing how the track looks as it goes back towards where the grandstands and club house stood.
They have decided to protect some of the lombardy poplars where they cut into the track. Notice the signs that state no trespassing and protected trees.
When I saw all this dirt revealed I had to get on the other side of the fence and get some documentation of how the track was built.
Here are two photos showing you an area I scraped off. One is with my water bottle to give us a gauge of depth – it is around 10 inches tall.
It was built in the 1930s from a clay base with Green River sandy loam on top. Perfect racing surface for horses.
That clay base is about 8 to 10 inches. You can see where I scraped into the natural soil at the bottom. Then the top is sand of about 6 inches. Again you can see where I have scraped the area that denotes where the two layers meet. No wonder only grass and blackberries grow on the old track surface. Not a lot of fertile soil for vegetation to thrive on.
I leave you with a video that gives a 360 degree view of this area. From the track on either side to the infield full of blackberries and Boeing buildings in the distance. When I made this video I thought it was sand on top and loam on the bottom. That is wrong. It is clay on the bottom and sandy loam on the top. That is what I get for going off my memory.
Longacres Racetrack may be gone now but she lives on in people’s hearts. So many have reached out to me from the documentation I have recently done on The Ruins of Longacres. One of the most gracious has been Bill Taylor.
Bill right away sent me a photo of the Entrance Units under I-405 when I posted my first article called Relics of Longacres. Link to article In the last month he sent me this series of aerial photos. Most of them are from the early 60s when the freeway was under construction and Southcenter Mall was just a dream.
Let us jump right into things!
This first picture that was the opener is of the racetrack in 1959 when the Green River flooded.
These next two pictures are from the 1960s. The arial is the Mile Day (Longacres Mile Race) showing a packed parking lot and grandstands. The second is the running of the Rainiers which should put a smile on your face.
Bill sent me this wonderful piece of Longacres art that only one print was every made of. Notice the lombardy poplar trees that are a signature of the track. Mt Rainier is peeking in behind the trees.
Next are a series of photos of I-405 being constructed. This has to be before 1965. That was when the first piece of it was opened between Tukwila and Renton.
I have done some more research around the entrance units that are now under the I-405 with these photos. They are not visible on any of them best I can tell zooming them in and out. There is an additional railroad spur about where they are. This old spur has been gone so long that when I went back to the site I cannot find any signs that it ever existed. Look closely yourself and see what I means.
Continuing on the entrance units concept here is another picture Bill sent me earlier. It must be in the 80s since the additional grandstands are built. Note the red box highlights where you can see the two entrance units under the freeway. Somewhere between the freeway construction and then they were moved there.
In my research I found a letter from the City of Renton to the Washington Dept. of Transportation. One of the items was asking them to save the units. The WADOT stated they did not qualify since they were put there since the freeway was built. Not what I thought at first but it seems to fit the pictures above.
The WA DOT has it wrong though about them being moved there when the racetrack was destroyed or sold to Boeing.
Does anyone reading this have knowledge of these two units? Where did they come from and when did they get installed under the freeway? All good things to know if and when the State decides to move or destroy them.
Back to Bill’s historic pictures. Here are three more showing what the area looked like about 50 years ago. I have added a google map view for your comparison at the end.
I have included Southcenter in this Google Map snip so you can compare that to the next photo too.
One feature of Longacres that Tina (remember how she helped me find ruins one day?) told me about was the house behind the scoreboard. It had a pool even. Bill rounded out the photos he sent me with one of the house.
I have to thank Bill again for his generosity in sharing his photos and knowledge.
If you want to know more about Longacres today here is a link to the first article.
Along my journey to find the ruins of Longacres Racetrack, I collected what most of us know as now and then photos. For history novices this is where a photo from the past is paired with a more current one.
The feature photo was sent to me by Bill Taylor along with other photos primarily from the early 1960s. Look for those in an upcoming post. I wanted to thank Bill for all the information he has sent me especially around my investigation into the old entrance units under I-405.
The first set of photos show the entrance to the racetrack under the railroad that runs on the West Side of the site. Today this road is called Longacres Way.
The area around the two railroad trestles has been developed into a full-scale train station for the north south Sounder train service. Boeing built a trail for their employees to access this transportation hub by cutting through the original grandstands.
Our next series is around a view from the parking lot at the back of the north grandstand built in the 1980s. The catering office and grandstands are seen in our 1993 photo.
Notice the loading dock on the left of the building? Here is a photo of that area today in 2016 which I am sure is this same slab of concrete.
On the 1993 photo is a doorway about the middle of the catering offices. It had a short staircase that you can see in this 2016 photo.
While I was rambling around the ruins of Longacres I found a place on the green wall that had padding on both sides of an opening. This wall separated the crowd from the racing horses. The padding didn’t seem to be put there during the destruction of the buildings or so I assumed. When I found these two photos in the Historical Building Survey I knew for sure they were where the horses were paraded for all to see.
To give you a little more perspective on this building here is a shot of it from the parking lot side. The railroad track and train station is behind the photographer.
This photo shows the padded fencing from across the track in 1993. Good view of the club houses and Jockey building (on the left).
Now we are in 2016 and the buildings are all gone. Blackberries and small trees have taken over the area. However, one cannot miss the landmark of this padded area on the Green Wall.
Red tile is all around the ruins. A passerby told me that they thought it was the bathrooms. My memory told me it was too much to just be that. Bill confirmed along with these photos that the tile was in the main areas of the grandstands primarily by the betting windows.
First we have the original grandstand betting windows from 1993. All the hopes and dreams that stood on this floor can be felt. By the time these photos were taken the racing was over and soon all would be gone but the tile.
I found one of the tiles that was loose and here are closeups of the front and back of it.
To the North of this area one will find where the North Grandstands were. This was where I first encountered the red tiles. Here is a historical view of the betting windows and tile from 1993
The racetrack was ringed by Lombardy Poplars. As one watched the horse race facing to the southeast one could see Mt Rainier and these tall trees. This postcard that I had in the entrance unit post called Longacres Relic shows how these trees stood tall. Pay close attention to the southern track curve and the row of trees there.
This 1993 photos shows those southern curve trees that separate the track from the parking lot beyond.
It would only be proper to end with the Finish Line of the Longacres Racetrack of old. This first photo taken in 1993 shows it clearly with the two white posts in front of the announcing booth that is tucked in the rafters of the original grandstand.
Tis a bit sad to view this next photo. The once proud exciting place is now a jumble of blackberries, trees, brambles and tall grass.
Want more about the ruins of Longacres? Here are the three articles I wrote earlier this year with more information and videos.
If you have photos or information around the racetrack do contact me. I am still trying to understand the age of the twin entrance units under I-405. Some new photos Bill Taylor sent me make me think they were added in the 60s. Any clues would be appreciated.
The thrill of any race is the thunder of hooves or engines roaring. I cannot imitate that for you nor should I. There are many tracks across the world where this excitement exists but today we will visit a racetrack in ruins. My visit to document Longacres Racetrack in Renton, Washington left me humbled and sad but elated to feel the vibrations of such greatness. That energy is so strong it survives man’s attempt to destroy it.
The south end of the track is a place we will start. This is where the first turn is past the grandstands and club house. What I found the most amazing was the Lombardy Poplar trees that were planted along the edge. They are still there plus their children.
These next pictures are at the very south end of the track. Let us look at how the track looks facing West and then East down at this southern end. There is a new building being built off to the south and I entered the track from the remains of the perimeter road.
I wove my way around the fallen trees and brambles that are on the original track. Not much but blackberries and grass will grow on it. In the 1930s it was made to last with Green River sandy loam over a hard clay base. Everywhere around the track the youngster poplars and other small trees have taken over. However, the track is still open most of the way until I got to the remains of the backstretch.
First before I have to dig through the brier, I found a series of light post bases. The electricals are still hanging around too.
This part of the track runs right into one of the Boeing Campus buildings and parking lots. The going isn’t too easy since it was left to go wild.
I popped out onto the edge of the parking lot and saw security driving by. Being a little paranoid I hustled off to the trail that cuts through the middle of the infield. This is the same path that Boeing built for their employees to access the Light Rail Station. Here is a view of the infield looking south from this area. You can see the poplars marking the edge of the track like the sentinels they have been from the beginning.
The path cuts by the pond that Boeing built in the middle of what was the track. I assume they did this to fix the drainage problems that had plagued the track for years. It usually flooded every year from the Green River until the Howard Hansen Dam was built. That now controls the river and flooding is a long gone memory. However, the area is still low and swampy. The ponds are a pretty place for wildlife and birds.
This brings us back to the West side of the track where the grandstands and finish line existed. Here are the views looking North and South along the track from the Boeing path. This side of the track is in much better shape and you can even imagine the horses racing by.
This next view is looking from about the finish line towards that first curve on the south end. We have now made it full circle.
I am going to finish this series of posts with a movie of the track coupled with some stills of the last race on September 21, 1992.
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.
Ruins are often thought of as a tourist site such as the Ruins of Pompeii, the Acropolis or Delphi of Oracle. These are in distant places many of us can never see. They do have one thing in common and that is they were places mankind gathered. The area is imprinted with that activity with not only the remains of the structures but of the vibrations that do not dissipate over time. In some cases they become more powerful and draw us to them.
Longacres has been a ruin for only about 20 years. A horse racetrack of fame built in the 1930s and leveled due to economic hardship in the early 1990s. This place carries many good and sad times. It has heard the cheers of victory, the cries of defeat and the thundering of hooves. The humans and animals cross over many generations, fashion, and even war and peace. If you would like to read more about the history of the racetrack here is a link to HistoryLink.org –History of Longacres
When I started documenting the two entrance units that are visibly standing there was a huge interest in the site. These two units are the only real standing things that are visible to those that casually pass through. With that in mind I returned with my camera and a few reference photos to see what I could find. Not much unlike an archaeologist seeking a long-lost place or time to investigate.
What I found surprised me and it will you too. So, come along on my quest to find the lost Longacres Racetrack. There is so much to see that I have broken it down into three parts:
The Green Wall
To give you an overview of the site, I took a video from the raised platform on the Light Rail Station. It faces east and starts with the south end panning to the north. You will see several areas that will be covered starting with the two old poplars next to the Jockey House and the rock pile which is where I found a tile where the Club House is. It then moves over the original grandstand area. Notice the black fencing which is a Boeing built path from its campus to the Light Rail Station. Then in the distance you will see jersey barriers of the North Grandstands. In the distance to the north is the parking lot and freeway. Under the freeway are the entrance units where I started my investigation from. (here is a link to that post – Longacres Relics)
To start the foundations adventure we will go to the parking lot. When you drive down into this area behind the Boeing Campus you will see what is called overflow parking and some construction around the light rail station. Do not be fooled. This is the original Longacres Parking Lot.
To give you some bearing on where this is I took a short 360 degree video. Note the two entrance units under the interstate freeway (I-405) as a way to get your bearings.
Walking south towards the fence that separates this parking lot from the light rail station you will come upon concrete slabs hiding in the underbrush and small trees. This area is protected from the thoroughfare by jersey barriers but one can easily walk around and on top of the area. To the naked eye it looks like just another piece of the parking lot but you will notice it is raised in several places.
As I walked to my surprise I found the first of several patches of red tile. Yes there was something special in these places that the tile is still attached to the concrete slab. Now you can imagine the footsteps that trod over these tiles and see in your mind how it was a place of excitement instead of this desolate neglected site.
Traveling south I come across an area that is white modern concrete. It is the North Grandstand built in 1982 that replaced temporary bleachers and helped capture the overflowing crowds that thrilled to the horses blowing by them. It goes on for many feet but is very intact in its cement foundation way. I like to think of Longacres to be like an add-on house that grew as the family blossomed. This north end is the add-on in multiple stages to accommodate everyone.
As I walked back to my car that day I took this video walking north from this staircase towards the entrance units. This will give you a good idea of how the overall appearance of the foundations on the north side appear today (Spring 2016).
This is where I mistakenly thought I had been on the original grandstand and turned my attention elsewhere in the ruins. I was so wrong. When I got home and did my research comparing photos I realized my mistake and went back to the site. That second visit I found the real Longacres Racetrack of old.
This grandstand is almost 80 years old and Boeing has built a path from its campus to the Light Rail Station that carves through the north edge of it. Here you are surrounded by more red tile. Bill Taylor gave me a little bit of info on the red tile after I posted this. Here is what he said – “A lot of the red tile was at the entrance to the main office area, Morrie’s office and atrium, the family conference room and some of the main line.” That sure dispels what I heard someone say.. “it is the bathrooms”. I never believed that. This area sure makes one has to realize you are in a place of another time. Some may not even know the history nor care but to ponder what was lost and gone is important. Yes, how could we so quickly discard our history for being modern or make more money?
I wandered around in the bushes trying to get the bearings of what was and followed along the edge of the area behind a fence but in an old parking lot. There was a pile of rocks on an area and more red tiles. My gut tells me I am now in the old Clubhouse. One of the tiles had been pulled up and so I picked it up. To my delight it was made in Italy.
This tile is made in an area of Italy that is famous for tiles and I am going to send a picture to one of the manufacturer to see if they can confirm the date and maker of this tile.
As I worked my way around I came to two old lombardy poplars and some more cement items left hanging out.
As I neared the track I encountered more of the green railing and decided I must be down by the Jockey House. That was when I met Tina and her dog. They were walking along like they have for years. She sort of adopted me and my quest and showed me more things that I had missed. We walked up the racetrack back to the Boeing path and then came back to where I found the tile.
She next showed me more tile around where the Jockey House was. Different than the red tiles and I think they are bathroom and shower floors. At least that is my assumption.
At the end I got up on the Light Rail Station and took a series of photos from south to north. This slide show will give you a good idea of what this older end looks like. For reference first look at an aerial view of the buildings.
Now that I have set the foundations out for you I am going to move to the green wall. This is a huge piece of the ruins that are still standing. They are buried in the woods now and one has to get into the brambles to find. You can find The Green Wall at this link Longacres Ruins Green Wall
This last couple of weeks Crow Stalker has stumbled upon a couple old Seattle Signs. The one above is down on 4th Avenue being used by a crow. Funny enough this old 50s style sign says Fish which is a good food product according to crows.
Across the street is an old Rainier Beer Sign on the side of Western Neon. After a little research I found that is from the old Tumwater Brewery and they are refurbishing this one. Remember how the Big Red R is now back on top of the old Rainier Brewery next to I-5? Same company that fixed that all up.
Next is a sign from a place long gone but not forgotten. I found this in a little hidden warehouse while I was wandering the Green River/Interurban Trails of late.