Days Gone By - stories from the past

Did you know Birmingham once had two flourishing horse racetracks in the 1890s? – [old pictures and map]

Two horse racetracks flourished around the turn of the century in Birmingham, Alabama. Trotwood Park was located at 75th Street and 9th Avenue North.

The Birmingham Jockey Club was one mile in length and ran parallel to Third Avenue West. It was part of the Birmingham Fair Association.fairgrounds racing postcard

Birmingham Jockey Club was reorganized

The Birmingham Jockey Club, failed during it’s first year of operation. However, the club was reorganized in April 1889. The reorganization meeting was attended by Fred Sloss, J. W. Worthington, T. G. Hewlett, F. W. Dunn, I. Epstein, Jonas Schawb, E. S. Costello, P. J. Robert, Ed McCrossen, John Sutcliffe, Fred Averett, among other citizens and stockholders. The following board of directors were elected.

  • J. F. B. Jackson
  • B. F. Roden
  • A. B. Thompson
  • H. C. Brown
  • Fred Sloss
  • John B. Boddie
  • William Hardy
  • E. Solomon
  • Morris Adler

Col Jackson was unanimously elected as president, Mr. R. M. Mulford, cashier of the American National Bank was treasurer, and Mr. F. W. Dunn was general manager. The first event after reorganization was held the 1st week in July.

Trotwood Park in East Lake

Trotwood Park in East Lake closed shortly after the turn of the century. “Mrs. Thelma Green, of Helena, reported to the Birmingham News that she was born and lived in a house that served as the stables and grandstand for Trotwood Park. Her Aunt Susie and Uncle Charlie Graham, managed the park and her mother worked at the track boarding the horses.”i (Charlie and Susie were also the Aunt and Uncle of Becki McAnnaly, an Alabama Pioneers’ author).Trotwood Park MAP

Below is a picture of the main building at Trotwood Park. The people in the photo are probably Susie and Charlie Graham, mentioned above who managed the track for a period of time. There is no date on it, but it appears to be made in late 1800s.Charles and Susie Graham

Mrs. Green recalled, “I can still remember when I was 4 or 5 years-old and we’d run around the track and play out there. The house was built 12 foot in the air with the big front porch serving as the grandstands. The space under the house was fenced in and that was where the horses were stabled.”

“I wasn’t born until after they had quit running the races, but I sure remember the track, “ Mrs. Green continued. “I still remember my mother and aunt and uncle telling stories about the races, too. The races were for rich folks then. Birmingham’s rich folks would come and sit on the porch and watch the races every weekend. It was a big social event.”ii

Mrs. Green said there was no legalized gambling (“Aunt Susie would have run them all off”). Both horse tracks in those days were all harness races with a driver operating from a two-wheeled, one seat sulky carriage pulled behind the horse.

Judges at the state fair races, according to The Birmingham Daily News of 1891, “noted that year’s state fair races judges were Hamilton Bushey and David Bonner. Bushey was editor of Turf, Field and Farm, a well-respected horseman’s journal, and Bonner was the ‘most noted owner of fast horse in the world’ and founder of the New York Ledger.”iii

Horses and drivers who raced were not usually from Birmingham but in 1902, Katie S, belonged to a Birmingham owner, stole the show with a big victory by beating horses from Kentucky, North Carolina and around the country.iv


  1. Weekly Age Herald – May 1, 1889
  2. Trotwood information and photograph submitted by Becki McAnnaly

iTwo Horse tracks operated at Century’s Turn, Birmingham News

iiTwo Horse tracks operated at Century’s Turn, Birmingham News

iiiTwo Horse tracks operated at Century’s Turn, Birmingham News

ivTwo Horse tracks operated at Century’s Turn, Birmingham News

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  1. Was’nt Trotwood Park located roughly where the fish pond in the old Eastlake Park was in the 1950s? Haven’t been out in that section of B’ham in many years but recall some talk of Trotwood being located in the park at East Lake when I attended Howard College in late ‘
    Joe McKnight

  2. Did Dan Patch ever race there?

    1. Sure did, even set a world record in the mile on Nov 10, 1903 here

    2. Fantastic. I used to live in western Wisconsin and heard a lot about Dan Patch. They still celebrate Dan Patch Days in Savage, MN every year.

  3. […] My research started when I wrote, Did you know Birmingham, Alabama had two flourishing horse racetracks? […]

  4. and later the boys from hueytown made history there as well.

  5. i had no’s really a shame birminghamd never flourished as it could have…mush as nashville,charlotte,and atlanta have done….

  6. Rebecca Green McAnnally looks like you’re still in print! Haha

  7. Interesting to know.

  8. Yes… And the city leaders demolished the 2nd oldest race track in the nation a couple years ago and publicly celebrated it’s demolishing… I will never forget this for the rest of my life.

  9. They do the stupidest things because they now have the power.

  10. Is this how the original Vulcan statue looked?

    I found this Wikipedia article and it looks nothing like the one depicted there:

    1. Yes, it is the same one. We’ve only had one in Birmingham but it has been refurbished over the years.

  11. This is an interesting vignette in Birminham history and gratifying to see a note about an ancestor of mine, Col. JFB Jackson.

  12. My Daddy told me about Vulcan being at the Fair Grounds when he was young. He said they hired him to collect Pigeon eggs and paid him according to how many eggs he collected. A form of birth control for the pesky birds.

    1. Sandy Wahl I love the story of Vulcan it doesnot get enough press . I was raised above the fairgronds but during 50’s and 60’s do it was already at its present location . I could see it’s torch lite from the wraparound porch on our house!

    2. Daddy said it was moved in 1935 to Red Mountain. I should have asked him how they did that. He said all the so called roads were wagon or pig trails with a lot of switch backs.

    3. My grandfather saw it at the worlds fair I believe. The base it was set on was paid by donations I believe . I remember that school children gave their nickels snd dimes to help set it. I believe the CCC did the waterfalls which probably are not their any more. My sister who was a lot older than me claimed the ladder up in the statue.

    4. Wow…Great history.

  13. Wow..great history. Last time I was there, many years ago, you had to climb the steps but were allowed out side on a fenced platform to view the city.

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