As the age of the automobile dawned in Cleveland, crowds assembled at the Glenville Race Track for three days of competition. Opened in 1870, the 1-mile oval on Saint Clair Avenue between East 88th and 101st streets featured horse trotters, foot races and automobiles. Local carmakers such as Winton and Baker Motor Co. even tested their vehicles there.
The track became a magnet for Cleveland’s elite as spectators retired to the Roadside Club for a bite, a drink and to place wagers on the next event.
The smart money for the Sept. 3-5 races was on Ohio native Barney Oldfield, a driver as talented as he was reckless. During a heat on the first day, a tire popped on Oldfield’s Winton Bullet. The car spun wildly. Clinging daringly to the controls, Oldfield managed to avoid being flung to almost certain death.
On the second day, Oldfield triumphed in three races. “He went about his death-inviting task as if it were child’s play,” reported the Sept. 5 Plain Dealer. “There was not in that immense crowd any one apparently more unconcerned.”
On the third day, Oldfield won three other events. But tragedy struck when a squat white electric Baker Torpedo drove under a fence and injured four bystanders.
Yet it was not the danger of bodily harm that closed the Glenville track. Instead, it was the vice. In 1908 Glenville’s mayor outlawed betting, effectively stifling the fun and the track along with it.