Lost City: Cincinnati’s Speedways

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For our February 2017 “Lost City” issue, we remember what time, disasters, and the wrecking ball have taken away.

Nearly a quarter-century before Aglamesis Brothers’ hand-churned ice cream became the neighborhood’s main attraction, there was the Oakley Race Course. Opened in 1889, it closed in 1905 due to the passing of a state law that prohibited betting, one of many similarly short-lived racetracks in Greater Cincinnati history. Sharonville’s Cincinnati Motor Speedway, a two-mile, high-banked, wood oval track, lasted only from 1916 to 1919 due to the beating the wooden boards took—not from Model-T speedsters, but the region’s notoriously fickle weather. (Though it did stand in for the Indianapolis 500 and host a 250-mile race on Memorial Day weekend in 1917, while the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was used as a repair hub for U.S. Army planes in use during World War I.) The most notable of the region’s forgotten grounds was the Latonia Racecourse, located in present-day Covington. Active from 1883 to 1939, it was a legitimate competitor to Louisville’s Churchill Downs—home of the Kentucky Derby—until Churchill track president Matt J. Winn bought it in 1919, rendering the rival track irrelevant soon after.

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